Saturday, February 28, 2015

Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism are all Social Contracts

I recently engaged in a conversation with a few conservatives following a recent article on the ACA and the current Supreme Court case.  Our conversation turned, as it always seems to do, to the proper role of government.  Should government have the right to tax (or as some would say, "tell people what to do")?  This was my response.

OK, I follow your argument. You're upset about being told what to do and you think that if we just leave it all up to benevolent wealthy people to provide public goods through charity when they "please", everything will be better. But we know it will not, too many of the haves will free ride off those they feel are even better off, it's human nature. In the end, we will not be able to provide an adequate level of public goods and services needed by society, and that will have very costly long term effects. We know from economic research and historical trial and error that the best solution is to create some sort of fair social contract. Don't get hung up on government, government is synonymous with social contract. Our mixed private/public system is one form of the contract, socialism and communism are others. We get to choose the contract that we feel is best but no contract will be perfect nor will everyone like it the same. Some will attempt to take advantage of the loopholes in the contract, some will argue they are overly burdened in the contract, that's never going to change. When you change the terms of the contract to help some, it will always cause others to pay more, you hope that on net the changes you made to help outweigh those who lose. The ACA could have been better but those who were going to lose paid their lobbyists more to weaken cost control measures on the health care industry. We caved on making the penalty (read: incentive to encourage the right balance in the social contract) for not getting insurance by those financially capable high enough. Yet despite these shortcomings, which hopefully government can address in future years, the ACA is on net, better social contract language then we had, that is not disputable. If others can come along and suggest better contract language that our best economic estimates say,on net, will be better than what we have now, I'll be there to vote for it even if that means I'm one of the losers, because that's what successful societies and economic systems need to do.

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