A “Can of Peas” explains the Healthcare Dilemma

I catch myself in frequent conversations trying to explain how competitive free markets create quality and affordability in products for consumers and how this relates to our healthcare dilemma.  If you don’t align stakeholder interests and motivations with desired outcomes,  then the process or system eventually cannibalizes itself.

I recently finished reading  “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided By Politics and Religion” and came across one of the best written explanations for this.   Kudos to both Goldhill and Jonathan Haidt whose combined work brought this to light so beautifully.  Enjoy!

In 2009, Goldhill published a provocative essay in The Atlantic Monthly titled “How American Health Care Killed My Father”.  One of his main points was the absurdity of using insurance to pay for routine purchases.  Normally we buy insurance to cover the risk of a catastrophic loss.  We enter an insurance pool with other people to spread the risk around, and we hope never to collect a penny.  We handle routine expenses ourselves, seeking out the highest quality for the lowest price.  We would never file a claim on our car insurance to pay for an oil change.

The next time you go to the supermarket, look closely at a can of peas.  Think about all the work that went into it – the farmers, truckers, and supermarket employees, the miners and metalworkers who made the can – and think how miraculous it is that you can buy this can for under a dollar.  At every step of the way, competition among suppliers rewarded those whose innovations shaved a penny off the cost of getting that can to you.  If God is commonly thought to have created the world and then arranged it for our benefit, then the free market (and its invisible hand) is a pretty good candidate for being a god.  You can begin to understand why libertarians sometimes have a quasi-religious faith in free markets.

Now let’s do the devil’s work and spread chaos throughout the marketplace.  Suppose that one day all prices are removed from all products in the supermarket.  All labels too, beyond a simple description of the contents, so you can’t compare products from different companies.  You just take whatever you want, as much as you want, and you bring it up to the register.  The checkout clerk scans in your food insurance card and helps you fill out your itemized claim.  You pay a flat fee of $10.00 and go home with your groceries.  A month later you get a bill informing you that your food insurance company will pay the supermarket for most of the remaining cost, but you’ll have to send in a check for an additional $15.00.  It might sound like a bargain to get a cartload of food for $25.00, but you’re really paying your grocery bill every month when you fork over $2,000.00 for your food insurance premium.

Under such a system, there is little incentive for anyone to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of food or increase its quality.  The supermarkets get paid by the insurers, and the insurers get their premiums from you.  The cost of food insurance begins to rise as supermarkets stock only the foods that net them the highest insurance payments, not the foods that deliver value to you.

As the cost of food insurance rises, many people can no longer afford it.  Liberals push for a new government program to buy food insurance for the poor and the elderly.  But once the government becomes the major purchaser of food, then success in the supermarket and food insurance industries depends primarily on maximizing yield from government payouts.  Before you know it, that can of peas costs the government $30.00, and all of us are paying 25 percent of our paychecks in taxes just to cover the cost of buying groceries for each other at hugely inflated costs.

That, says Goldhill, is what we’ve done to ourselves.  as long as consumers are spared from taking price into account – that is, as long as someone else is always paying for your choices – things will get worse.

We can’t fix the problem by convening panels of experts to set the maximum allowable price for a can of peas.  Only a working market can bring supply, demand, and ingenuity together to provide health care at the lowest possible price.  For example, there is an open market for LASIK surgery (a kind of laser eye surgery that removes the need to wear contact lenses).  Doctors compete with one another to attract customers, and because the procedure is rarely covered by insurance, patients take price into account.

Competition and innovation have driven down the price of the surgery by nearly 80 percent since it was first introduced.

And what do you think will happen to the price and quality of LASIK surgery when insurance covers it?

One important thing to remember is that in the book it states that liberals are motivated by the “care foundation” to provide services to people that can’t afford it, which I believe to be true.  However, in creating systems to do that we inevitably create the $30 dollar “can of peas” situation and a new evil surfaces.  This happens when stakeholder interests and motivations are not aligned with outcomes.  Free markets, though they have shortcomings, do this miraculously and you get a can of peas for under a dollar.

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One Christian’s View on How to Vote in the 2016 Election

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If you are a conservative Christian and you are watching the events of the election unfold, you may find yourself in a bit of a moral dilemma regarding your vote.  Primarily regarding the fact that on one hand you have a candidate that will seek to implement wide sweep policies counter to your faith.  On the other you have someone who half-heartedly supports policies aligning with your faith, but demonstrates a moral character that in no way represents Christian values.   And on the policy front, the third-party candidates only offer additional moral compromise.  I could use a significant portion of this text diving into the mud explaining why that is the case with the candidates, but I am going to assume that the media has done that for me, you understand the dilemma, and you are seeking God’s guidance on what to do.

So first and foremost, I am not speaking for God.  I will however make my humble attempt at explaining how I have come to my upcoming voting decision and pray that it is pleasing to God.   Though I fail time and time again, I do seek God’s wisdom and try to live a life that is pleasing to him.   And though for many reasons I agree with the separation of Church and state at a national level and value the freedom of religion this great country has provided as a result, I can’t compartmentalize them as a Christian on an individual level.  My vote, though private, is as much a reflection of my faith as any other action I may choose to take.  So with that, I must seek to please God with my vote.

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  – 2 Corinthians 5:9-10

I must warn you that I am an obsessive thinker to a fault.  So the amount of effort I put into thinking about decisions such as this bridges upon a laughable ridiculousness.  Where I mentally wander to with things like this is a place that I believe many of us do.  We want to be intellectually and faith founded in our decision so when given a moral dilemma such as this, we journey into the “greater good” world.  I have gone so far as to chart numerous policies and positions of candidates and estimate sin or Christian moral impact if implemented to arrive at a net impact type metric to found a decision on.  I only wish I was kidding.   And though I know you are now curious of what that looked like, I am not sure that graduated scales of ethics, graded Christian morality, or evaluating Biblical shades of gray is what God requires or even desires in any decision.

whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:6

So let me first say that I think there may be some scriptural support in the Old Testament for “greater good” type scenarios.  However, for the ones I am able to find, God seems to be providing specific direction as to what to do.  If you feel that God is clearly and unequivocally telling you who to vote for, then you have your answer.   But for those Christians that do not find themselves with that clear direction, I think we must do our best to imitate Christ.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus in his time on Earth did not sin and it is he that we are to imitate.  Sin based on the original language is defined as “missing the mark”.   It isn’t just violating a commandment, but it is demonstrating any behavior or action that misses the perfect life of Christ (the mark).  So voting or supporting someone who supports policies that kill unborn babies would be “missing the mark”.  Voting or supporting someone who participates in “locker room talk”, whether jokingly or in action, regarding the sexual assault of women is “missing the mark”.  I also don’t think there is any strong evidence of repentance, change of heart, or even a sincere apology regarding this past act.    So I can only conclude that voting for candidates on the current ticket is a sin and we are called to be like Christ who did not sin.  But what about the “greater good”?

In looking at the life of Christ I can imagine scenarios where Christ could have committed one sin for an earthly “greater good”.  With his omnipotence he could foresee those that would go on to persecute and kill Christians in mass or those that would deceive and lead people away from the gospel in mass.   Couldn’t he have used one strategic murder, lie, or sin for an earthly “greater good”?   And yet despite this, He chose to remain sinless and thank God for that.

I think our desire to make “greater good” decisions and ultimately justify a single sinful vote, is because we are concerned about the direction of our country and perhaps temporarily lack faith in God’s plan.   We have to keep in mind that the Government cannot enforce Christianity nor do I think they should.  They couldn’t possibly do it if they wanted to nor can they keep me from sharing the gospel. Christianity is a personal decision that each of us have to make and as Christians we can always choose to be faithful to Christ despite the political or social landscape we find ourselves in.  It could become increasingly harder, unpopular, or even worse.  However, we must consider the faithfulness of persecuted Christian brothers and sisters all around the world.  So we should imitate Christ, have faith, and seek to not sin in all situations.   So what choice does this leave regarding the vote?

I guess a “no vote” could be an option but I do not take this amazing country we live in for granted.  I believe it is our civic duty to vote so I will be writing in a candidate that I believe God would be proud of. I suppose nobody is perfect, but I believe there are more faithful choices grounded in their Christianity.   The immediate response to this is that you are “wasting your vote” and perhaps mathematically even contributing to the win of an undesired candidate leading to undesired outcomes.  I would suggest this is “greater good” thinking that will result in a sinful vote.   I will seek to not sin in my vote, to imitate Christ, and to have faith that God is in control and that I can remain faithful to him despite how the country I live in might change.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

Farewell IT….you have been good to me

As of today I accepted a new position at Concorde Career Colleges where I will be the VP of Marketing and Data Analytics.    In that new job I will manage Marketing, the National Call Center, and Data Analytics.   I am humbled and excited yet again that they have given me the opportunity to manage a different area of the company.  We really have some fantastic and talented folks in this area of the company.  Let’s be honest, I will always be an IT geek and I can’t say enough great things about my IT team.  This will be the first time I am technically not working in or managing your traditional IT department.

So what I think this means…….is that I am no longer an IT guy.   And with this I finally drop the dreaded IT guy curse.  Whats that you say?  I believe this means I no longer have to fix anyone’s computer! w00t!

Dealer of Folly in 2015

As I kickoff 2015 I have felt convicted to reflect on that which is important to me.  From the perspective of the world, people I interact with, some supposed friends, and just my general interpretation of the words I hear, I am tainted.     And though the word “tainted” may bring many things to mind, I am specifically referring to being infected with an undesirable quality.  It has become increasingly clear that I find myself in a place and time where I am viewed as a dealer of disgust.  Numerous are my symptoms. I am hypocritical, ignorant, uninformed, selfish, unloving, intolerant, and outdated to name a few.

This is not a recent onset of infection. The truth is that I have been ill since I was 13 years old.   Worst of all, I am also contagious by design and thus spreading the undesirable in multiplicity.  Don’t fear regarding this news.  The world has built up immunity and has suppressed this illness relentlessly, though a remnant still remains susceptible despite those efforts.  So the chances of you contracting this illness are probably not something to worry about.

Perhaps I am muddling intently or purposefully “stirring the pot” to say in different words, but what I am has become concerning to many.   I am a Christian.

There is a good chance that if you are reading this then you know me in some capacity.  If what I am has not been clear to you; shame on me.   I have seen better days where I was more contagious.  Given the political climate I have tried to bring to light here, Christians find themselves being comfortably Christian when amongst Christians, but comfortably normal and generic when not.  This dualistic lifestyle that I have been guilty of might just be the key to worldly success.  I need the courage, as do many Christians, to view worldly success and acceptance as having little value.

Matthew 6: 19. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do not misinterpret my words.  I am not calling for divisive actions or a proud embrace of the symptoms I have highlighted. If you as a Christian were prepared to sound your war cry upon reading this, then pause for a moment to be certain we are in accord.  In fact, it is my argument that the infection I have described is perhaps a misrepresentation of genuine Christianity and more describes your average census survey Christian.  Otherwise my remnant statements seem yet again ignorant when looking at the below data.

So it seems that 31.7% of the world is census survey Christian and that number rises to over 75% for the US.  These people come in many forms and contribute to the worldly definition of a Christian.  And yet they all feel comfortable, at least on things like surveys, bearing the name of Christ.  To do something in someone’s name, or while bearing a label,  seems to be based on the discretion of the label bearer and not the label.  What does this mean?  It means that I could very well do something horrible in your name today while declaring it boldly.   And though you would likely not condone the activity, it seems that I have the discretion to do the unthinkable while bearing your label to bring taint upon you.  The ones whose activity you would condone and allow to bear your name are the genuine type.   Genuine Christians are only those that Christ has saved to bear his image, and I am fairly certain that percentage is much much smaller.   I think it is also safe to say that the worldly definition of a Christian is severely tainted since the law of numbers regarding false image bearers would prevail.

Matthew 7: 13. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

In 2015 it is important to me that everyone understand that I bear this image with humility.   I am a Christian and severely flawed.  I know the standard and fall short.  I often act in ways that my label would not condone.  In humility I claim Christ because my broken state leaves me undeserving of this love and favor.  This is the true illness and I have had this one since birth.  I am sinful but not a slave to it, nor is it an excuse.

Romans 6: 17. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18. and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 

It is my prayer in 2015 that everyone have genuine encounters with genuine Christians.  I am sure that the worldly definition will start to erode regarding these genuine people.  But at the end of the day, there is no guarantee that you will be susceptible to their message or that they will be bold enough to deliver it. Let’s hope the “illness” becomes the cure.

I hope everyone has a great 2015.  I will seek to be a dealer of folly.

1 Corinthians: 18. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 

 

 

You have to be good to truly know bad.

In preparing to teach my Life Group a lesson out of James 1 regarding temptation I came across this amazing quote that really puts things into perspective.

C.S. Lewis: “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.”