The Immortal Corporation, Part I

The Immortal Corporation is the title of the second chapter of Kevin D. Williamson’s new book, The End is Near and It’s Going to be Awesome, and that chapter is about, not corporations, but government.  It has been said that “Governments presumably will exist forever. People do not.”

Yes indeed, governments will presumably exist forever.  Just not the same ones.  But governments can last, unless they are very, very bad, for a very, very long time.

I ran across this image at Gerard Van der Leun’s American Digest:

 photo thelines.jpg
The asterisk denotes that some classical liberals did support public funding of education (like Thomas Jefferson) while others (like Frederick Bastiat) did not.  Following the link trail, I discovered that the original poster accompanied it with a quote from F.A. Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom, from his essay “Why I Am Not a Conservative” (PDF):

Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments.

And the evidence largely supports this.

And I would be fine with that, seeing as I’m not a conservative either, but I am a minarchist and I am not at all pleased with the direction of the path that we’re being dragged down and which is illustrated in that image above.  Rev. Donald Sensing wrote several years ago,

Big government is itself apolitical. It cares not whose party is in power. It simply continues to grow. Its nourishment is the people’s money. Its excrement is more and more regulations and laws. Like the Terminator, “that’s what it does, that’s all it does.”

And we’re seeing more and more evidence of the metastasizing growth of Big Government every day—NSA snooping into our telephone records, use of surveillance drones over American soil, Radley Balko’s coverage of the explosive growth of SWAT team raids (Seriously? The Department of Education has a SWAT team?), IRS harassment of “TEA Party” groups, and now a massive “Federal Data Hub” being implemented to go along with Obamacare, just for a short list.

That joke about ordering a pizza for delivery is no longer so goddamned funny.

Or so farfetched.

None of this began with the present administration—far from it—but the pace does seem to be accelerating exponentially.

On the topic of corporations, Kevin Williamson writes:

Twenty-first-century corporations are more like temporary associations of people and capital lucky to survive for a few decades, and, if present trends continue, the future corporation will be an even more ad hoc tissue of tenuous short-term relationships.

Given the power of branding and the impressive headquarters that corporations still sometimes inhabit, and American presidents’ habit of picking corporate executives for influential positions, it is easy to mistake familiar corporations for enduring, deeply structured enterprises.  The illusion of permanence that led to the building of the Chrysler Building is for the most part a thing of the past—which is why there are multibillion-dollar corporations that work out of rented space.

The corporate lifetime is shortening becaue the pace of social learning is accelerating.  More complex economic entities develop adaptive strategies more quickly.  We recognize our economic mistakes more quickly and develop alternatives in great number and at high speed.  Understood properly, bankruptcy and business failure are pedagogical tools: They are an important part of how individuals, businesses, and industries learn—and the global marketplace is an exercise in social learning.

Strange thing:  Nobody ever stopped to ask, “If there is no U.S. Steel, then where will we get steel?”

It seems paradoxical, but failure is what makes us rich.  (And we are, even in these troubled times, fabulously rich.) We’d all be a lot worse off if corporations such as U.S. Steel did in fact live forever.  Obvious counterexamples include Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service, two institutions that would have failed long ago if not for government support—subsidies for Amtrak, the government-chartered monopoly on letter delivery for the postal service.  The cost of their corporate immortality is not only the waste associated with maintaining them, but the fact that their continued existence prevents the emergence of superior alternatives.  No death, no evolution.  A political establishment is a near-deathless thing:  Even after the bitter campaign of 2012, voters returned essentially the same cast of characters to Washington, virtually ensuring the continuation of the policies with which some 90 percent of voters pronounced themselves dissatisfied.

And now Detroit is trying to file for bankruptcy, but is being told by another entity of government that it can’t.

Williamson again:

In politics there is very little reason to grow less wrong, and sometimes good reason to grow more wrong. In aggregate, this leads to destructive policy choices. This is a structural defect inherent in the political model of decision making. Substituting one political philosophy for another will not eliminate the underlying problem. The problem of politics is, for the most part, not that politics is full of bad people or stupid people; the shocking truth is that politics is full of intelligent, well-meaning people. Often they do things the know are not the best or smartest move, and usually it is in the belief that by tolerating smaller wrongs they may serve a greater good. When this produces an outcome the public likes, that is called compromise; otherwise it is called hypocrisy, but it is difficult to tell the difference at the margins, and the shamefacedness with which politicians sometimes go about such business is probably a good sign.

Politics suffers from an insurmountable information deficit, resulting in an inability to plan. It suffers from problems associated with the self-interest of politicians and political institutions. Both of these are made much more acute by the fact that politics has for centuries successfully insulated itself from competitive and innovative forces that produce gradual (and sometimes radical) evolutionary change in other social institutions. Each of these problems is a direct consequence of the fact that politics is, as noted, a monopoly.

But a monopoly on what?

I’ll let Bethesda, Maryland resident Ernest McGill answer that question.  From a letter he submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine (rejected), and the American Medical Association (ditto):

The monopoly on the exercise of armed force, separated from simple gun ownership, defines sovereignty. Government is the administrative apparatus of sovereignty.

Or as Kevin Williamson puts it, “Politics is Violence,” and therefore government is a monopoly on violence.  It’s called legitimate violence, but a monopoly nonetheless.

Now that expansion in SWAT raids seems a little more logical, doesn’t it?

(To be continued….)


Only 45 days until Gun Blogger Rendezvous VIII!  As I’ve reported previously, the activities this year will include some time using the new OCAT (Optical Computer Aided Training) System both indoors with a laser, and outdoors with live-fire. Here’s a demo:

Plus, one attendee will be taking one home with them!

If you attend, you can also win a new Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Magnum, a Hi-Point pistol-caliber carbine, or a youth-sized Stevens take-down .22 rifle.

Mr. Completely says:

The Gun Blogger Rendezvous is not just for gun bloggers. if you read gun blogs, enjoy shooting or shooting sports, are interested in Second Amendment issues, or are in the shooting sports industry in some manner, you are all welcome to the Gun Blogger Rendezvous.

As we have done for the last seven years at the Gun Blogger Rendezvous, every penny we can raise goes to benefit Soldiers Angels and project Valour-IT. if you have not attended a Rendezvous in a few years, then this is the year for you to get back into the swing of the Gun Blogger Rendezvous. The registration for the Rendezvous is only $30, and it has not changed price in eight years. For the $30, you get one dinner, two breakfasts, access to all of the events, and several trips to the door prize table. Between now and the Rendezvous dates there may be additional items and benefits also added. The Silver Legacy hotel and casino where we are holding the Rendezvous provides the hospitality room for us at no charge, since we book a block of rooms for the attendees. they also provide free in room Wi-Fi for attendees.

It is very important that you send in your registration right away, so that we will know how many people are planning on attending. We are expecting a really good turnout this year, and it is possible that those who sign up at the last minute may not be able to get in on all of the free meals. We must notify the hotel well in advance as to how many people will be eating at each meal. If we give them a number that is too high we pay for those meals whether they are eaten or not. If we give the hotel a number that is too small there may not be enough meals for everyone to eat. As you can see, it is very important that you get your registration in right away. Since the all you can eat pizza feed on Saturday night sponsored by NSSF is not catered, we can order the amount of pizza that we need right at the last minute, so everyone will get plenty of pizza!

To make your room reservations at the Silver Legacy you need to use the group code GBLOG13 in order to get the discounted room rate. to use this group code and to get the discounted room right, you must place your reservations by telephone. It will not work if you try to book online. The telephone number for the Silver Legacy is 1-800-687-7733.

To register for the Gun Blogger Rendezvous you must download the registration form and mail it in along with your $30 to the address on the registration form. you’re check will be deposited into a Gun Blogger Rendezvous escrow account, and after the Rendezvous one check for the total amount will be sent to soldiers Angels.

If it is too far to Reno for you to drive, and you would prefer not flying, the Amtrak train station is only a block or so away from the Silver Legacy.

This is definitely the year to come to the Gun Blogger Rendezvous in Reno. We will be having more fun and more activities than we have ever had in the past. Hopefully, we will also be raising more money for Soldiers Angels than we ever have raised at any previous Gun Blogger Rendezvous. For that to happen, however, we need for you to come to the Rendezvous, bring your friends, and also help promote the Rendezvous by forwarding this on to other folks who you think would also enjoy coming to Reno for the Rendezvous.

So make your plans! I’d love to meet you!

OK, Let’s Have a Vote (Bumped)

Markadelphia is currently doing his thing in the comments to So Detroit Files for Bankruptcy, having veered off into a non sequitur thread about Trayvon Martin and race relations in the U.S.  Current comment count as I write this is 91.

I will admit that through the years (going on seven now), Markadelphia has inspired some pretty good posts (see the left sidebar) and a LOT of outstanding commentary (inspired, not generated).  And I will admit to “hunting over bait” to draw him and his special brand of Leftist brain-damage out from time to time, but as the GeekWitha.45 (among others) has noted more than once, what Markadelphia does in general is well described as comment shitting.  Great for traffic, but the signal-to-noise ratio drops right the hell off when he starts up.

I, your “Cult Grand Wizard” have said that I will never ban him from this site, but he left once previously voluntarily when he believed he had been “voted off the island” by my readers.  I pointed out to him the “vote” was 2-2, which is known in my world as “a tie.”  So he came back.

So let’s do this for real.  Leave a comment below:  Should Markadelphia be voted off the island, Yes or No?

UPDATE:  Regardless of the vote, I’m not going to ban-hammer Markadelphia.  I’m going to let his conscience be his guide (I can’t believe I actually wrote that.)   Voting concludes Monday at midnight, MST.

As of 4PM MST 7/20/13:  Yes – 4, No – 9

As of 9:30PM 7/20/13:      Yes – 5, No – 11

As of 7:50AM 7/21/13:      Yes – 5, No – 16

5:05PM 7/21/13:               Yes – 10, No – 13, Abstaining – 3

I just rechecked the comment thread and also my email.  Sixty-two comments, 23 votes.  A couple of people have changed their votes, I’ve gotten one “Yes” vote via email because Disqus refuses to work for them, and I think I might have double-counted one “No” vote on the last round.  Somebody check my work.

07:28 7/22/13:  OK, with Unix having now weighed in, the vote stands at:  Yes:  12 13,  No:  14 (two “Yes” votes via email) and Abstaining:  2.  Voting continues until midnight tonight.  Anything timestamped after that will be ignored.  Honestly, it’s closer than I thought it would be.

I changed the “Yes” count to 13.  I’m tired of him, too.  I’d have been happy if he hadn’t gotten progressively (and I use that word deliberately) worse over the last six years, but his complete wharrgarbl of late has prompted me into it (and this post).  I still won’t ban him, but I am tired of him and would not be disappointed if he took his navel lint and went home.

12:32 7/22/13:  TIE!  Yes – 14, No – 14, Abstaining – 2.  Less than twelve hours left.
14:03 7/22/13:  Another vote change.  Yes – 15, No – 13, Abstaining – 2.
18:40 7/22/13:  Yes – 16, No – 16, Abstaining – 2.  Yup.  We’re a monolithic cult here marching in mindless lockstep.  What kind of “Cult Grand Wizard” am I?


DJ juris imprudent Lyle
Toastrider Helen Thomas Perlhaqr
Peter G. (email) Grumpy Old Fart  
Merchant O’Death (email)   GuardDuck
Phil B RandyGC
Andrew P Robert Frampton
QuadGMoto Frognot
Mark Dietzler John Pryce
GeekWithA.45 Ragin’ Dave
Pascal MiddleAgeKen
DC Jeffro
Unix-Jedi John Hardin
Mark D Steve
John Hardin 6Kings
Will Haplo9
Dixie MrBill
Peter Barrett

One late vote from pedeim was excluded.  “Yes” – 18, “No” – 16, Abstain – 2.  I left my vote off because it didn’t matter.  The People Have Spoken.

UPDATE 4:07 MST 7/23/13 – Now that we’re done with this, I’m going to lock this thread in a little bit.  If you have something you want to say, please get it off your chest, but leave comments specifically about Markadelphia out of it.  We’ve voted, it’s done.

Race and Self-Defense

Massad Ayoob relates a miscarriage of justice. (Watch the whole thing, but this link starts at the story I wish to relate.)  I had not heard of this, or if I had I never posted about it.  That gets fixed now.  Listen to Mass explain the situation, then go read this.  I’ve found nothing more current.  If anyone else has more information, please let me know and I’ll post it.

Another case where Qualified Immunity should be rescinded.


h/t to /var/log/otto

Quote of the Day – Health Care Edition

This is a long one.  As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m currently reading Kevin D. Williamson‘s new book, The End is Near and It’s Going to be Awesome:  How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier and More Secure.  I generally try to read one non-fiction and one fiction book at the same time.  No, not with one eyeball on each text.  I read the fiction book when I’m at home, I read the non-fiction generally during lunch breaks.  I’ve recently finished the novel I was reading and The End is Near is getting pretty interesting, so I spent some time today with it.

What follows is an excerpt from the chapter titled Health Care is a Pencil that makes up one of the better explanations of just why the American health care system is as expensive as everyone complains about:

The price of health care is high because there is no price for health care.

Some years ago, I found myself needing a medical procedure at the same time I was considering changing jobs.  It was a possibility that I might find myself without health insurance and paying for the procedure out of pocket.  In order to calculate how I should modify my plans, I began calling around to various medical practices and inquiring as to the price of the procedure.  It was nearly impossible to get an answer other than “Let’s see if your insurance covers it.”  I was quite insistent that I needed a price that I could rely upon in the event that I needed to pay out of pocket, a proposition that seemed to universally mystify every medical professional with whom I came in contact.  After dozens of phone calls to several medical practices—including some very prestigious ones—the answer was the same:  “Talk to the lady in insurance.”  When I finally succeeded in getting an estimate from one doctor, the possible price ranged from the low five figures to the low six figures, the higher end of the estimate being more than ten times the lower end.  Strange that I can get an exact price on an iPhone, a Honda Civic, or a pizza, but not on something as essential to my well-being as health care.

There are almost no consumer prices in health care.  Because there are no prices, there is no price discrimination by consumers, and therefore no pressure to keep prices down to where consumers can pay them.  It’s a chicken-and-egg problem:  One of the reasons that we rely on insurance or government programs to pay medical bills is that the bills are too high for ordinary consumers to pay; one of the reasons that the bills are too high for ordinary consumers to pay is that we rely on insurance and government programs to pay for them.

American health care is great.  Health-care financing is a mess.

Is there something inherent in the structure of the health-care market that means consumers cannot pay expenses out of pocket and negotiate prices the way they would on a television or a car?  In some cases, yes:  If you get hit by a bus and are wheeled unconscious into the emergency room, you are not in a very good negotiating position.  Likewise, if your daughter has a brain tumor, you probably are going to pay whatever it costs to have that tumor treated.  but most health-care decisions are not immediate life-and-death issues.  There is less reason to think that consumers cannot negotiate the price of an annual checkup or routine dental work, the inevitable cuts and scrapes in life, or preventative and diagnostic care.  True, most consumers do not have a great deal of medical knowledge; most of them aren’t telecommunications engineers either, but they manage to negotiate that market just fine.  But with no prices there can be no price discrimination and no negotiation—none of the iterative social learning that characterizes our most productive enterprises.

And here I will give a rare nod of appreciation to the Obama administration for at least giving a nod to this problem:

As part of the Obama administration’s work to make our health care system more affordable and accountable, data are being released that show significant variation across the country and within communities in what providers charge for common services. These data include information comparing the charges for the 100 most common inpatient services and 30 common outpatient services.  Providers determine what they will charge for items and services provided to patients and these charges are the amount the providers bills for an item or service.

But that’s not enough. Williamson elaborates:

The lack of consumer prices produces some truly odd consequences.  Chad Terhune of the Los Angeles Dog Trainer Times (Sorry.  Ed.) identified a clinic that charges $4,432 for a CAT scan.  The clinic has a relationship with Blue Shield, which pays a negotiated price of about $2,200 for the same procedure.  And the out-of-pocket price for a consumer paying cash?  Only $250.  But they do not advertise that price.

It’s gotten so bad that the market is finally beginning to respond:

Doctor stops accepting insurance, lowers prices and posts costs online

A family practice doctor in Maine is refusing all forms of health insurance, including Medicare, in order, he says, to provide better service to his patients.

Dr. Michael Ciampi told the Bangor Daily News that he wants to practice medicine without being dictated to by insurance companies.

On April 1, Ciampi lowered his prices and posted the costs online. For example, an office visit in which patients discuss “one issue of moderate complexity or 2-3 simple issues” costs $75. When Ciampi accepted insurance, the visit would run $160, according to the Bangor Daily News.

The fact that Ciampi lists the prices, he says, means no surprises for his patients.

Dr. Ciampi is not alone.

But seeing that health care expenditures in this country costs well in excess of 15% of GDP, and the passage of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” now puts the Federal government SQUARELY in the driver’s seat, I don’t see this effort gaining much traction. It takes power away from too many people firmly entrenched in both industry and government for either one to ever let it survive the nursery.