As an economist, perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this piece. In delivering the opinion of the Court on the Accountable Care Act, Chief Justice Roberts makes an indirect attack on economists: “To an economist, perhaps, there is no difference between activity and inactivity…But the distinction would not have been lost on the Framers, who were ‘practical statesmen,’ not metaphysical philosophers” (p.24). Nonetheless, I will turn here not to the practical issues decided by the court—such as how the individual mandate is a penalty, not a tax that must be paid before people can sue, but is a tax, not a mandate, for being held constitutional, while penalties on states that forgo a Medicaid expansion are unconstitutional because they represent a “shift in kind, not merely degree” (p. 5). Instead I turn to metaphysical issues surrounding many quandaries that remain, such as how the new health laws can be administered, how budgets can possibly be sustained, and whether we can solve any of this mess without some bipartisan cooperation. Continue reading
One of the most frustrating aspects of the health reform debate has been the extent to which many legitimate questions about what might work were ignored in favor of fights over ideology. As advocacy triumphed over expertise, those who promised more than they could deliver fought with defenders of an unsustainable status quo. At times, it was like watching two groups argue over whether to make a building entirely of steel or entirely of glass when neither approach works by itself. One result is that the new health reform still needs a lot of fancy structural work to stand and extensive plumbing to be usable. Continue reading
Louisville, Kentucky, is a nice town. I’m biased—I grew up there. It’s not South, North, East, or West in make-up, but a bit of all four. It is home to horse racing and bourbon, but also to the world’s largest producer of Braille books and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
Louisville is back in the news these days because its plan for integrating schools, like Seattle’s, was overturned recently by the Supreme Court. However divided is opinion over this decision, it should force us to look more deeply into what a well-integrated society means and requires. Public debate should range far beyond the use of race as a factor in determining which kids can go to which schools. Besides school systems, we should be challenging institutions ranging from universities to charity and corporate boards to governments on ways to diversify that go well beyond simple ratios of blacks to whites or females to males. Continue reading