Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A rebuttal of the Star Tribune misuse of the term “free market”

I submitted the following commentary to the Star Tribune a day or two after D.J. Tice’s column which I considered another misuse of the term “free market”.  I have not seen it published yet.  Could it be that “free marketers” don’t like reminders of true free markets?

D.J. Tice’s column “ A foolish system and your money …” leads me to believe he is one of those who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.  I wonder if he has considered the number of times in a day that he has benefitted from public goods.

Did he drive on a freeway to work?  Did he pay the full cost of his share of the road, the full cost of the pollution from his car, and the cost of the loss of tax revenues from the houses that once were above the trenches that divide up our cities?

Did he take a bus to work?  His fare would have only paid part of the cost.  But the bus is a public good in that it reduces the number of cars on the road.  If he had to pay the full cost of his bus ride, he probably wouldn’t take the bus.

Did he walk to work?  Did he pay a toll for the sidewalk he used?  Did he put a coin in the traffic lights so that he could cross the street?

Let’s hope that his house never catches fire.  He would not be happy paying the full cost of the fire department response.  If his neighbor had the misfortune of a fire, would he help pay the cost of the fire department whose response kept the fire from spreading to his house?

I am a graduate of the Cleveland Public School System.  I doubt that my mother could have afforded the full cost of the schooling that qualified me to attend college.  Many other people, some childless, helped pay the cost of my education.

I could not have afforded the tuition at Case Institute of Technology.  A foundation paid full tuition the first year.  I flunked out of Case but the foundation kept paying a fraction of my tuition at Ohio Wesleyan University.  At both schools, many donors provided money to keep the tuition down somewhat.  Three-percent federal loans also helped.  I managed to get back to Case for graduate school with a graduate assistant position.  I doubt any of the work we did paid in full for our jobs and tuition.

Companies are demanding more and more highly specialized “skills”, but they are not willing to train people.  They expect the public schools and the colleges and universities to train these employees.  But they don’t want to pay the taxes for the public schools and colleges, institutions that would help those who can’t afford the elite institutions.  The smaller the pool of potential employees, the harder it is to find “qualified” employees.

Could he pay out of pocket for each and every medical visit he needed: office or hospital?  For those of us with well-paying jobs, health insurance pays for a chunk of the care, if not all.  But what about people who have jobs with no health insurance?  Has he considered that their lack of health insurance benefits him with lower prices? (Or the owners with much higher profits.)

What if there were a deadly epidemic that had no respect for wealth?  How might such an epidemic start?  Maybe those who first became ill could not afford the health care, health care that would have reduced their chances of spreading their disease.

Modern economies run a large array of public goods: roads, schools, police, fire, and regulatory inspections.  As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes supposedly said, “I like taxes; they buy me civilization.”