About “The Gymnasium”

I am a husband, a father of four (three girls and one boy ages 7,5,3, and under 1), a Christian, an executive in the healthcare information technology field, and I still prefer the Oxford comma. I enjoy and spend much of my time reading biographies, history, economics, philosophy and classical literature as well as publications “The Economist” and “The Wall Street Journal.” I am a graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Texas A&M University. I served for four years as an officer in the U.S. Army. I believe that my five years working within the healthcare field gives me a front-row view to the pros and cons of the heavy hand of government in an industry. I enjoy writing and have contributed to a book that is a compendium of essays on important issues of the day published directly through Amazon called “Reinventing the Right.” Mine is the chapter focused on free trade and globalization.

I chose the name “The Gymnasium” for purposeful overlapping reasons, both intellectual alignment and for humor. Gymnasium in America has long been associated with physical strength. Less known is its more historic origin as a name for a place of learning. Ancient philosophers such as Plato opened Gymnasiums as a place for intellectual pursuits with which they amassed students and followers. More humorously, the etymology of Gymnasium quite literally means to “exercise naked.” The metaphor for this blog is that this is a place to exercise our ability to mentally exercise “naked” and free of fear of vitriol and personal attacks. Thus, the only initial ground rules that I will lay out here is that I expect this to grow into a place of intellectual thought, discussion, and perhaps rigorous and heated debate at times. However, when comments tend towards ad hominem attacks, that is where I will draw the line.

The primary focus of this blog will be the political, economics, and faith discussions that matter to the modern world, at least from my own vantage point. My own intellectual biases tend towards the classical liberal tradition. Before I raise the ire of many a conservative fellow, allow me to explain that the classical liberal term is more closely associated with what one might label “libertarian” in the modern era, with perhaps the important distinction that I will admit that I possess a few libertarian heresies such as being pro-life and believing that there is some role for government in a society and in some cases a social safety net can be acceptable so long as it is backed by general rules rather than special favors given to a certain class of individuals. Hence, my use of the more historical epithet of classical liberal to describe where I more closely align from an ideological perspective.

A short description of classical liberal is someone who espouses political and economic freedom buttressed by the importance of a well-functioning but limited and non-corrupt government that supports the rule of law and limits to the highest degree possible the interference and coercion of man. Think of the writings of John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman as lions of classical liberalism.

For my eventual followers. I heartily welcome you to my blog and hope to have great thoughts and debates with you all in the future. I introduce this blog with one of my favorite quotes that I believe is appropriate for my vision for this blog:

“We must not attempt to fly, when we can scarcely pretend to creep. In considering any complex matter, we ought to examine every distinct ingredient in the composition, one by one; and reduce everything to the utmost simplicity; since the condition of our nature binds us to a strict law and very narrow limits. We ought afterwards to re-examine the principles by the effect of the composition, as well as the composition by that of the principles. We ought to compare our subject with things of a similar nature, and even with things of a contrary nature; for discoveries may be, and often are, made by the contrast, which would escape us on the single view. The greater number of the comparisons we make, the more general and the more certain our knowledge is likely to prove, as built upon a more extensive and perfect induction.

If an inquiry thus carefully conducted should fail at last of discovering the truth, it may answer an end perhaps as useful, in discovering to us the weakness of our own understanding. If it does not make us knowing, it may make us modest. If it does not preserve us from error, it may at least from the spirit of error; and may make us cautious of pronouncing with positiveness or with haste, when so much labour may end in so much uncertainty.”

Edmund Burke: Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, 1756.

3 thoughts on “About “The Gymnasium”

  1. You strike me S a man of faith. It fascinates me that a person of faith and obvious knowledge can have such a radically different view of economics and health care. I’m a Bernie fan. And a man of faith. Are you a Republican? Do you believe that people must work for a given employer or earn a salary of $2000 / month in order to qualify for health care?

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    1. Greetings Weaga and thanks for the note. I am indeed a man of faith. While I consider myself more of a classical liberal/libertarian than a Republican, it is true that I vote Republican the vast majority of the time. I do disagree with some Republican stances; an example would be that I favor much more open immigration stances and was in favor of allowing gay marriage as I believed that the government never should have been involved in the institution of marriage in the first place.

      My guiding principles on the appropriate order of society is that man should be free to do as much as they possibly can on their own without coercion of their fellow man. Freedom from coercion will inherently mean a small and limited government, which is the antithesis of what an avowed socialist such as Sanders advocates. It is not that I don’t like the idealism of a utopian state of all of us cooperating to build a just society, it is that I believe that empirical evidence of countries that have tried socialism have failed to deliver the utopia and have instead descended into quite the dystopia. The problem is that to have such a system, the ruling elites of a society change from one in which the invisible hand of the pricing system and the free market determine who is elite based upon individual skills and effort to one in which favors and status are doled out arbitrarily by a government elite. We can’t pretend that those entrenched with government power will suddenly become benevolent and all-wise benefactors. The unfortunate reality is that the end result of a socialist society is not idealistic cooperation, it is in fact collusion of a small governing elite and their attachments. It is no accident that the richest woman in Venezuela is Hugo Chavez’s daughter. It is no accident that Brazil is dealing with corruption charges at all levels of government due to government officials abusing their power to milk bribes and embezzle money from the state-owned oil and gas company Petrobas.

      As a man of faith, I see that evil can exist in a capitalist and free society, but it is a hopeless endeavor to eradicate evil on this earth. That evil will be even more pernicious if we concentrate it into the hands of a too powerful government, which is what socialism requires. A socialist government can’t possibly enact its desired reforms and wealth redistribution schemes without the power to do so. Once that power is granted, it is impossible to revoke in the path of future encroachments on individual liberties. Once such a power has been granted, who is to say that the government of the future won’t decide that Christianity is a problem for its aims and decides to outlaw it? This is the type of coercion one sees the world over in concentrated governments. Far better to keep the government limited to the protection of our individual liberties of life, property, and the ability to use our talents as we see fit.

      I would also add that not only do I disagree with socialism on moral and philosophical principles, I find it highly ineffective in achieving its aims. As Margaret Thatcher stated, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Indeed, the punitive forms of taxation required to redistribute wealth only leads to lower incentives to be productive as well as talent and capital flight – pushing a country into penury all in the name of a fictitious equality, an equality that will in practice mean an enriched governing elite while all others are equal in misery. Far better to have a society that rewards skills, gumption, and thrift, and I believe the Christian’s aim in such a society is to freely give to those in need. The fact that America has traditionally been the most charitable is no accident -once the government forces its way into wealth redistribution and takes over the social safety net, individuals and church organizations cease to do so. I would submit that the individual and church organizations are far better at pinpointing and doling out resources than a faraway government bureaucrat.

      Healthcare is an entirely different topic. The government is already heavily involved in the industry – from insurance to delivery, and it has been so for six decades, so I would not say that we have even given more of the free market here a chance. The challenge for the government bureaucrat is that they always believe that just one more tweak is needed to fix all the previous ills. The problem is that one more tweak is a 2,000 page document in the federal register that is written such that only a lawyer and a hired consultant can appreciate – causing even more challenge in costs and compliance. I have spent the last five years in the healthcare industry watching this from a front row seat. While a hospital could spend their time focused on how to more effectively deliver quality care, they in fact spend it just trying to keep up with compliance to regulations that the D.C. apparatchik throws there way, regulations and dicates that are as often out of date from a medical perspective as they are absurdly complex to understand. To answer you specific question, health insurance should never have been tied to employment in the first place, Eliminate the tax breaks companies get for offering employees health insurance and allow that tax break to go to low income people who purchase on the open market. Allow people to purchase plans across state lines rather than restricted to a geographic area. Allow people to put money into a healthcare savings account that gets tax credits. Ease supply side restrictions such as when and where a clinic or hospital can operate (this is typically blocked by the existing dominant hospital in the region with the support of politicians). Ease the practice requirements that keep nurses from doing work they are perfectly capable of performing (this is typically blocked by physician licensing boards). The government has a treasure trove of clinical quality and cost data – publish it so consumers can evaluate cost and quality at their healthcare providers. These will have a better impact on cost and quality of healthcare and these are market-based reforms. A government forcing one to buy or sell something will only result in poor quality, limited supply, or push costs up.

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  2. Pingback: The drift towards socialism – The Gymnasium

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