I’m Thankful For the Free(ish) Market

Clearly, what we have here in the United States isn’t a free market. It’s occasionally free in a few places, if you’re careful and if you’re doing something very innocuous, but we can’t really say that there is “a free market” here simply because the state doesn’t intervene in a few limited areas. No, we have a Fascist Market here in the United States, not a “capitalist plus regulation” one, because one simple pillar of capitalism has been utterly destroyed: private property.

Just this week, during emails to a friend of mine, I said,

We have meaningless property–the same property we’d be allowed to claim as ours under communism. Consumption items, I guess I’d call them. Food, televisions, phones. But actual, meaningful property? It’s not ours. It’s the government’s. Your house will always be the government’s and if you don’t pay your extortion fee, they will take it from you. With private property, that’s not the case: you are the owner, and anyone taking it from you is stealing it (unless you explicitly signed a voluntary contract with the property as collateral). Your house isn’t yours. It’s yours as long as you pay the government. If it’s your property, why can’t you add your own septic tank? Why can’t you add a wing to it? Why can’t you raise cows on it? Because it’s not yours. You’re simply allowed the privilege of using it as long as you pay their rental fees and abide their ownership rules.

And if they want, they can go “eminent domain” and take it from you. Their claim to it always supersedes yours x but they’ll let you stay as long as you follow their rules and pay rent to them.

Private property protects us from exactly that. But it’s not private. It’s “private per the government’s TOU, per your payment of extortion, and per their disinterest in it.” It’s an illusion that we can maintain until we come face to face with it, like the illusion people have that the police aren’t omnipotent falling apart once a person has been pulled over at 3 in the morning and held at their mercy.

To this, the friend replied:

I truly am not following you. In fact, I’m wondering if you’re joking with me. Are you not aware that the vast majority of property in the US is owned – outright – by private interests? For example, my father OWNS two houses outright – bought, fully paid for. No mortgage, no loan, no rent, no monthly fees, certainly no “extortion.” The farm, for example: Dad owns that house, the place you live in, and 10 acres of land. He owns vehicles, tractors, farming implements, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in furniture and assets related to my mom’s business. He owns buildings in <area>, the property they sit on, and for years he owned mini-storage units that he sold outright to another individual. Before that he owned a large building on 3rd St in Memphis, paid it off, and sold it, too. At any point he can sell anything he owns and do whatever he wishes with the money.

The house I live in: it’s owned, 100%, outright, by my father in law. He paid it off in full when he sold his part of <edited> Company – a company that was co-owned by two men.  He can dig a hole tomorrow and bury a septic tank by lunch, if he wants. Neither my dad nor my father in law pays the government anything in the way of rent, fees, or extortion. I guess you could say property taxes are along the lines of “fee,” but that’s a totally different matter than private ownership. Taxes are real. And taxes suck. But the property – land, houses, assets, etc – are owned outright.
My cousin is a farmer. He farms about 3000 acres of prime MS Delta farmland. He owns about 1/3 of it, and he leases the rest – from rich, “landed gentry” in the delta. Neither he as leasor or the landowners are in any way beholden to the government. If anything, most Americans spend their lives beholden to banks and other creditors – which themselves are private interests, owners of vast assets. In fact, what individuals don’t own, banks do, generally speaking. But the government certainly doesn’t own it.
I’m really not following you on this one. Are you speaking figuratively, or perhaps referring to taxes?
And I was truly blown away.

How could he not be following me? What I described was clearly taxation. And despite drawing a direct line from taxation to how it turns us into glorified renters, because of the words involved, he was unable to see what I was saying. I remarked that it was curious how dangerous words are. It’s so clear I don’t know how else to put it: if you don’t pay your extortion fees–property taxes–to the state, then they will take your house from you. How is it your property if you must continually pay a fee just to prevent it from being taken from you?

So even though we have to pay the government taxes regularly to prevent them from taking our property from us, we are not beholden to the government. It’s one thing to have to pay a bank monthly to keep the land, and that certainly does curtail ownership, but it’s a completely different thing to have to pay the government to keep the land, which doesn’t curtail ownership because “those are taxes.” As I said–what a danger words are. The situation I described is unimpeachable; it is a fact of life in the United States, but because he waves it away as this word “taxes,” it gets compartmentalized in his head as something that must be ignored.

Medicine and the Free Market

the-state-vs-the-marketWe can never have free market medicine until the ability of doctors to prescribe medication is no longer sanctioned by the state. Pharmacies, of course, can set their own policies. Does Pharmacy X wish to allow people to get medications without a prescription? Maybe they will for most medications, but won’t allow people to get opiates without a doctor’s prescription? Maybe Pharmacy Y will allow anyone to get any medications they want–as long as they are 18, I suppose, though I would also be against that.

There are several gatekeepers in the way of a person getting medication that they need.

First, it is simply assumed that the doctor knows more about your condition and physiology than you do. In a lot of cases, this is true, because someone who self-diagnoses through Web MD may go to the doctor asking for treatment for a disease contracted by not properly cooking frog legs that came from the Amazon Rainforest, when they really just have a cold. Is this always going to be the case, though? Certainly not.

I’ve contracted pneumonia four times in my life; I have a known susceptibility to it, and it will almost certainly be what kills me one day. I know exactly what it feels like, and I don’t need a doctor running a bunch of tests to confirm that I have pneumonia. This is a minor example, because the “tests” involve little more than using a stethoscope to hear your breathing, but the point remains perfectly valid. I can probably recognize the illness better than most doctors, but there isn’t a doctor alive who would just “take my word for it,” because the state would drop the hammer on them quickly if they turned out to be wrong.

The pharmacy, though, is the true holder of the drugs and the true gatekeeper. After all, they are the ones with shelves full of all kinds of pills, most of them as damaging as whatever symptom they’re supposed to address, but they will only give you those pills if you have a sheet of paper from a doctor–which costs, roughly, $100 to acquire. Why? Because the government has sectioned these pills off into varying degrees of acceptability, and if they let you have those pills without that doctor’s scrap of paper, then the state will drop the hammer on them. If they have that sheet of paper, then they have no responsibility in the matter; the responsibility is shifted to the doctor who gave you the prescription.

So what I’m about to call “free market medicine” isn’t in any sense truly free market.

My Involvement With Free Market Medicine

Last year, I took the extraordinary step of accepting that I am transgender. It was actually about a year ago today that I dropped the ultimatum on my sister that she could accept me or lose me, but I’m not going to hide it. Still, I was not doing well financially, having had my life completely wrecked by someone who betrayed me about as completely as anyone ever betrayed anyone, and it was a long, painful, awful road from that to where I am today.

Obviously, she chose not to have anything to do with me.

Click for full image

Click for full image. It’s more self-aware and devastating than you’d expect, so be warned.

So in January I moved, and I was not making very much money–about $150 a week on good weeks, but it actually came closer to about $100 a week on average. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I managed.

I had spent the previous few months looking into hormone therapy, and ran into brick wall after brick wall. Everything I found online suggested that even if I did find a doctor in Mississippi who would be willing to prescribe me estrogen, they would not do so until I had been in therapy for at least six months, and then all they would do is send me to an endocrinologist who, after extensive testing, would determine the quantity of estrogen that I could take.

Not only was I too old for that–because late twenties is old to be taking hormones to change your freaking gender, so don’t offer me any of that “No, you’re still young!” crap if you don’t know what you’re talking about–but there was no way that I could possibly have afforded it. Affording all that was a pipe dream with no relation to my situation. And I didn’t want to wait six months; I’d waited more than twenty years, mostly because my fundamentalist Christian parents had traumatized me to the extent that I’d forced myself to forget… It’s not something that’s easy to convey. But it took a long time to come to terms with all of that. And it took courage to say, “I’m an adult with friends and family who all know me as a male. But screw it. I’m coming out as transgender.”

So I turned to the Internet.

I was not just researching how to get hormones through the previous few months; I was learning everything there was to know about estrogen and taking it, with the only thing I couldn’t find being its impact on a person’s face. Luckily, it absolutely does impact the face–which is good because I’m sick of my masculine eyebrows, and they are, thankfully, the result of fat and muscle rather than the result of bone. It’s why it frustrates me when transgender friends lie to me about the effects hormones have on them: one girl told me that, after a year, she had already grown C cups. And no… No, she hadn’t. She might have had B cups, but with her using her arms to prop them up it was hard to tell. I know Cs, though–that’s my favorite cup size, and those are no Cs. Plus, the idea that a transgender person will grow C cups in one year is absurd. They probably won’t ever grow C cups, and if they do it will only be after the full 2+ year period of taking high doses of estrogen everyday.

I finally found a website that would let me order them, but it seemed a bit fishy. It was located in China, first of all, and no prescription was required in order to buy the estradiol. Most places I checked did require that a prescription be faxed to them, so obviously I was a bit skeptical. However, I took some money and ordered 56 quantity.

Nearly a month later, they arrived. That was in February.

The next several months were extraordinarily difficult. Every time that I tried to repurchase, the payment failed to process. The pharmacy said that my bank was blocking the international transaction. I spoke with my bank repeatedly, and they were not receiving any attempt to charge my account, much less blocking one. We underwent 3-way calls, and never arrived at a solution. Finally, I took some money and, after having been out of hormones for weeks because of the delays–

For whatever freaking reason, this international pharmacy does not process payments when you make them. They process your payment at some point “within the next 24 hours” after you give them your info. This meant that I had to give them my info one day, and then wait until the next day to find out if there was a problem. If there was a problem, then we would try something else–usually speaking with my bank–and then we’d try again, only for it to fail again. These sort of delays cost me months of being on hormones.

I finally bought a reloadable debit card from a store, loaded it with the money I needed, and the purchase went right through. The next month rolled around, and I took the card to the store, reloaded it, and–once again, the payment failed. Now, it was already difficult to come up with the $60~ I needed every month; there was no way at that point in time that I would have been able to order the next batch of hormones until the very last minute. Now I order them with plenty of room to spare, but I wasn’t able to then.

After a week of making no progress and repeatedly running into that same problem where they couldn’t process the payment because my bank was “blocking the transaction,” even though Visa insisted that they were not blocking the transaction, I broke down and asked a friend to order them, and I’d give him the cash. He did, and the payment went right through. There was yet another period of going 2-3 weeks without any hormones, completely undoing the previous period of taking them.

Not to mention that I was in some kind of emotional state from this extreme fluctuation of hormones. From 8mg estrogen a day for three weeks to zero mg of estrogen a day for three weeks. It’s amazing that I managed to be calm to any degree.

The next refill time came around, and I decided to just purchase another identical reloadable card. But wouldn’t you know it? I bought the wrong damned one. I meant to buy a My Vanilla card, and instead bought a One Vanilla card because, fuck me, I didn’t expect there to be a fucking difference. There was a difference, though, and that difference was that One Vanilla cards couldn’t be used internationally. So I had $65 on a reloadable Visa that served absolutely no purpose, and did not have the $65 I needed to buy the correct one for another week, since you can’t use a debit card to buy a reloadable debit card.

I think it was in July that I worked out the last of the problems, and had been taking hormones consistently for about two months–even though there were fluctuations in the dosage to avoid running out–when I ran into the last snag. I don’t recall what the last snag was; it may have been the one I just described, of buying the stupid One Vanilla card. No, it wasn’t that. Fucking USPS had lost my shipment. That’s what it was. They were just gone, having been sent to Jackson, MS, which was currently being overhauled and which was out of the way of where I lived. They should have gone to Memphis, and then to my local post office. Instead, they went right past Memphis and onto Jackson. And I had one day left, at only 2 mg a day–just enough to keep from undoing the progress I’d made, perhaps.

With nowhere else to turn, I called a pharmacy and told them everything. The pharmacist there, when I told him I’m transgender, confessed that he wasn’t that, but he was “something” himself. Like “No kidding, dude. You’re gay. I think everyone knows that.”

Thanks to his kind heart and sympathy, I was able to make it. He stole something like 46 2mg estrogen tabs, met me when he got off work, and then gave them to it at no cost. Why couldn’t I just have walked into the pharmacy and bought some of these non-narcotic meds? Because of the government. I am extremely thankful to this person for helping me out. And, wouldn’t you know it, ten days later USPS finally delivered the hormones, and I’d already ordered another batch, finally placing me ahead of the cycle.

Customs in New York rubberstamps my packages now when they arrive from Denmark. It’s a strange thing, but yeah–order from China, they ship from Denmark or Germany. Initially, my packages stayed in Customs for 2 or 3 days; now, they’re in and out. So I’m thankful to the people in Customs for recognizing the name on the package, the size of the package, and the contents of the package, and sending it straight on without delay.

Believe it or not, I’m also thankful to Barack Obama, who has promised not to prosecute or impede anyone who orders their medicines online from other countries. While that is fantastic, this entire arrangement could change under President Trump, and that does scare me. Rather than giving a blanket pardon and absolution to everyone ordering medicine internationally, Obama would have done more for health care in the United States if he had repealed the laws that make it technically illegal in the first place–even if he has promised not to enforce those laws.

I suspect, given his propensity for “free-ish markets” that Trump won’t do anything to limit the competition, either.

But this is why competition is such a beautiful thing. If all of these laws were repealed, then pharmacies here in the United States would have to compete with the International Drug Mart to get my business, by offering me lower prices and lower shipping. But they can’t, and they won’t, because they don’t have to. Instead, they can just petition the government to make it illegal to order medicine internationally, and then they have me by my transgender balls, able to charge me whatever they want and capable of making me jump through whatever hoops they want.

Things are different now. Obama, I have heard, has mandated that all doctors must assist transgender patients. I’m not okay with that, because I think that should be between the doctor and the patient. I was not happy when regulations required the doctor to send the patient to six months of therapy, and I’m not happy now that regulations require the doctor to write hormones to anyone who asks for them, whether they may be making a mistake or not. I think the doctor should be able to sit down with me and make that determination himself about whether he thinks I’m serious, without being afraid that I will sue him if he thinks some therapy would do me some good. If he did, I would just find a different doctor.

That wasn’t the case in January, though, that’s for damned sure.

Those eyebrows and cheeks, though... Just gotta let the hormones do their thing now. :/

Those eyebrows and cheeks, though… Just gotta let the hormones do their thing now. :/

Because of all these shenanigans, I don’t actually know how long I’ve been on hormones. It’s not an easy estimate to make, and international delays still occasionally cause me to have to cut down to 4mg a day–on occasion only 2mg a day–while I wait on the next package to arrive. I would guess, though, that it’s coming on five months of continuous, uninterrupted estrogen. The funny part about that is that my situation would be about the same today if I’d gone through the “proper” channels, only I’d have burned through a whole lot more money and would have been totally at the mercy of people who, for some reason, had the right to decide for me whether or not I should be on hormones. And, no, I’d probably just be in month 2 or so, if I’d gone the official route, when instead I’m actually starting to look fairly feminine.

My muscles are finally beginning to drop off–if only slightly so far–and there’s no doubt whatsoever that I’m growing breasts. I’m thankful that there was a backdoor for me to take control of my life and not be at the mercy of the government, its machinations, and the myriad mechanisms it has in place to force me to live according to the parameters set by other people.

The free market allows me to be transgender.

What are you not allowed to do because markets aren’t free? I’d wager there are more things than you’d immediately think of.

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