Monday, March 21, 2005

"Insanely stupid"

Like many people, I'm getting a bit more than annoyed with Blogger's recent problems. I may have to look at other options very soon, because I'm not enjoying redoing this post. I'll have to start copying the HTML to Notepad before hitting the publish button, just in case.

Don Boudreaux is blunt, but correct, in describing socialized medicine:
How on earth can a system that invites consumers to treat a scarce good as if it were free possibly work? Isn't it inevitable – isn’t it utterly unavoidable – that any such system will suffer dysfunctions and troubles that make consumers worse off rather than better off? The story linked to above details some of the predicable maladies now infecting Canada's insanely stupid health-care system.
The CBS News article that Dr. Boudreaux links to says one of the most astounding things I've ever read:
Canada and North Korea are the only countries with laws banning the purchase of insurance for hospitalization or surgery.
I think socialized medicine can work, just not effectively. It could even survive indefinitely, but it requires that the people are kept sufficiently indoctrinated by the state -- especially with constant reminders that it's "free." I've always opposed socialized medicine, and even as a teenager, I knew enough about human nature to see its big problem. When people think it's free, they'll go to doctors more often, and for things they can do themselves.

I guess one good thing came out of Blogger losing my first post. In getting the link to Dr. Boudreaux's entry, I saw his great follow-up about a restored scene from the 1978 "Superman": Jor-el tells his son that he can't be Superman all day, because people would always ask him for help, even for things they can do themselves. "It is their habit to abuse their resources in such a way."

So when socialized medicine encourages everyone to take advantage of "free" health care, it takes doctors' attention away from patients who really need it. As Mises wrote about extensively, the price system allocates scarce resources; in a free market, a high price means that resources will transfer to those who value them the most. Now, if there's an increase in the demand for medical services, a free market would see an increase in the supply of doctors. But since the need for more doctors is artificial, it takes those laborers away from other industries where they're needed.

The Canadian Medical Association and Rush Limbaugh once argued about socialized medicine. (No, I'm not a dittohead by a long shot, but Rush can be surprisingly correct. Remember that he said "Take a stand for the Constitution" when opposing President Bush and Congress on the Medicare drug entitlement.) Notice what the CMA's summarized argument boiled down to: "Medical care in Canada is hardly 'too expensive'; it's provided free and covered by taxes."

"But it's free!" reminds me of an "I Love Lucy" episode, when the gang moved out to Connecticut. Lucy and Ricky hatched this plan (pun intended) to raise chickens for extra income. After a fiasco of 500 baby chicks in their house, they traded them in for full-grown hens. As I recall, at the first egg breakfast, Ricky complained how much they lost on the trade. Then Lucy replied, "At least we're getting our breakfast for nothing." Ricky said his trademark "Ha!" and said each egg they were eating cost some high price -- I don't recall what, but it was dollars per egg, high even by today's prices. Lucy responded with her own trademark "Eeyoooo" and scrunched up face.

However, Ricky had his economics a little confused. What he stated was the average cost to produce each egg, meaning it was based on the total production cost thus far -- including the fixed costs of the chickens and their coop. The marginal cost of each egg would be much lower, though. Maybe not on par with a large chicken farm, but certainly lower.

Still, Ricky's point was sound: breakfast was hardly free. Neither is socialized medicine.


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