Health and the Postal Service

In an attempt to quell the uproar claiming that public health care will drive private providers out of market, Obama said:

[I]f the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining — meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do — then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about — if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems. (emphasis mine)

The error in this thinking almost speaks for itself.  Economist Milton Friedman famously observed: “The government solution to a problem is usually worse than the problem itself.”

Differentiating between right-leaning and left-leaning politics requires nothing more than determining how much each side trusts individuals to think for themselves.

Right-leaning politicians  believe that people are basically rational and will make choices based on what’s best for themselves.  Thus these right-leaners reject proposed insurance mandates as bordering on facsism, and fear that public health care will deal a deadly blow to the private market, decreasing the number of options available for individuals to realize their choices.

Left-leaning politicians believe that people are basically helpless and will not make proper choices without government assistance.  These politicans suggest that Government — personalize it by imagining Rahm Emmanuel at the helm and you and I keeping the system afloat — should help even sophisticated decision-makers.  Because after all, without the big, sloppy hand of government, who are we to know what’s best for us?

Indeed, if men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

Even if an angel like Rahm Emmanuel takes the helm of a monolithic public health care system now, he will have to pass those reins on in the future.  The problem with the left-leaning vision of government is that the future always promises some man who is not an angel waiting to govern men.  To avoid leaving our well-being in the hands of someone who does not know better than we do, we should not concentrate that power into one man’s hands now.

Government, by its nature, makes mistakes.  I tend to lean right because I believe that people prefer to decide what they want than to be told what they will have.  Both sides have erred, and both will continue to err.  But to avoid turning our hospitals into a Postal Service, a Katrina, a $900 toilet seat, we should avoid permitting that kind of power to congeal into a mass tangible in one person’s hands.

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