July 15th, 2009


A Thought Experiment in Rationed Food

dirigibletrance upbraids me when I point out that a health care system run by self-interested politicians invites corruption. Only those who make contributions to the Party will get their liver transplant when Big Brother rather than Marcus Welby decides who gets treatment.

He thunders (or perhaps giggles playfully. On the Internet one never knows):

"Mr Wright, you need to look past the ideologies for a second a realize this: People just want affordable health care."

My dear sir, you need to look into ideologies for a moment to discover which of two competing theories of political economics delivers more and better health care to more people. Stripped of non-essentials, there are only two alternatives: liberty and tyranny.

Tyranny is always, always more popular. Caesar is always a Populist, not an Optimate: Big Brother is always for the Little Guy, the Forgotten Man. Hitler is always for the Volk; Stalin is for the Proletarians; Napoleon is for the Citizen.

"People would not be crying out for a socialist system if the privatized system actually worked."

It is to laugh. I would answer that Canadians would not be streaming over the borders into America if their socialist system actually worked, nor would patients be dying of bedsores and bedlice, nor would SARS swell to an international scare.

Likewise, I would answer that people would not be crying out for Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin to lead them in revolution, glorious revolution, if the previous system, the Monarchy, the Wiemar Republic, or the Czarist system actually worked. However, the fact that what followed was far worse than what came before it could perhaps be excused by the ignorance of the people doing the crying. We Americans have no such excuse: the facts about the European, Canadian, and Soviet models of public health care are unambiguous.

But perhaps that answer would be flip. That answer would assume we are distinguishing between two alternatives. We are not. We are distinguishing between reality and a rosy-colored daydream.

Discontent is caused by a difference between current circumstances and imagined alternatives. If the imaginary alternative is rosier, and yet false, they will be discontent. You perhaps assume people are not being mislead by false and extravagant promises.

Instead of assuming that artificially-inflamed popular discontent necessarily means that rationing a scarce good will make it more abundant, I suggest we analyze the causes of the perceived problem, and look at the costs and benefits of the alternatives.

Have you analyzed why the current system is underperforming? I suggest a thought experiment to you.

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