The Edmonton Libertarian Meetup Group Message Board › Healthcare: Too Important to Trust to the State
|Jeff GeorgeLucas G...||
Once again, I was listening to the Dave Rutherford show as I was driving to a work site. The topic was healthcare - specifically the abysmal state of this nation's healthcare system, into which billions of dollars are poured every year, with increasingly diminishing results.
It was nice hearing Rutherford rant and rave, pulling no punches in condemning health executives and politicians for their self-congratulation while the system allows people to die from their conditions while on waiting lists for treatment.
But even more interesting to me was that the word "privatization" was not uttered. Not once.
We've all heard the horror stories, of course. Private companies only care about their bottom line. The government has the welfare of all citizens at heart. The private sector will let poor people die in the streets because they can't pay. When the arguments against privatization are so willfully and viciously ignorant, it's not surprising that it wouldn't be brought up.
The science of medicine itself was developed by mostly private entities; not corporations, mind you, but people acting not out of State compulsion with tax funding, but out of their own interests, whether compassionate or self-interested, and with their own funds, or funds they came by through voluntary exchange or gift. Leviathan later co-opted the medical profession for its own ends, as it has done with everything else it controls.
Fixing Canada's healthcare system is not a matter of electing the right Health Minister, appointing the right executives, or throwing more money into the system. The problems are not ultimately with management or with funds - these are symptoms, not the disease.
The real problem with State healthcare is structural. When there are waiting lists of up 36 months for certain medical procedures, that signals that healthcare is being chronically under-produced. In a relatively free market, this would be accompanied by a rise in prices and profit margins, creating incentive for more producers to provide the product or service. As more producers enter the market, the supply goes up and the cost comes down. This is basic supply-and-demand.
However, due to the State's forceful monopoly on healthcare provision, all of these price signals have been removed. Healthcare costs are masked by the State's ability to externalize costs. State officials themselves do not bear the cost of producing healthcare, being able to pass it on to the hapless citizenry through taxation and debt. On the other hand, since the costs of purchasing healthcare are socialized, no one, least of all the State, can determine the cost of purchasing a medical procedure (the true market cost, mind you, not an arbitrary price point invented by the State).
Without such prices, who can tell which procedures are being produced in sufficient quantities? How many gastroscopies ought to be performed? How many appendices removed? How many kidney transplants? Gastric bypasses?
When you consider the sheer complexity of any healthcare services market (how many possible conditions are there? how many medical procedures are there? how many possible complications are there?), and then realize the complete lack of any price mechanism for knowing how much to produce of what service to whom for how much, hopefully you come to the same conclusion I do: it's total foolishness to think that any group of politicians, executives, committees, doctors, nurses, or any other experts could have the information necessary to make decisions about the supply of medical care.
Motivation simply isn't the issue; even if it was true that for-profit healthcare invites greedy providers while State healthcare is always benevolent, none of that matters, since the State does not and cannot know how much healthcare to provide. Even the purest of motives and the best of intentions will not compensate for the inconvenient fact that State provision of healthcare is based on nothing more than guesswork. Sure, once in a while they'll get lucky and get it right - but is the wing-and-a-prayer approach really the best way to go when lives are at stake?
Since concern for "the poor" is usually the argument against privatization, let me clarify: the difference between Private and State healthcare is not that the poor have to pay for healthcare in the first and receive it for free in the second. The difference is that in private healthcare each person has the opportunity to purchase the treatment they need, while in State healthcare some procedures will not be available to anyone at any price.
What difference does it make whether or not the poor person pays for treatment if the treatment is not available? If you have to wait 36 months for a medical procedure, you aren't being given free healthcare - you aren't being given anything. The State's promise of no-cost treatment sometime in the future is not the same as actually receiving treatment. The State might as well offer the poor person a free time machine for all the good it will do them.
If you are concerned about the poor actually receiving treatment, you ought to support privatization. Otherwise, what you're supporting is the idea that the treatment, which does not exist, would be free if it did.
The structure of the State healthcare system is the issue - no amount of extra funding will help if no one has any clue where the money ought to go. And no one will have a clue where to spend the money unless health care is privatized. This aversion, this fear of private healthcare has to stop.
Healthcare ought to privatized, completely - and soon.
(reprinted from my blog @ http://www.dominandi....)