Who can argue with wanting the most affordable, high-quality health care for the most people? An abundant supply of a good thing is a desire that is unassailable by any one who wants to be a welcome participant in the public discourse. So, our challenge is to discover the best means of maximizing the supply of the unarguably good thing, right?
Mental exercise: With the following items in mind, imagine a line-graph with (Y) level of government regulation involved in production of the item on the vertical axis and (X) availability (i.e. affordability) on the horizontal axis:
Hula hoops Cheeseburgers DVD players
Flat-screen TVs Breast augmentation surgery Video games
Lasik surgery Heart transplants Dialysis treatment
Automobiles Barbie dolls Firearms
Air travel Recorded music Television programming
Gasoline Cell phones Kidney transplants
Cigarettes Women’s lingerie Denim Jeans
Candy bars Pornographic movies Prescription drugs
Harley Davidsons TV news shows Bicycles
Coffee or espresso Bottled water Obama figurines at National Airport
One’s mind will produce a curve sloping downward from left-to-right. Capitalism applied to the delivery of a product or a service is near miraculous in its efficiency. Government intervention has the opposite effect. Always.
A second mental exercise: How many of the 37 million people without health care insurance (or other means of obtaining health care services) DO have:
- A cell phone – an automobile
- indoor plumbing – a roof over their head
- membership to a health club – a recent visit to MacDonald’s
- a flat-screen TV – Cable TV subscription
- more than a six-pack of beer in the refrigerator
I’d wager that more than 75% of the uninsured possess 6 out of 9 those discretionary items.
If we turn the capitalist animal loose on the health care “problem” it will be solved virtually overnight. It’s not that government bureaucrats are incompetent or have bad or dishonorable intentions. It’s that human nature is unalterably productive when properly situated in a capitalist system (just look around – none of what you see materialized spontaneously) and human nature is also charitable; we love life (not just our own) and naturally do what it takes to support it. If it were otherwise, Microsoft would ask for money from the American Cancer Society, not the other way around. That productive nature of man is, properly, not at home in the government. The government is (or should be) definitively and intentionally NOT productive – it is (as it should be) administrative, clerical, custodial and cumbersome in nature. It should be small and unimportant in our daily life, not in control of 25% of GDP (pre-health care reform – add another 17%) and intrusive, because political decisions invariably reflect a bias and favoritism that may or may not reflect what is in the interest of promoting the “general welfare.” Office-holders and staffers do not award contracts and favors to complete strangers – they reward people with whom they are familiar – campaign contributors and political cronies.
The point about the power and need for capitalism in the process of producing good things, and a slightly more subtle point, were made a few months ago during a stroll past the North Portico of the White House, where we saw a giant pink ribbon hanging between two of the mansion’s white columns.
We all know that symbol – it announces and symbolizes solidarity with victims of the disease and those involved in the effort to cure breast cancer. It represents a very successful “branding” of a charitable cause. Putting aside the question of why this particular cause, over all others, is worthy of the imprimatur of the White House and whether this is a scandalous private use of public property – (What more prominent “billboard” is there?) is there any doubt someone, somewhere is making money off of the pink ribbon? (For the record, I don’t mean to impugn anyone’s integrity or sincerity – just making a point. Neither would I suggest that it’s part of the Obama Administration’s armor against criticism – “Hey, look, we’re for curing breast cancer, so how can you be against us?!”)
The point is – it takes money. Curing breast cancer (or heart disease, acne or athlete’s foot) takes money. That’s why every Saturday night there is a 1000-person, $10,000 per table fund-raising event at the Washington Hilton. And, after it’s collected, that money doesn’t sit in piggy-banks, Benjamins talking to Hamiltons and Lincolns. The money is put to work, paying the salaries of researchers, the rent on labs and office space, and buying computers and books and files and paper and pens and paper-clips and test tubes and beakers and Bunsen-burners . . .
It takes money and its genesis – the oft-reviled but indestructible and sine qua non of our life-style – the profit motive. Some of the researchers, I’m sure, work on a volunteer basis and some of the doctors make less money than they could in other practice areas, trading cash for fulfillment of another form. And there are likely among the principals some number who will GIVE their cure away when/if they discover it. But the vast majority of the work is conducted with the expectation of compensation and profit. As kind-hearted and well-intended as the efforts are, they would cease within a very short time if the money spigot is turned off.
Yet, one of the not-very-well-hidden objectives of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid, Progressive/Democrat health care reform program is the demonization of the money-makers in the medical and insurance industries and the elimination of “fat-cat bonuses and obscene profits” in favor of a lower-cost (not really) government program that is run with the more pure, seemingly more humane and admirable objective of helping the poor get better care.
“Making a profit” vs. “helping the poor” is not the choice we face any more than “making hula hoops” vs “curing breast cancer” is a choice. We’re not dealing with limited resources or lack of kindness or of capital. Invention and innovation don’t happen based on how earnestly and fervently we wish for the answer or the cure; they happen as a result of human endeavors supported by monetary incentives.
We can win the debate if we expose the false choices. The pink ribbon on the White House is the administration’s unwitting confession that their program presents a false choice in that the program asks and answers the wrong questions.
How do we get more health care? Let the profit-motive animal loose, and watch the flood.