Friday, July 24, 2009

Smart, but not that smart

Continuing in the use of outsourced economic criticism as a cost-cutting measure in these difficult times.

Quoting libertarian commentator and ABC reporter John Stossel:

July 22, 2009
By John Stossel

It's crazy for a group of mere mortals to try to design 15 percent of the U.S. economy. It's even crazier to do it by August.

Yet that is what some members of Congress presume to do. They intend, as the New York Times puts it, "to reinvent the nation's health care system".

Let that sink in. A handful of people who probably never even ran a small business actually think they can reinvent the health care system.

Politicians and bureaucrats clearly have no idea how complicated markets are. Every day people make countless tradeoffs, in all areas of life, based on subjective value judgments and personal information as they delicately balance their interests, needs and wants. Who is in a better position than they to tailor those choices to best serve their purposes? Yet the politicians believe they can plan the medical market the way you plan a birthday party.

When I argued last week that medical insurance makes people indifferent to costs, I got comments like: "I guess the 47 million people who don't have health care should just die, right, John?" "You will always be a shill for corporate America."

Like the politicians, most people are oblivious to F.A. Hayek's insight that the critical information needed to run an economy -- or even 15 percent of one -- doesn't exist in any one place where it is accessible to central planners. Instead, it is scattered piecemeal among millions of people. All those people put together are far wiser and better informed than Congress could ever be. Only markets -- private property, free exchange and the price system -- can put this knowledge at the disposal of entrepreneurs and consumers, ensuring the system will serve the people and not just the political class.

This is no less true for medical care than for food, clothing and shelter. It is profit-seeking entrepreneurship that gave us birth control pills, robot limbs, Lasik surgery and so many other good things that make our lives longer and more pain free.

To the extent the politicians ignore this, they are the enemy of our well-being. The belief that they can take care of us is rank superstition.

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