Saturday, August 29, 2009

Faith, Communism, and Glibertarians

So the Glibertarian CATO Institute is still insisting that their free market health insurance scheme could actually work, even though I, and many, many other people, have pointed out that a free market health insurance scheme inherently only insures young and healthy people because insurers would swiftly cherry-pick out anybody unhealthy or older in order to reduce rates and gain more customers. Their solution -- insurance insurance? -- isn't a solution either. It's a derivative, and we all know now, I hope, that derivatives in a free market don't work because nobody can accurately value them (see: credit default swaps, financial disaster caused by thereof). The Glibertarians' response? "It WOULD work! We have faith, faith we say, that it would work!" They can't point out any single time in human history when their system for funding health care has worked, but that doesn't matter, because they have faith.

The Glibertarians remind me of the hard-core Communists. Their system has failed whenever put into practice, but still they insist that the reason for the failure was because the attempt wasn’t pure enough, not because their system is, inherently, idealistic utopian nonsense that disregards important facets of human nature in its attempt to reach some ideal that cannot be obtained with human beings as they currently exist. Pragmatic reality seems to be something that neither Glibertarians nor the Communists are familiar with. If it wasn’t for the fact that their nuttery was so bloody deadly when actually put into practice, it might be funny. The 22,000+ per year dead because of lack of health insurance, however, are not laughing. They can’t. They’re dead. And the Glibertarians would add to their number if they had their opportunity to do so, while claiming that it was not happening, because in the end that's what ideologues like Communists and Glibertarians do -- deny reality and pretend their their ideological nonsense actually works, when every stitch of evidence we have from the passage of history says it won't and can't because people just don't behave the way Communists and Glibertarians think they behave.

Reality. Sigh. It's just too bloody bad that so many people have no acquaintance with it, and still continue pushing toxic nonsense that could never work.

-- Badtux the Pragmatic Practical Penguin


  1. Every time someone comes at me with One Big Idea That Explains Everything, Really -- and The Market easily qualifies -- I run the other way.

  2. Hi Tuxxy,
    Gut feeling tells me that medical care wouldn't be so expensive if there were no insurance. I know that view isn't the least bit helpful right now.
    One thing to consider is what Frederick Bastiat called, "What is seen and what is not seen", the unintended consequences of a government program.
    No matter whether I agree with you or not, your blog is always great reading. Keep 'em comin'.


  3. Dave, I talked about no insurance in the post why is health care so expensive. Procedures which afflict only a few tens of thousands of people per year, but which require multi-million dollar development costs and facilities and equipment to perform, simply aren't doable without insurance. Yes, medical care is cheaper if we don't have insurance -- as I've also mentioned elsewhere, health insurance inherently disables the free market mechanisms that normally keep prices in check -- but the result is a lot of dead bodies. $1M leukemia treatment with multiple rounds of chemotherapy and multiple bone marrow grafts is never going to be much cheaper, because leukemia only afflicts maybe 20,000 people per year, so the price of facilities and development costs of all these treatments cannot be amortized over millions of people like the price of, say, Lasik.

    So yes, you had an accurate observation, but you did not take the next step of realizing what, exactly, your observation really meant. Regarding "unintended consequences", that is one of the advantages of being the last major nation to implement a system of universal healthcare. We can look at the experience of other nations that have adopted universal healthcare and know what the consequences, unintended or not, are going to be. That's why HR3200 is so bleepin' complex, it's attempting to implement a mix of the Swiss and German systems while legislating away the unintended consequences that the Swiss and Germans discovered while implementing their systems. There are undoubtedly going to be unintended consequences of that action too... but the consequences of the current system, 22K+ people unnecessarily dead each year -- are so horrific that it's simply impossible for the consequences of going the Swiss/German route to be worse...

    - Badtux the Health Care Penguin

  4. We can look at the experience of other nations that have adopted universal healthcare and know what the consequences, unintended or not, are going to be.

    I've got an American acquaintance here (which is unusual for me, because I don't like hanging out with other Yanks -- I can't stand the accent) who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She's in her late 40s, used to teach archaeology in the Cal. State university system, real fit, runs 5K races, goes on digs in the grueling sun in Cyprus, Israel, and other Mediterranean hotspots. (I think she's deep-cover CIA, because she was given a plum job as a lecturer at the big state university here, got her citizenship almost immediately, speaks several languages, goes to all these troubled places... But my weird suspicions are another story.)

    Anyway, this woman is SO glad she's in the Aussie medical system. She got into a chemotherapy program the same week the CA was diagnosed; lumpectomy after the first blast of that, she has sick leave time enough that she doesn't have to worry about lack of income, and of course she doesn't have to give a thought to whether she can afford to save her life.

    While she was insured during her time at Cal State, she dreads to think what it might have been like if she was dealing with this there. A 3 cm tumour that's already spread to an adjacent lymph node. If the lackadaisical Aussies can do that for someone who didn't even live in their country five years ago, why couldn't the U.S. get a similar program together? Except for the unfortunate fact that it's now North Mexico, that is...


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