Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Free Market and Rationing

Here's an exceptional essay about rationing, socialism, the free market, and individual rights.

As the writer Ayn Rand noted:

“Rationing” has a specific meaning of its own. It means: to distribute in a certain particular manner — by the decision of an absolute authority, with the recipients having no choice whatever about what they receive; it also means that all the recipients involved have an equal claim to that which is being rationed, and are entitled to an equal share.

Examples include sugar rationing during World War II and gasoline rationing during the 1973 oil crisis, when the government dictated the terms and conditions of sugar or gasoline sales.

But in a free society, the government should not be regulating such sales at all...

Hence, if Bill makes more money than Joe and can purchase a $500 MRI scan that Joe can’t, then Bill deserves it. That’s not rationing, that’s justice — just as it’s not rationing if Bill can afford a house while Joe must live in an apartment, or if Bill can afford steak whereas Joe eats hamburgers.

In contrast, government programs that attempt to guarantee “universal health care” are unjust. There is no automatic “right” to goods or services that must be produced by another — that would be state-sanctioned theft or slavery.

Individuals are entitled to health care that they purchase themselves, is owed to them by contract (e.g., insurance), or is given to them as voluntary charity.

Whenever government attempts to guarantee an alleged “right” to health care, it must also control it. Bureaucrats and politicians must ultimately decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients — if only to control costs. This is true rationing, and it necessarily violates the actual rights of the practitioners forced to provide care on the government’s terms (rather than their own) and the taxpayers forced to pay for it.

The free market is therefore the antithesis of rationing. It respects individual rights, whereas rationing unjustly violates individual rights — a crucial moral distinction.

Socialism degrades human rights. Free markets respect them.


Anonymous said...

Wow.. you can say with a straight face that someone does not "deserve" life saving healthcare, and then say socialism is what degrades human rights?

Darren said...

I didn't say that, and you're an idiot. Please stop posting here.

Mrs. C said...

Um, I have *no* stinkin' clue what is in store for my non-verbal autistic child when he grows up. None. That doesn't make it Uncle Sam's job to take care of my kid.

I do admit to a few mixed feelings, though, as charity through a local church would in no way cover everything that my child would need help with as an adult, and I probably am not going to live forever. Then again, it may well be governmental intervention that prevents good charities from raising proper funds. People figure they already gave through their taxes and are less likely to give in a truly charitable way (if you know what I mean).

mazenko said...

Yea, but, Ayn Rand? A long-winded, albeit entertaining, novelist? Yes. An authority on socialism, or anything really? No.

Anonymous said...

Um, Ayn Rand grew up in the Soviet Union, under communism (which is just another form of socialism). She was an EXPERT on socialism, and its evils.

Mr. mazenko, perhaps you should really try to read Atlas Shrugged (with an open mind, if that is at all possible) and see how she described our current government in perfect clarity, only she was 50 years ahead of time.


Anonymous said...

i completely agree with this excerpt. and to anonymous -- no one would say that people don't deserve health care. but it is unjust to take benefits away from those who can afford better. so, to use examples from the paragraph - it would be unjust to force Bill to eat only hamburgers instead of steak just because Joe can't afford steak, also. Bill should be allowed to use his means as he chooses -- and he should be allowed to have more means than other people. or is it criminal to be richer than someone else?


mazenko said...

I've "grown up" in the United States, but I don't believe that makes me an "expert" on US history, democracy, free market capitalism, or a myriad of other issues. Were there fifty million other experts who grew up under a Marxist-socialist dictatorship, which is what the USSR was. Unless she grew up on hippie commune or Israeli kibbutz, she didn't grow up under communism.

I grew up in farm country surrounded by cows, and I knew many farmers well, but I don't consider myself an expert on animal husbandry.

I have read Atlas Shrugged, and if you know anything of me - which you don't - from my commentary over time, you'd know that I read with an open mind and teach my students to do it as well. That's the essence of reading to me.

Clearly, your inability to discern what you read blinds you to the essence of fiction and literature.

But thanks for trying.

maxutils said...

The main problem is, though, that health care is not a free market. Prices are meant to act as signals; that doesn't happen here. If Joe can't afford health care, he goes to the ER, which, by law must treat him. He can't afford it, so the cost is folded into Bill's health care cost, so he's paying for Joe anyway. Then, because health care costs are inflated due to people like Joe, it makes it less likely that Joe will be able to afford it in the future.