The sacred cow of socialized medicine

It is important, especially in this age of the coronavirus, to take on the sacred cow of socialized medicine.

Let us begin by rehearsing the basic economic element of this system.  Instead of purchasing our own medical services, as we do for virtually all other goods and services (lima beans, bikes, cars, houses, haircuts), we are compelled to "chip in" to the central authority, government, for this benefit, and then, in return, we obtain it for "free" from the government.

One problem at the outset is that this is a compulsory system.  If this is such a great idea, why mandate it?  Why don't the authorities limit themselves to advertising its benefits and signing up all who agree to take part in this proposal?  That, after all, is the way we handle pretty much everything else under the sun.  If there were no compulsory socialized medicine in effect, we could "chip in" in an entirely voluntary manner, such as via private insurance, if we wished to do so.

Another difficulty is that at a zero or near zero price for doctor or hospital visits, we tend to demand more of them than would be the case if we explicitly faced a price that accurately reflected the full costs of these services.  This system constitutes a field day for hypochondriacs.  Other people are lonely.  They have no one with whom they can interact.  The local general practitioner will at least talk to them as he pokes them with a stethoscope.  Need a taxi service?  Don't want to pay for it?  Call upon a "free" ambulance.  But this sort of thing afflicts even those of us who do not abuse the system in such a manner.  I have a backache or a hangnail.  If I had to pay, say, $100 to seek a remedy, I'd think twice before using scarce medical resources.  But for "free," that's a no-brainer.

Given this excessive and unwarranted demand, queues have to be set up.  That is why there are long waiting lists not only for emergency services, but also for pretty much everything else in this field of endeavor.  There was the infamous case of the woman in Canada and her horse.  They were both stricken with painful kidney stones.  She took her pet to the veterinarian, and he was seen to within 24 hours.  Had she not done so, she would have been found guilty of cruelty to animals.  As for her, she had wait some six months for medical care.  But this is only the tip of the iceberg.  For the full extent of this problem, consult any of the numerous relevant Fraser Institute statistics.

A possible defense of socialist medicine runs along the following lines.  Health care is very expensive.  Only government is in a position to underwrite its costs.

However, the state has no funds that we, the long-suffering taxpayers, do not first give it.  Instead of funneling these moneys through that coercive institution, we can pool efforts through private insurance.  Government is hardly necessary for spreading out risks.  If it were, we could hardly have insurance for cars, against fires, etc.

In any case, we must ask, why are medical services so expensive in the first place?  That is because the all-loving government, through the American Medical Association, severely limits the number of places for entering students in medical schools and unduly restricts entry into the profession for foreign doctors who enter the country.  (They give qualifying exams only in English, but this ignores the fact that a physician can deal with unconscious patents and with clients who speak his own language, and he can hire a translator.)  End these roadblocks, and prices fall, drastically.

Other items, too, are pretty pricey.  If socialism is such a great idea for medical care, why not apply it also to houses, food, cars?  How would that work?  Simple.  We send lots of additional money to the capital.  After the people running things take their huge cut, they return these funds to us in the form of free houses, lima beans, bikes, etc.  Anyone want to try that?  Thought not.

Senator Bernie Sanders is now trying to impose the Canadian (Denmarkian?) system.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if, while he was attempting to socialize this industry there, Canadians moved away from this system that has impoverished the USSR, Cuba, East Germany, and North Korea and embraced laissez-faire capitalism?

The Vermont senator, and many others, maintain that modern health care is a right.  Stuff and nonsense.  If it were, who was guilty of rights violations in the twelfth century, when no such technology was available?  In sharp contrast, we all have a right not to be murdered, raped, stolen from, and this applies all through history.  Rights simply do not depend upon level of expertise.

What about the poor?  Medicine would be cheaper without AMA-induced restrictions on entry.  Doctors have a long history of pro bono work.  There are private charities.  And if government were to take up the slack, that would be very different from socialist medicine for all.  The poverty-stricken also need to be fed.  From that fact, it would be illicit to justify food socialism.

If you experience technical problems, please write to