Other reasons to oppose national health care

Megan McArdle:

I know, most of you have already figured out why I oppose national health care. In a nutshell, I hate the poor and want them to die so that all my rich friends can use their bodies as mulch for their diamond ranches. But y'all keep asking, so here goes the longer explanation.

Basically, for me, it all boils down to public choice theory. Once we've got a comprehensive national health care plan, what are the government's incentives? I think they're bad, for the same reason the TSA is bad. I'm afraid that instead of Security Theater, we'll get Health Care Theater, where the government goes to elaborate lengths to convince us that we're getting the best possible health care, without actually providing it.

That's not just verbal theatrics. Agencies like Britain's NICE are a case in point. As long as people don't know that there are cancer treatments they're not getting, they're happy. Once they find out, satisfaction plunges. But the reason that people in Britain know about things like herceptin for early stage breast cancer is a robust private market in the US that experiments with this sort of thing.

So in the absence of a robust private US market, my assumption is that the government will focus on the apparent at the expense of the hard-to-measure. Innovation benefits future constituents who aren't voting now. Producing it is very expensive. On the other hand, cutting costs pleases voters this instant. This is, fundamentally, what cries to "use the government's negotiating power" with drug companies is about. Advocates of such a policy spend a lot of time arguing about whether pharmaceutical companies do, or do not, spend too much on marketing. This is besides the point. The government is not going to price to some unknowable socially optimal amount of pharma market power. It is going to price to what the voters want, which is to spend as little as possible right now.

It's not that I think that private companies wouldn't like to cut innovation. But in the presence of even rudimentary competition, they can't. Monopolies are not innovative, whether they are public or private.

There is much more, but she has put the left back on their heels with her opening. There is nothing like stripping your opponents of their favorite weapon from the git go. Her arguments about innovation and competition are ones that the Demcorats have not really addressed either. With Canada and the UK free riding on our innovation, it is hard to see where it will come from if we go their route.


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