Many people say they want to help "the children," the elderly, the underprivileged, or some other group that they think needs assistance, and believe that supporting laws surrounded by the aura of good intentions is equivalent to actually helping. They suppose that their good intentions make them morally conscious, and that those people who don't support their legislation are morally unconscious. A morally conscious person who brings about bad results, however, is certainly not morally superior to a morally unconscious person who brings about bad results. When good intentions produce bad results, it doesn't matter how many flowery words and emotion-drenched images are thrown about. When the bad results of good intentions are so consistent as to be predictable, the intentions cannot be considered good in the first place. They are deception.
The notorious Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is a prime contemporary example of this. Many people support it whole-heartedly because politicians say they are compassionate, and that any politically-correct, morally-superior person must embrace it. They claim that their compassion impelled them to write a massively complex law of 2,000 pages so they can force that compassion down the throats of all citizens, whether they like it or not. The truth is that the law was written by special interests for the benefit of special interests. It is an example of corrupt politics at its worst.
There is definitely a serious problem with health-care in this country. We cannot keep going in this direction. Something must change. Change, however, does not mean multiplying the original causes of the problems. Positive change requires the removal of the causes. It all boils down to the fact that neither good intentions nor political will can repeal the laws of economics. The problems that are so difficult to deal with are simply the reactions of health-care markets to decades of political manipulation. The negative effects of one intervention become the impetus for another, until regulatory complexity makes markets dysfunctional. Pumping trillions of dollars into any market, as the government has done with health-care, will stimulate a huge artificial demand which in turn will cause prices to balloon out of control. Removing personal responsibility for payment for goods and services, as is done through employer-based health insurance and government medical programs, will artificially increase the demand for more expensive treatment and raise prices. Mandating that uninsurable events are covered by health-insurance policies will raise the costs and defeat the purpose of insurance. Connecting health insurance with employment will ensure that a significant percentage of the population will lose their coverage when they leave the job. The list goes on and on. Those results are knowable and predictable and shouldn't surprise anybody who seriously thinks about it.
The basic fallacies underlying all of the compassionate rhetoric are that health care is a fundamental human right and that the goal of health-care policy is to make everyone equal. Health care is not a right. It is comprised of goods and services which people buy and sell, similar to accounting, legal, or lawn mowing goods and services. The fact that some people cannot afford Mercedes-Benz health care does not mean that the market has failed. It means that some people are different than others, that they have different capacities, different backgrounds, different ambitions, and different views of the future. There are poor people, just as there always have been and always will be. It is right and good and compassionate to really help them. Ignoring the laws of economics does not help them as a group in the long-run. Raising the standard of living does. Inflating away their wealth and distorting the economy by central planners and political busy-bodies retards the improvement in that standard.
Health-care is extremely complex, but no more so than any other industry in modern society. It is impossible for central planners to know what is best for every given situation for 300 million people, and it is arrogant of them to believe they can or even should use coercive power to bring about their desired results. That is the approach and excuse of all of the most brutal regimes throughout history.
There are many alternate ways to approach health-care problems, but they all start by removing politicians from the marketplace. Politicians are good at rhetoric, some might even be honest and sincere. None of them, however brilliant or well-meaning, is competent to run health-care or any industry. Their rhetoric is not morality but rather empty words.
Dan McLaughlin is a columnist for The Post-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.