While writing the previous piece on Whoppers, I was reminded of a Facebook debate that ensued on one my friend’s status updates this weekend.
I was reminded of how unnecessary it would be to have such debates if health care wasn’t thrust into the political arena.
While the free market does amazing things and almost always manages to provide us with just about everything we need and want for all different sets of preferences and income levels, there are some things we don’t want to trust to free markets, like education and health care, that are “too important to rely on profit to do right”.
The debate started with a friend posting a status update grumbling about some of the trade-offs he feels forced into making because of the Obamacare legislation while making a reference to the Boston tea party. All the usual suspects chimed in.
A supporter of health care tried to convince my friend that Obamacare really won’t hurt him much and may actually help him and that his reference to the Boston tea party was inaccurate because the Boston tea party resulted from ‘taxation without representation’ while Obamacare was voted ‘fair and square’ by ‘elected reps’.
Another explained her skepticism of the government plan, but was scared because she has a pre-existing condition and can’t find affordable coverage after a job change.
I played the part of the free market, limited government guy.
Whatever you think of the merits the health care debate, the only reason we have this debate is because we’ve pushed health care into the political arena. That means that some folks get to force their preferences onto others. And that is the source of all the debate.
We don’t argue about Whoppers because we haven’t pushed it into the political arena.
Teddy Kennedy didn’t sponsor legislation ensuring that if you come into a store for Whoppers, but couldn’t pay, the store would have to provide it to you for free.
During World War II, politicians didn’t set caps on salaries and then exempt Whoppers from those caps.
Likewise, Congress never passed a bill to give favorable tax treatment to employer-sponsored Whoppers or legislation that forces younger folks to subsidize Whoppers for retired folks.
Would there be problems with health care if it were not in the political arena? I’m certain of it. But, I’m confident we’d find private solutions for those problems that wouldn’t make things worse for everyone with unintended consequences.
Unfortunately, all it takes is one horror story of private solutions not working before we want to push it into the political arena to prevent that from happening again.
Yet oddly, horror stories from the political solutions don’t seem to make us skeptical of the political solution.