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The Left Pushes for Acceptance of Health Care Rationing

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Back during Obama's "townhall" ABC special on health care, I was shocked to discover how much of the discussion actually supported medical rationing. Now I have come across this WSJ article by Peter Singer (via the ReasonPharm blog) brazenly titled "Why We Must Ration Health Care".

Looking at examples like this I can only conclude that they are intentionally attempting to soften the American public into accepting government rationing as a normal fact of daily life. The Peter Singer article linked above is so blatant it is nauseatingly difficult to read the entire piece. He makes an explicit attempt at obfuscating the difference between an individual making their own decisions about the value of their health care, and some faceless committee of bureaucrats forcing them to accept whether he will continue to live or die.

Also notable is that the same intellectual crowd that has always been saying it is immoral to try to "put a price on a person's life" (read, pay for private medical care) is now doing a 180 and claiming they should do exactly that because sometimes living just isn't worth all that cash. This is outrageous in my opinion and I'm simply surprised it hasn't seemed to draw much attention from the blogoshpere and to a (much) lesser extent the media.

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There is a certain dishonesty in the way the word "rationing" is tossed around in things like this.

The fact is health care is already rationed.

A free market is a way to ration things.

Rationing is basically how you distribute a scarce resource. In a free market you distribute the scarce resource according to how much people are willing to pay (that is what all that economics of supply and demand is about).

In any other system you choose a different method of rationing the resource than the amount people are willing to pay.

So again health care is already rationed. To speak as if rationing only occurs in a non-market system is dishonest, and has a back-handed way of implying there is an unlimited health-care resource in the market system, which is obviously untrue.

What free market advocates are saying is simply that a free market is the best way to ration things.

Of course "best" is relative to how you measure how good something is.

People opposed to national health care have to show that rationing health care via the free market is better than rationing it through government, and stop this nonsense about "rationing" versus "non-rationing".

Edited by punk
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The term "rationing" designates that a central authority - some body of men, or some man, or a computer or whatever system is eventually put into place - is what determines who gets what.

The market system is differentiated from any system of government-run rationing in that no force is involved. Men are not forced to give certain kinds of care (or withhold certain kinds of care) to certain people; rather, medical care is freely exchanged among people for whatever prices the providers can and wish to charge for it. The fact that unlimited medical care is not available anywhere is not really relevant; the difference between a free market system and a government run system is that no body forces providers and patients in any direction. That is the essence of rationing, and it is the difference that you (intentionally or not) attempted to obfiscate in your post.

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There is a certain dishonesty in the way the word "rationing" is tossed around in things like this.

The fact is health care is already rationed.

Nope. This is a Ricardian way of conceptualizing things, where "the system" distributes things one way of the other. It only has credence if one thinks short-term. The real difference between Capitalism and Socialism is not in the way the two systems distribute wealth; rather, one does, and the other does not.

The term "ration" and "distribute" are sometimes used loosely for certain processes, but it is a poor usage.

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Punk ... we're talking about government control of the health care system, which leads to shortages and thus rationing and long lines. That doesn't happen in the free market.

I highly recommend this excellent video critique of the Canadian single payer system.

This is by Steven Crowder of PJTV. Steven went to Canada and, with his friends up there, found out how the system works. It's atrocious and deadly.

This is what the current government is trying to force down our throats. It's a form of death.

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Punk ... we're talking about government control of the health care system, which leads to shortages and thus rationing and long lines. That doesn't happen in the free market.

I highly recommend this excellent video critique of the Canadian single payer system.

This is by Steven Crowder of PJTV. Steven went to Canada and, with his friends up there, found out how the system works. It's atrocious and deadly.

This is what the current government is trying to force down our throats. It's a form of death.

Shortages *do* happen in a free market.

A "shortage" simply means someone not getting the health care they want.

In a free market there is still a finite amount of "health care" to go around, it is distributed by how much one is willing to pay, and if you don't have enough money you don't get it (in fact even if you do have enough money you might not be able to get it if you are unlucky and all the other wealthy types have gotten to it first, say if you want an organ transplant).

Stop talking like there is somehow an infinite supply of health care in a free market.

There isn't an infinite supply of anything.

There are already health care "shortages" by virtue of the simple fact that people want health care but cannot get it.

Let's imagine (to make things simple) that health care can be ranked in coverage from 1 to 5 so it takes more money to get the higher ranked coverage.

That means that if I can only afford health care of rank 2, then I am not getting health care of the higher ranks. Thus for me this care is effectively "rationed" because there is a "shortage". I can't get all the health care I want.

Now suppose the national system is effectively saying everyone gets health care at rank 3. So it is rationed, and rich people no longer can get the level 4 or 5 health care, but for me, I'm happy because I'm getting more care than I got before.

Effectively this is rerationing health care by getting rid of the investment in the really high end stuff for the few and giving more low end stuff to the many.

Now don't miss the point here. If you want to advocate the free market and do it intellectually honestly you have to convince the person that is going to get better health care (me in the example) why they are better off in a free market system where they get less health care versus the national system where they are getting more.

Surely you can use your powers of intellect to analyze that situation without setting up strawmen (such as "shortages" exist in the national system while ignoring "shortages" that exist in the free market - in fact if there were never shortages you wouldn't need a market in the first place, like I said, markets exist to handle shortages).

...

So again, how do you explain to someone that the free market as a means of rationing in the face of shortages is better than a government regulated system as a means of rationing in the face of shortages?

Edited by punk
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A "shortage" simply means someone not getting the health care they want.
No, this way of conceptualizing it makes the word completely meaningless. This way, there is a shortage of anything that has any price. By this conceptualization, there is a shortage of rubber bands and of Rolls Royces, and of everything else in between. Again, I realize that some economists use the word that way, but it is not a standard meaning, nor is it useful.
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In a free market there is still a finite amount of "health care" to go around, it is distributed by how much one is willing to pay, and if you don't have enough money you don't get it (in fact even if you do have enough money you might not be able to get it if you are unlucky and all the other wealthy types have gotten to it first, say if you want an organ transplant).

But there is no free market of organs. There is no market at all for organs. All organs are obtained through donations. True, a wealthy patient can pay for a live donor's expenses, but he cannot legally buy an organ (such things must happen ilelgaly, I suppose). But overall money is of little use if you need an organ transplant as far as getting an organ is concerned.

So....

There isn't an infinite supply of anything.

That's self-evident and irrelevant. The question is whether the supply si sufficient to meet the demand. IN a free amrket under normal conditions it usually is. During abnormal conditions, such as emergencies, it may not be.

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No, this way of conceptualizing it makes the word completely meaningless. This way, there is a shortage of anything that has any price. By this conceptualization, there is a shortage of rubber bands and of Rolls Royces, and of everything else in between. Again, I realize that some economists use the word that way, but it is not a standard meaning, nor is it useful.

There is a shortage of everything that has a price.

If there wasn't a shortage it wouldn't have a price.

If I live in the only small village on a large fresh water lake, then there is no shortage of water (the resource is effectively infinite), so no one is going to pay anything for water and there will be no market in water.

If I live in a village in the middle of a desert there is a shortage of water, and so water has a definite price, and there is a market for water.

It is exactly the case that by having a price a commodity is effectively finite in amount (unlike the water in the first example) and thus is subject to shortage.

A price always means there is more demand than supply (so people want more of the commodity than they can get).

"Shortage" can only mean people want more of something than is available. If there isn't anyone around to say "I couldn't get all of the commodity that I wanted" then there wouldnt' be a shortage.

"Shortage" means the same thing as there is a finite supply.

You are trying to set up some sort of strawman and decide the argument by playing with words.

But if you would like to come up with a rigorous and non-arbitrary definition of shortage different than what I said above, I'd like to see it.

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That's self-evident and irrelevant. The question is whether the supply si sufficient to meet the demand. IN a free amrket under normal conditions it usually is. During abnormal conditions, such as emergencies, it may not be.

In practice supply never meets demand. There are always people who want something but cannot get it.

What happens in a free market is that money is introduced and prices are set so that the demand for something given the price one has to pay for it meets supply.

I have plenty of demand for things I cannot afford.

I'd love to have my own private jet, it just so happens I don't have enough money. Thus the supply of jets and things like fuel don't meet demand, and prices are introduced to ration jets and aviation fuel.

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What happens in a free market is that money is introduced and prices are set so that the demand for something given the price one has to pay for it meets supply.

If you don't ahve money for a good or service then you're not part of the demand for that good or service. Wanting something is not the same thing as being able to get it.

What you're saying is, in essence, that if the market cannot supply everyone with a free ride, then certain thigns are scarce and must be rationed by charging money for them. That's so wrong I don' even know where to begin correcting it.

So, briefly:

Things have a price in the market because making them wasn't free. The people who make goods or provide services naturally want to recoup their costs and make a profit.

Scarcity means the supply is insufficient to meet the demand for a given item or service. Demand, I say, not wishes.

If you want to spout off some more innacuracies, go right ahead.

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In practice supply never meets demand. There are always people who want something but cannot get it.

What happens in a free market is that money is introduced and prices are set so that the demand for something given the price one has to pay for it meets supply.

I have plenty of demand for things I cannot afford.

I'd love to have my own private jet, it just so happens I don't have enough money. Thus the supply of jets and things like fuel don't meet demand, and prices are introduced to ration jets and aviation fuel.

I think I see what's causing confusion for you: context-dropping.

"Supply" and "demand" make sense only in the context of a market of producers and consumers, with some medium of exchange. If you do not have the medium of exchange to buy a product, you are not a buyer. This means you are not "demand" in the "supply and demand" sense.

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A price always means there is more demand than supply (so people want more of the commodity than they can get).
"Demand"... here we have another problematic conceptualization, because economic demand is not the same thing as desire.

You are trying to set up some sort of strawman and decide the argument by playing with words.
Well, I do agree that this discussion of concepts takes the discussion away from whether the government's health care plan is a good one or not. However, you're the one who raised the issue of concepts, with your objection to "rationing".

Not only did you object to the use of the concept of "rationing", but you called it "dishonest". To call such usage dishonest is ridiculous. My granny used to tell me how they had rationing during the war; when I was young, households were issued "ration-cards" that they could use to buy a few food products; the Encyclopedia Brittanica explains rationing as "government policy consisting of the planned and restrictive allocation of scarce resources and consumer goods, usually practiced during times of war, famine, or some other national emergency." Are all these people not just mistaken, but dishonest?

If so, the next concept we need to explore is "dishonesty".

Edited by softwareNerd
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If you don't ahve money for a good or service then you're not part of the demand for that good or service. Wanting something is not the same thing as being able to get it.

What you're saying is, in essence, that if the market cannot supply everyone with a free ride, then certain thigns are scarce and must be rationed by charging money for them.

The point being we aren't talking about "shortages" and "rationing" any more. We are talking about something deeper about the nature of markets, supply, and demand.

Recall, my point was that "shortages" and "rationing" already occur any free market, so simply pointing out that they will occur in a nationalized system is pointless.

The only reasonable definition I can think of for "shortage" is that there exists someone that wants something and can't get it.

That's so wrong I don' even know where to begin correcting it.

Every time I read something like this, I always substitute the following:

"I dogmatically think the contrary, but I don't really know why, and can't explain myself so I'm going to do some posturing".

If you can't explain yourself, then you don't know what you are talking about.

So, briefly:

Things have a price in the market because making them wasn't free. The people who make goods or provide services naturally want to recoup their costs and make a profit.

Scarcity means the supply is insufficient to meet the demand for a given item or service. Demand, I say, not wishes.

If you want to spout off some more innacuracies, go right ahead.

Again, all of this goes beyond "shortage" and "rationing".

So why should a grounded thinker settle for setting up a simplistic "shortage" and "rationing" argument against nationalization?

I generally guess that when people try to stay with superficial buzz-words that they have no idea why the hold the view they do.

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I think I see what's causing confusion for you: context-dropping.

"Supply" and "demand" make sense only in the context of a market of producers and consumers, with some medium of exchange. If you do not have the medium of exchange to buy a product, you are not a buyer. This means you are not "demand" in the "supply and demand" sense.

Not at all.

If I am in the village at the lake there is a supply of water. It is there and people can take.

Nobody produced the water, but there is a supply.

You can have a supply without any producer.

The Earth has a supply of air, and we all breathe it, but no one made it.

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"Demand"... here we have another problematic conceptualization, because economic demand is not the same thing as desire.

Demand is desire.

Economically my ability to act on that desire is based on my other desires and the amount of money I have.

If the price of a commodity falls low enough demand is exactly desire - I will take as much as I desire.

In fact, for plenty of us there are things that we consume exactly at the level of desire. For instance I probably drink as much coffee as I want to, as I don't have a budget that requires I consider not drinking coffee to save money.

There are plenty of things I would start consuming if the price dropped a bit. That means I have the present desire to consume them, and would act on that as soon as prices enabled me to.

In effect I'm demanding it, and the market hasn't reacted to push prices downward so I can act on that demand.

Well, I do agree that this discussion of concepts takes the discussion away from whether the government's health care plan is a good one or not. However, you're the one who raised the issue of concepts, with your objection to "rationing".

I simply said "rationing" was a red herring, as all markets perform rationing.

This would be like objecting to a new model of car because it releases carbon monoxide...silly since most all cars now release carbon monoxide.

It is in fact context-dropping, since avoids the context that health care is presently rationed by means of market mechanisms.

A sound argument has to show how market mechanisms ration something better than government mechanisms, not imply that rationing would be some new phenomenon.

Not only did you object to the use of the concept of "rationing", but you called it "dishonest". To call such usage dishonest is ridiculous. My granny used to tell me how they had rationing during the war; when I was young, households were issued "ration-cards" that they could use to buy a few food products; the Encyclopedia Brittanica explains rationing as "government policy consisting of the planned and restrictive allocation of scarce resources and consumer goods, usually practiced during times of war, famine, or some other national emergency." Are all these people not just mistaken, but dishonest?

If so, the next concept we need to explore is "dishonesty".

That is simply a non-market-based rationing scheme. The alternative is a market-based rationing scheme.

The problem in your granny's day was that they had a shortage of things for civilian use due to diverting things for the war effort. The shortage would have existed regardless. The government chose to ration, the free market would have raised prices substantially.

Those are both rationing.

They both find a way to distribute scarce goods.

Either way people aren't getting all the goods they would like to because there isn't enough to go around.

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Economically, demand is NOT desire. To be part of demand, one must not only wish to buy the product supplied, but must also have the means to purchase it.

To say that demand is desire is to say that supply is wishing you owned a store front.

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I simply said "rationing" was a red herring, as all markets perform rationing.
Sorry, but that is just bull. Go back and read your post, and see whether that is what you "simply" said. Don't slime out of what you most clearly said.

I don't intend to discuss the substantial issue with you in particular, since you insist on using have a whole slew of incorrect concepts.

I could tell you that force is the essential difference between a ration and an auction, but you might come back with an incorrect concept of freedom, by pointing out that since we are all constrained by nature and by our own capabilities, force is applied by nature and by reality, and that it is not essentially different from force applied by men. Round and round the mulberry bush!

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Shortages *do* happen in a free market.

A "shortage" simply means someone not getting the health care they want.

Not the kind that occur under statism, i.e. artificial and unnecessary shortages and very low quality care. Further, shortages are met with a full out effort to eliminate the problem by innovative and industrious people.

But, let's put our ducks in a row here. In a free market you get:

1> Continued innovation and improvement always. Quality goes up, up.

2> Price remains affordable.

3> Incentive for the best and brightest to enter the field.

4> Any shortages are met with market forces working to solve the problem, because that's where the money is.

5> Close to universal care.

Shortages, such as the long lines you see with socialized medicine would be rare.

Under socialized medicine you get:

1> No innovation.

2> Little incentive to enter the field of medicine.

3> Shortages and long lines will be THE RULE.

4> Quality of care will be low.

5> The idea that there is full coverage is a lie. What they do is spread the resources thin and people die because they don't get treatment in time.

Stop talking like there is somehow an infinite supply of health care in a free market.

You don't need an "infinite supply" of anything. There would be an awesome abundance of affordable, super-quality health care under a free market. Under a socialized system there will be long lines and low quality care if you're lucky enough to receive treatment at all. The real world has provided the absolute proof of this, especially if you look at the U.S. before 1960.

This is the truth.

And furthermore, the FDA is a massive obstacle to innovation in the field. It is costing untold lives, and reducing the quality of care immensely. Socializing medicine will completely destroy the whole industry.

Your point on shortages is ridiculous, because it drops the context. It has no merit and you end up justifying a deadly system by not recognizing this.

I provided that video as an example of what the Canadian system is like. You might want to look at reality.

Edited by Thales
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Sorry, but that is just bull. Go back and read your post, and see whether that is what you "simply" said. Don't slime out of what you most clearly said.

I don't intend to discuss the substantial issue with you in particular, since you insist on using have a whole slew of incorrect concepts.

I could tell you that force is the essential difference between a ration and an auction, but you might come back with an incorrect concept of freedom, by pointing out that since we are all constrained by nature and by our own capabilities, force is applied by nature and by reality, and that it is not essentially different from force applied by men. Round and round the mulberry bush!

For this guy not to see the difference between what a free enterprise system creates and what a socialized system results in is pretty astounding, if he's a regular on this forum. It's day and night.

Socialized medicine leads to shortages as a rule, necessarily. It results in low quality medicine, with poor coverage and lots of miserable people.

Free market medicine leads to an abundance of quality, affordable medicine as a rule. Shortages, such as they would exist, would result in innovators finding solutions. Coverage would be almost 100%, as it was prior to 1960 in the U.S.

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The primary difference between a free market medical care system and a socialized one is that of force being used in the socialized one. If you have a resource that someone else wants and you won't give it to him or he can't afford the price, then it is thievery to get it from him by means of the government. If you want to know why you shouldn't be posturing for socialized medicine, it is because no one has the right to punch you out to get what he wants from you. So, at least implicitly, if you are saying you will be better off under socialized health care because the government will be paying for some of it, then you are endorsing the use of force to get what you want -- and this is evil. I don't currently have any health care insurance, though I do pay for a discount card, but I'm not going to endorse robbing my richer neighbors so that I can get something that I think I need or want. I'm not going to do that because I want to be moral, and not a beast who belongs in a cage. If you want health care insurance, then go out and earn it -- don't steal it from your betters.

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Quote "Now don't miss the point here. If you want to advocate the free market and do it intellectually honestly you have to convince the person that is going to get better health care (me in the example) why they are better off in a free market system where they get less health care versus the national system where they are getting more." Quote

First one would have to convince you of the difference between "right" and a "need".

You do not have a right to everything you need, or everything you think you need.

If you cannot afford healthcare so you get a third agent (government) to forcibly take the resources of others so that you may have healthcare you are stealing.

There is simply no way around that fact.

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In a free market there is still a finite amount of "health care" to go around

Limited by the number of able bodied people on the planet. For a free market, that would be practically unlimited, since half the globe wants nothing more than to be able to work in the US, precisely because it's relatively free. In a fully free market, they could, and the amount of health care would be limitless for those who want to trade for it.

For those who want to steal it, everything is limited. To be exact, that limit is closer to the value that has already been produced, the greater the theft. For instance, if the theft was 100% (like in the former Communist block), the limit would be very close to what has been produced up to this point in time. Once the stealing starts, the victims would no longer be able to thrive, they would quickly disappear. In the case of some Communist countries, the thieves were able to support themselves on value already produced for a few years, in Russia there was too little to steal. But in both cases, the population, once the producing elites were destroyed, quickly descended into a very sorry state of existence.

I would suggest this 2005 Romanian movie (English title: "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu"), if you want to see the precise details of what was left of that limited amount of health care you mentioned, by the year 1989, in the Socialist Republic of Romania (People's Republic of Romania from 1947-65). It's a very well reviewed film, plus it won Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Independent Spirit Awards in the US, etc.

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