Passing Through Space

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

You could argue that health is a way of passing through space. I can go with an injury or I can go with repair or crutches. It could also be argued that health has intrinsic value. Well, that last one may beyond argument.

Some commentators get caught up in what they call the culture of entitlement or the “entitlement mentality.” George Will writes

Mac Donald says that although some data suggest that many Hispanic immigrants live in increasing cultural and linguistic self-segregation, clearly some have assimilated in the sense of acquiring one of the nation’s unpleasant current attributes, the entitlement mentality: We are here, therefore we are entitled to be here.

In this context, entitlements are rights that people learn to value, such as social security, jobs, and education. It’s a subset argument of the “marketplace mentality” so often argued by Will and others.

When the incumbent taxi industry inveigled the city government into creating the cartel, this was a textbook example of rent-seeking — getting government to confer advantages on an economic faction in order to disadvantage actual or potential competitors. If the cartel’s argument about a “deregulatory taking” were to prevail, modern government — the regulatory state — would be controlled by a leftward-clicking ratchet: Governments could never deregulate, never undo the damage that they enable rent-seekers to do.

By challenging his adopted country to honor its principles of economic liberty and limited government, Paucar, assisted by the local chapter of the libertarian Institute for Justice, is giving a timely demonstration of this fact: Some immigrants, with their acute understanding of why America beckons, refresh our national vigor. It would be wonderful if every time someone like Paucar comes to America, a native-born American rent-seeker who has been corrupted by today’s entitlement mentality would leave.

The logic is pretty clear: if the government provides education, people will become dependent on government, which will lead to “big government.” If the government provides universal health care (in other words, regulates), the insurance and health-provision establishment will no longer be able to compete, innovate, and supply jobs because government has become ultimate arbiter.

“Ever been to DMV?” Yes I have, and I’ve seen the technology they have to work with. Government’s tools are an old joke. But this can be fixed. Saws continue: Legislative bodies should not solve health care and energy issues because they might upset the market. It invites socialism and dependency. This cynical vestige of “cold-war mentality” itself limits innovative solutions.

Will’s logic is dimwitted and over-complicates decision-making. Health care does not have to be deemed a right for it to be provided universally.

I would hope that human-centered decisions become about reevaluating value. If we valued health for people over markets, we wouldn’t need to rely on fallback predetermined logics to “hope things just work out in the end.” The sun doesn’t have market share, so we shouldn’t convert all government infrastructure to solar power, hence save enough money “in the end” to provide all people with a proportionally scaled system of health, which can be judged as “infrastructure.” The proportions of health care should be judged as an innovation worthy of tackling.

Rather than persisting in our over-estimation of wealth or access as a measure of the human scale, we should change our thinking: first value health.


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