WASHINGTON -- I am back from travels in old Europe and have survived in the pink. Readers of this column will recall that during the past three weeks, I have been traveling through France and England. Add Scotland to the pilgrimage. In Edinburgh last weekend, I participated in the unveiling of an Adam Smith statue, prominently placed near the top of the famous city's Royal Mile. Smith now overlooks much of this city, in which he -- along with other members of the Scottish Enlightenment -- thrived. He is referred to often as the founder of economics. He certainly is the first advocate of free markets and one of the most famous. Now a heroic statue of him overlooks one of the great tourist spots in Europe. Thousands of tourists will confront him as they parade up to Edinburgh Castle. While there, I witnessed dozens of individuals having their pictures taken at the great man's feet.
Raising that statue would have been unthinkable a generation ago. The Edinburgh city council would not have heard of it. Smith and his ideas were supposedly passe. Now, of course, market economics has swept the world. Even old socialists, such as the Chinese and the Indians, believe in markets and allocate their capital and their energies according to the markets' demands. Marx and Engels are has-beens. The only Marx we admire today is Groucho.
I say I survived my travels in the pink because while in France and the U.K., I never had to avail myself to any aspect of their health care systems. Doing so remains perilous. Their systems remain socialist, or -- to use modern American liberals' euphemism -- "single-payer." The government pays, and the patient waits and waits. This is a point that never is mentioned by campaigning American Democrats, most notably the Prophet Obama. Liberal Democrats argue that health care costs are relatively low in Europe and quality care is superb -- another government-run miracle. "They don't do miracles," responds Regina Herzlinger, author of "Who Killed Health Care? America's $2 Trillion Medical Problem -- and the Consumer-Driven Cure." How are European medical costs kept low? Herzlinger explains: "They do it through rationing care to the sick. That's an unacceptable way to control costs."