John Stossel

As an American, I am embarrassed that the U.S. House of Representatives has 220 members who actually believe the government can successfully centrally plan the medical and insurance industries.

I'm embarrassed that my representatives think that government can subsidize the consumption of medical care without increasing the budget deficit or interfering with free choice.

It's a triumph of mindless wishful thinking over logic and experience.

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The 1,990-page bill is breathtaking in its bone-headed audacity. The notion that a small group of politicians can know enough to design something so complex and so personal is astounding. That they were advised by "experts" means nothing since no one is expert enough to do that. There are too many tradeoffs faced by unique individuals with infinitely varying needs.

Government cannot do simple things efficiently. The bureaucrats struggle to count votes correctly. They give subsidized loans to "homeowners" who turn out to be 4-year-olds. Yet congressmen want government to manage our medicine and insurance.

Competition is a "discovery procedure," Nobel-prize-winning economist F. A. Hayek taught. Through the competitive market process, we producers and consumers constantly learn things that force us to adjust our behavior if we are to succeed. Central planners fail for two reasons:

First, knowledge about supply, demand, individual preferences and resource availability is scattered -- much of it never articulated -- throughout society. It is not concentrated in a database where a group of planners can access it.

Second, this "data" is dynamic: It changes without notice.

No matter how honorable the central planners' intentions, they will fail because they cannot know the needs and wishes of 300 million different people. And if they somehow did know their needs, they wouldn't know them tomorrow.

Proponents of so-called reform -- it's not really reform unless it makes things better -- have shamefully avoided criticism of their proposals. Often they just dismiss their opponents as greedy corporate apologists or paranoid right-wing loonies. That's easier than answering questions like these:

1) How can the government subsidize the purchase of medical services without driving up prices? Econ 101 teaches -- without controversy -- that when demand goes up, if other things remain equal, price goes up. The politicians want to have their cake and eat it, too.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate