Paul Jacob

This critique is not an instance of being “anti-government.” I am no more “anti-government” than I am “anti-drugs.” I just believe that, if you have a headache, you only take two aspirin, not the whole bottle. If you have a social problem, you call upon government to do only what it can competently do.

Any more and you get poison.

Hormesis (look it up)
That’s it in a nutshell: A little government goes a long way. Adding more government is just increasing the dose. Then all you get are addicts and increasingly bad side effects.

As they say in pharmacology: The poison is in the dose (yes, that’s the principle of hormesis). Water is healthy, right? Drinking it is good for you. Well, last year several people died from drinking too much water. Their cells ruptured from overdose of H2O.

Same with government. It may be effective (sorta) in fighting back criminals and rogue foreign powers. But having it run a health care system is . . . socialism.

Yes, that’s another name for the problem affecting health care. Socialism. The S-word.

And here’s something we know for sure: socialism just doesn’t work. Why? Socialism is government at, or near, the highest dose.

If you don’t believe me, just read the British papers. I regularly come across news stories that show how bad socialism can be. In Britain. Today.

Take dentistry. Please. What a job, sticking fingers into opened mouths. Probing. Drilling. Filling. Ugh.

And, for those who take it upon themselves to do the job, it can’t be easy managing patients, or clients, or whatever they call the people who pay their bills.

It’s bad enough here in America; It is obviously much harder in Britain, where dentists were just told to . . . . go on vacation. By the government. Why? They had filled their work quotas. Even while millions — yes, millions — of English people can’t get in to see any dentist!

Dentistry is socialized in Britain. The government hires the dentists. Tax money — not patients directly — pay for the dental work.

So no wonder there aren’t enough dentists in Britain, and why British teeth, in general, are getting worse, even though the service is “free of charge.”

Just try to provide a free service using tax funds — you still can’t void the laws of scarcity and value by edict. If you want something, you still have to pay for it. You still have to invest. Scarce resources must go from some use and be put to another.

The trouble, as economists starting with the Austrian Ludwig von Mises have shown, is that when you try to run things by bureaucracy, forfeiting private means of production and capitalist investment and competitive markets, you give up some amazingly effective tools to organize scarce resources. And you are left with guesswork. And politics.

And, under socialized medicine, bad teeth.

Leave It to the Swedes
Sweden is often looked upon by the American left as socialism done right. I have not been there, nor have I devoted extensive study to the Swedes’ peculiar (and waning) love for high taxes and big government. But what I read in the papers leads me to regard Sweden as reducing socialism to absurdity.

Take a basic problem of medicine: dignity, or lack thereof. Going to the hospital requires a certain . . . humility, I guess. You get dressed up in flimsy gowns, and if your situation renders you immobile, you no longer remain in charge of what you might normally think of as your bathroom functions.

Dignity is not always easy to maintain.

Now, if I were in the hospital biz, I’d be trying to figure out ways of maintaining and catering to customer — I mean, patient — dignity.

But then, if I were in the hospital biz, it would be as an entrepreneur, not as the head of a government bureau.

Sweden, on the other hand, has what Hillary and Obama other Democrats say they want here: nationalized care.

Now, so does neighboring Norway, and their system is so far in the red, and so chaotic that we should be hearing about it in the news, nightly. But we don’t.

Still, the costs associated with socialized care do leak into the American consciousness. The latest? Sweden’s decision to buy unisex boxer shorts for patients. In just a few weeks Swedish patients will no longer get to wear underwear designed for their precise anatomy. It saves money, you see.

Even socialists must ration. So in Sweden they ration underwear! That, friends, is reducing socialism to absurdity.

More of the Current Disease?
Astoundingly, state-run medicine gains political ground. Against all logic. Against all evidence. How? Because politicians and bureaucrats have repeatedly crippled the system, and then successfully blamed the injuries on “the ‘free’ market” part of the system.

The only way to stop its onslaught is to prescribe two bitter pills and repeat daily:

  1. Government has caused most of our current mess.
  2. More government is no cure for too much government.

Only if those of us who understand how the world works keep explaining it to our friends and neighbors and relatives do we have any chance. The government schools don’t teach much of anything about this.

It’s up to us. Or we will lose the vibrancy of the current system, and any chance of making medicine better — and cheaper — in the future.

Please, America, don’t infect the health care system with yet more of its current disease: Too much government.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.