Thomas Sowell

The only reason such rhetoric has even the appearance of plausibility is that price controls work in the short run -- and that is good enough for politicians, since elections are held in the short run. After all, when the government drives down prices paid to doctors, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies, there is not much that they can do about it immediately.

Doctors are not going to give up practicing medicine and become truck drivers. Medical schools are not going to be turned into bowling alleys or hospitals into skating rinks. Pharmaceutical companies cannot suddenly shift to manufacturing cars. So price controls seem to work in the short run -- but only in the short run.

When you confront doctors with more hassles with bureaucrats and lower payments for their services, do not expect the medical profession to remain as attractive to bright young people deciding what careers to follow. In the long run, every single doctor is going to have to be replaced by someone from the younger generation, or else we are going to have a shortage of doctors.

Britain, for example, has had government-run medical care for decades and nearly half their doctors are imported, often from Third World countries with lower standards of medical training. Canadian hospitals have less modern equipment available than American hospitals do. They depend on American medicines after destroying incentives to develop their own with price controls.

Is this what we are supposed to imitate?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate