Thomas Sowell

They say talk is cheap but political demagoguery can have very high costs. In the case of pharmaceutical drugs, these costs go beyond money to needless pain, disabilities and death, when the rate of new drug discovery suffers from threatening political rhetoric that discourages investment.

Now that we have talked about the dragon, what about St. George? Proponents of government-controlled medical care point out that, despite much longer waits for many medical treatments in Canada, Canadian life expectancy is slightly higher than that of Americans. Apparently St. George is a success.

That might be decisive evidence if medical care were the only determinant of life expectancy. But even the finest medical care in the world cannot help people who are killing themselves, whether suddenly with a gun or more slowly with drugs or obesity or other dangerous lifestyles.

Americans, for example, are obese more than twice as often as Canadians and our murder rates are higher. Those who resist the idea of personal responsibility are quick to blame objective circumstances, such as medical care.

Some years ago, there were media outcries because black pregnant women received less prenatal care than white pregnant women and their infant mortality rates were higher. But Americans of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino ancestry also had less prenatal care than whites -- and lower infant mortality rates than whites.

The effects of personal behavior cannot be ignored. Neither can the inescapable costs of medical care.


Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate