Walter E. Williams

Sometimes the advocates of socialized medicine claim that health care is too important to be left to the market. That's why some politicians are calling for us to adopt health care systems such as those in Canada, the United Kingdom and other European nations. But the suggestion that we'd be better served with more government control doesn't even pass a simple smell test.

Do we want the government employees who run the troubled Walter Reed Army Medical Center to be in charge of our entire health care system? Or, would you like the people who deliver our mail to also deliver health care services? How would you like the people who run the motor vehicles department, the government education system, foreign intelligence and other government agencies to also run our health care system? After all, they are not motivated by the quest for profits, and that might mean they're truly wonderful, selfless, caring people.

As for me, I'd choose profit-driven people to provide my health care services, people with motives like those who deliver goods to my supermarket, deliver my overnight mail, produce my computer and software programs, assemble my car and produce a host of other goods and services that I use.

There's absolutely no mystery why our greatest complaints are in the arena of government-delivered services and the fewest in market-delivered services. In the market, there are the ruthless forces of profit, loss and bankruptcy that make producers accountable to us. In the arena of government-delivered services, there's no such accountability. For example, government schools can go for decades delivering low-quality services, and what's the result? The people who manage it earn higher pay. It's nearly impossible to fire the incompetents. And, taxpayers, who support the service, are given higher tax bills.

Our health care system is hampered by government intervention, and the solution is not more government intervention but less. The tax treatment of health insurance, where premiums are deducted from employees' pre-tax income, explains why so many of us rely on our employers to select and pay for health insurance. Since there is a third-party payer, we have little incentive to shop around and wisely use health services.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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