john stossel: The Medical Economy & The Knowledge Problem

John Stossel weighs in on the brain-dead arrogance of  President Obama & the U.S. Congress:

focus on the spectacle of that handful of men and women daring to think they can design the medical marketplace. They would empower an even smaller group to determine — for millions of diverse Americans — which medical treatments are worthy and at what price.

How do these arrogant, presumptuous politicians believe they can know enough to plan for the rest of us? Who do they think they are? Under cover of helping uninsured people get medical care, they live out their megalomaniacal social-engineering fantasies — putting our physical and economic health at risk in the process.

Like the politicians, most people are oblivious to F.A. Hayek’s insight that the critical information needed to run an economy — or even 15 percent of one — doesn’t exist in any one place where it is accessible to central planners. Instead, it is scattered piecemeal among millions of people. All those people put together are far wiser and better informed than Congress could ever be. Only markets — private property, free exchange and the price system — can put this knowledge at the disposal of entrepreneurs and consumers, ensuring the system will serve the people and not just the political class.

This is no less true for medical care than for food, clothing and shelter. It is profit-seeking entrepreneurship that gave us birth control pills, robot limbs, Lasik surgery and so many other good things that make our lives longer and more pain free.

To the extent the politicians ignore this, they are the enemy of our well-being. The belief that they can take care of us is rank superstition.

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2 Responses to john stossel: The Medical Economy & The Knowledge Problem

  1. Roger McKinney says:

    I’ve been waiting for someone to introduce Hayek’s insights on knowledge. The new health care plan is brought to you by the same people who gave us the war on drugs, war on poverty, No Child Left Behind, the national energy policy, rescue from hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. If you like those outcomes, you’re gonna love the health care plan!

    Seriously, though, isn’t this just a discussion of one type of socialism against another? The system we enjoy now is about as socialist as you can get.

  2. Shane Wilcox says:

    I am a doctor (primary care physician) working in one of the so-called single payer systems (New Zealand), who trained in another (Australia), and have recently been introduced to Hayek via Popper, and more recently still, Taleb. I have been watching the debates over Obama’s health care reform plans with some interest. I am not especially enamoured of the system under which I work (which in fact is a dual system of “public” and “private”), but there does seem to be a false dichotomy drawn between the current US system and those branded “socialised”. Neither system, it would appear to me, allows the free play of the market in order to take advantage of the distributed knowledge of all participants, although only one pretends to. The enormous inequities of the current US system, which offers both the best and the worst of health care outcomes are not replicated in the system in NZ, which, despite its not insignificant problems, does at least offer a high minimum standard of care to the entire population. There is no “bureaucrat standing between me and my (public) patients” to any greater degree than there is an insurance company between me and the private ones. Both realms are subject to government legislation and control, and therefore lobbying and special interest groups, and therefore neither is able to function as a truly free market. If I have betrayed any misunderstandings of Hayek (or anything else for that matter), I would be grateful for any comments/corrections.

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