08 April 2008

Bring back the draft

Well, sort of.

If a government is going to promise free healthcare, it must somehow be able to assure the requisite number of healthcare professionals to meet healthcare needs. What if the requisite number is not there?

That, as the New York Times reports, is the situation in Massachusetts. (Read the story here.) Previously, one of the problems in Massachusetts was that physicians didn't particulary care for some of the details of Commonwealth care, especially the reimbursements. Those reimbursements, it seems, are as pitiful as the state's Medicaid program, Mass Health (here). It isn't bad enough that physicians can't determine their own schedules (they are required to give patients a first-appointment within 45 days); no, their incomes will also be determined by the state.

With strictures like those it is possible that people who might otherwise be interested in the health professions will decide upon careers which give them a bit more freedom. Should that fact lead to a healthcare-professional crisis we shall have to institute something like a draft.

Your typical leftist can rationalize it this way. If we can force people into the military in order to take lives in a war (and possibly have their lives taken) we should feel no compunction about forcing people into the healthcare system in order to save lives (without the risk of losing their lives). This is especially case since we shall be paying for their undergraduate and professional educations. (It's irrelevant that we don't have a military draft. The rationale is still useful.)

Your kid wants to be a fireman, does he? Well, make sure he doesn't show any interest in, or aptitude for, the sciences. It would be bad.

Serendipidously, Limbaugh mentioned a report yesterday on how long it took major technologies to reach 50% of households. (Graph here. 2004 story here.)














Part of the reason for the rapidity with which any technology reaches more and more households is the drop in price over time, as well as our relatively high standard of living. Generally, prices for new technologies drop further and faster the longer the technology is available. When I was a kid only rich people had VCRs. Now you can pick one up (but why would you?) for a fistful of dollars (when you compare that fistful with the value of the dollar back when the VCR was new).

Somehow, when it comes to healthcare, prices go up and up rather than down, making it available to fewer and fewer, rather than more and more. Typically, if prices for anything go up it is because of limited supply relative to demand, like crude oil, for example. We talk about the increasing cost of healthcare, but ignore the possibility of a demand which in some way exceeds the supply. Somehow -- we are told exactly how -- supply must meet demand, regardless of cost to the supplier.

What we're told, however, is that greed best explains the higher prices. But look, the people who make DVD players and iPhones and so forth are just as greedy as those in the healthcare and petroleum businesses. The fact is, raising prices just for the sake of greed is not a wise long-term policy for any business operation. But it doesn't matter: in the end politicians don't campaign for the votes of thinking people, but for those of the "distracted multitudes". And those multitudes are rather superificial in their thinking. For the superficial, greed is as good an explanation as any, even if only because it is the most obvious of all explanations. And obvious is what superficial people love most. The politician who wants the superficial vote need point to nothing but the obvious in order to get it.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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