In early November 1963, the United States was the preeminent power in the world. VietNam was a tiny country in southeast Asia that no one had heard of. Foreign cars were VW Beetles and a meaninglessly few MGs, Triumphs, and Mercedes. John Kennedy was President, and had not yet taken a trip to Dallas.
I don’t remember all this, or what I am about to tell you, because I was 6. The problem is, no one else remembers it either. I only know these things because I bought a stack of old magazines in a junk shop, and flipping through them, I found a number of things worth remembering.
The article was titled, “Why the Welfare State doesn’t Work”. Written by a man named Irving Kristol, it outlines the flaws of a number of government programs and the real outcomes. Near the end of the article, he discusses the issue of setting up a state run medical payment system.
The mute appeal of a state-run monopoly is the illusion that, over a period of time and in some undefined way, people may get more than they put in, either because the federal government will magically “close the gap” or because someone else (the rich or employers or whoever) will be called upon to make up the difference.
That’s really it, isn’t it? Those who favor a single payer system do so because they believe they will benefit, that the rich will pay, and the average guy will get a boost. Once again, we take the wayback machine.
This idea is appealing, but baseless. It is as appealing, and as baseless, as the belief that the steeply progressive income tax significantly reduces the tax burden of the average citizen. In a society and economy such as ours, government expenditure is infinitely greater than the ability of the rich to pay for it. It is the average citizen, the great majority, who will have to subsidize the medical care for the truly poor – under whatever program.
Remember these words, when Pr. Obama takes over ABC to promise to solve all the costs and problems of the health care system on June 24th, 2009. The costs of health care are real and they will be paid. Saving will be found, by limiting care, rationing treatment like they do in Britain and Canada. That will start almost immediately, as soon as it is the federal government paying out. Then, the pay czar will decide how much doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc. can be paid. Small hospitals will be “consolidated” into larger regional centers as a cost saving measure. The free market engine will be killed first, and the entire system will wither. New treatments, medicines, research? What will be the incentive? Private insurance will disappear over time, and only the federal system will remain. It is as predictable today as it was in 1963.
At the end of a century that has seen the evils of communism, Nazism and other modern tyrannies, the impulse to centralize power remains amazingly persistent.