Let’s try to pick something else for comparison. It almost wouldn’t matter what it was. I’m picking gasoline. It’s a commodity. Most of us use it. We purchase it at retail outlets. These are businesses. They exist to make a profit. Almost all the businesses that sell gasoline are now owned by good sized corporations. Market forces and the standards for storage tanks have forced the single station owners out of business.
The stations are clean, well lit, and almost always have gas. They sell it. For a profit. You can’t get all you might want, but you can get as much as you can pay for.
Let’s say we turn this model on it’s head. A Constitutional amendment is passed, stating that gasoline is a right. All of us will be taxed to ensure that everyone has access to that right. To be sure, there are two parts to this. One is the product itself. The other is the cost.
Whatever the tax is, say we pay it by payroll deduction. Now the gas stations are owned by the government. You just pull up and fill up. No money will change hands. It’s free! But wait you say, it’s not free, I paid a tax, based on income. So, it may not be free for you, you paid for the gas you use, and some of the gas for everyone who makes less than you, including those who make no money at all. But the money is already gone from your pay, consider that a sunk cost, so whatever amount you use, it’s free!
Planning a trip? Might as well drive. Any incentive to choose another method of travel is gone. Buy that boat, the gas is free! Poor people that limited their use of gasoline due their financial situation now have a right to gasoline, it’s only fair that they should use as much as they want. For them, it truly is free!
The amount used will grow, of course. Cost is the economic check on use. Remove that, and consumption will go up. But the system will not be maintained, there will be no market incentive. The stations, the refineries, the oil fields, the tanker trucks, will just get older, and go unreplaced. Some stations will be closed. Everyone might have a right to gasoline, but there will no longer a method to reliably provide it. A Gas Czar would be needed to head the new government department that will manage this system.
Lines will form, stations will run out. Rationing will start. It will still be free (yes, yes, that tax, that ever increasing tax) but you will need a coupon book. Each citizen would have show need. You would no longer be able to get the gasoline you want for pleasure trips, it would only be fair to everyone that they get enough gasoline to get to work. Mandatory carpooling would follow. If there aren’t four in the car, it’s un-patriotic.
This is exactly what would happen. It hasn’t happened yet because the profit and cost checks and balances of the economic system have not been destroyed. As I write this, I can see that making gasoline a right would be a great way to end private ownershipof cars. Because the end result would be bicycles and government sanctioned buses and trolleys.
So often I hear about corporations like they are evil, profit motivated organizations, out to suck the money out of the pockets of American citizens. They aren’t necessarily evil, but the rest of that is true and it’s a good thing. Businesses exist to make money. They make a profit for the owners, and deliver dividends to stockholders. They do this by enticing you, the consumer, into spending your money with them. They have to be efficient, price their products competitively, overcome any obstacles in the process, advertise, and make their stores and products attractive to consumers.
Groceries would be another good example. Make food a right, and eliminate cost as a factor when you go to the supermarket and see what happens.
Health care is the topic of the day. However much we wish it wasn’t so, market forces apply. Remove them and the system crumbles.
I think it is the disconnect between the consumer(patient) and provider (doctor /hospital /pharmacy /etc.) created by insurance companies and current government programs that is the main cause of the problems the government is trying to fix. More government control will only make this worse.
UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.
–Pr. Barack Obama