Best Wishes to the Healthcare Rally…
I’ve been reading some more about this upcoming healthcare rally. Part of me is suspicious that it will consist mostly of opportunistic trade unionists, but I’m willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that the protestors really will have the best of intentions.
An umbrella group of health unions and patient campaign groups is planning a march for a better public health service.
The group includes the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, medical and nursing organisations and families affected by the superbug, MRSA.
A march and rally will take place from 2.30pm next Saturday, from Parnell Square to Molesworth Street in Dublin.
The SIPTU representative makes a good point in the above article: Ireland is a wealthy country and can afford a decent, well-funded health service. My disagreement (again, assuming for the sake of argument that the trade unions really are putting the general interest ahead of their own self-interest) is over the correct process that would bring about a decent health service.
For example, I can buy a 1.8GHz desktop PC with Vista and a 17″ flat screen monitor for less than €500, yet nobody campaigned for a decent public PC service. There were no marches and rallies outside Leinster House. Nobody wrote letters to the Editor complaining that PCs were too expensive, that we had an “apartheid” PC market which exploited the working classes.
What happened was that governments did nothing, imposed no additional taxes or regulations over the computer industry, and spontaneous market forces were allowed to have their effect. The result was rapid technological improvement and constantly falling prices – benign deflation, if you like.
This pattern is visible again and again. If you leave industry alone, prices will fall while the product improves. But you politicise it and get the government involved, you invite a disaster like the Irish healthcare service.
I commented earlier on Dublin Opinion that it was a mistake to think that the US monetary system was an example of laissez-faire capitalism. This is no less true in healthcare. As Damien Kiberd has noted, the government accounts for an overwhelming percentage of healthcare spending, employs 120,000 health workers and exerts massively bureacratic top-down control through the HSE. To conclude from its failings that the free market must be rejected just seems terribly strange.
If you want to see healthcare costs go down while the product improves, you simply must remove the government from the industry. It’s true that not everybody will receive an infinite supply of healthcare in a free market (just as not everybody can afford as many computers as they might like), but an infinite supply of any good is not something that exists in this world. Either the market will allocate healthcare according to the laws of supply and demand, or the government will ration it politically, as it does right now, with endless waiting lists and shortages.
The choice is ours.