Monday, July 20, 2009


Peter Singer, the much renowned professor and animal rights activist, had a head-scratching piece in this past weekend's New York Time's magazine on the rationing of health care. Singer makes the important point that as a limited resource, health care will be rationed and is rationed in any system of allocation. It's a good point and Singer's use of hypotheticals, both real and imaginary, are fascinating philosophical exercises as to how much human life is actually worth. Except that, in calling for government coverage, Singer neglects to mention why government should be the ultimate rationing agency.

Singer starts his piece by discussing a hypothetical drug that could slow the spread of terminal cancer and prolong life by six months. Would such a drug be worth $50,000? A half million dollars? 10 million dollars? What government provided health care means is that individuals don't get to make those choices, but government, or we as a society do. There's a major difference in any group of people imposing the value of life on everyone else and the each and everyone of us making our own value judgments. This is what the health care battle is all about.


Anonymous rose said...

I guess the argument is that it is fair enough for the price system to allocate the nicest cars, stereos and homes to the highest bidders, but that a need like medical care should be allocated equally to all. It is acceptable for rich people to drive Lexuses, while poor people take the bus, but the quality of medical care should be equal for all.

I don't think that's an unreasonable argument about how things SHOULD be.

But why can't we just throw more subsidies at poor people then?

We know the price system is more efficient than government rationing (and certainly would lead to more long-term innovation), even if some feel its less fair. So increase the subsidies to cover more people.

I just don't understand it. It's scary, because every time you open the paper you're reading about how the Obama admin. is getting more aggressive in trust-busting, worker safety regulation, consumer safety regulation, investor safety regulation, financial regulation etc.

The answer to all our "problems" is the same exact thing. Doesn't inspire confidence.

11:44 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home