Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love Government-Run Health Care

Our President Incarnate explains:

The Postman Always Rings TwicePeople say, well, how can a private company compete against the government? And my answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining – meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do – then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.

Well then, that should reassure the skeptics.


21 Responses to Why You Should Stop Worrying and Love Government-Run Health Care

  1. Briggs August 13, 2009 at 4:07 am #

    This was obviously not a planned comment. Well, at least I hope not.

    Because what I heard was…

    The private mail system is hugely successful and provides valuable services (evidenced by their profits)

    The government system is so poorly run that even though it is illegal to mail a letter any other way, they loose billions every year.

    So lets do health care the same way. People can choose the pseudo-private system and subsidize a “public” option that is so terrible that it looses billions –or trillions– every year.

    Sounds like a good plan to me!

  2. Sheldon Richman August 13, 2009 at 6:22 am #

    Someone should check out the Federal flood-insurance program and see how self-supporting it is. Also, weren’t Freddie and Fannie supposed to be self-supporting?

  3. David Z August 13, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    I don’t know if you’re on twitter, but trending #1 the last few days has been the tag #welovetheNHS … I’m not sure what to make of it.

    • Roderick August 13, 2009 at 11:30 am #

      In related news: some Republicans made the idiotic comment that if Stephen Hawking were British and had had to rely on the NHS, he’d be dead. (Idiotic because Hawking is in fact British and has in fact received a good deal of his care through the NHS.) Hawking thereupon responded with the equally idiotic comment that if it weren’t for the NHS, he’d be dead. (Idiotic because it assumes that if you altered one variable everything else would remain constant. As in: I currently live in an apartment built by architect Robert Faust — so if it weren’t for him, I’d be homeless.)

      • David Z August 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

        I’ve read that Hawking was offered a pittance worth of care after a serious illness in the 1980s, and has relied almost entirely on grants and private charities since the NHS wouldn’t cover his needs…


  4. Anon73 August 13, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    So… if it has to compete just like any other private entity, and provide a service like any other private entity, why make it a government program?

  5. Darian August 13, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    But the post office is the only agency allowed to deliver letters, so without the post office, there is no possible way that letters would ever be delivered! 😉

    • Brandon August 13, 2009 at 11:11 pm #

      Lysander Spooner disagreed, but thankfully, in 1851, Congress was able to convince him that he was wrong, for the good of all mankind.

      • Anon73 August 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

        That’s an interesting article, it mentions how the US government was able to lower prices enough to price him out of business. This reminds me of an argument against Monopoly that David Friedman gave that I never really bought. Responding to the claim that a rich firm can temporarily reduce prices in any regional market to force local alternatives out of business (which it is able to do by virtue of being big and multi-regional), Friedman responded by saying the company would lose too much money. Perhaps, but at the very least larger firms with the ability to take losses on purpose just to compete with competitors does make it harder to drive large firms out of business.

        • Roderick August 14, 2009 at 1:54 am #

          Sure, but the question is how firms get that big in the first place without govt. help. Plus, when we look at the historical record, we find cases of companies attempting to maintain market share that way and generally failing until they were able to get the govt. to help; see Roy Childs on this.

        • David Z August 14, 2009 at 1:19 pm #

          A large firm has a greater market-share. The loss-leader proposition can’t really work in a truly freed market. The small competitor might lose a few dollars here and there if the local BigBox decides to use that strategy, but by virtue of BigBox’s 75% market share, they’re going to start literally hemorrhaging cash. The idea that they can sustain this sort of losses for any amount of time is plain silly, because eventually they have to raise prices enough to offset these losses, at which point new competitors (or the old ones who put up the “closed” sign) come back into the market.

  6. MBH August 15, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    Nice Dr. Strangelove reference.

    I don’t think Obama’s comment was meant to reassure the skeptics as much as to debunk the “trojan horse” argument.

    Unrelated rant: I still think the left-libertarian approach — networking non-profit medical clinics into a single organization which could supply insurance — would accomplish the goal of universally affordable health insurance. The Wyden-Bennett Act (S. 391) is the closest mainstream proposal. But why not just network the existing non-profit companies? It’s a free-market solution so the Republicans couldn’t oppose it without exposing their Big Business fetish. The Democrats couldn’t oppose it without exposed their state-socialism fetish. I just don’t see how this isn’t a win-win for practically everyone.

    • JOR August 15, 2009 at 8:56 pm #

      They expose their fetishes all the time and their respective armies of flacks and rubes either approve or don’t notice.

      • Anon73 August 15, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

        It’s sort of like whether you vote for the winner, vote for the loser, or don’t vote at all; no matter what you do, it is taken to “legitimize” the state. :-/

        • MBH August 16, 2009 at 9:10 am #

          I’m not concerned with the “state” as much as the system of which the “state” is merely one part.

      • MBH August 16, 2009 at 9:08 am #

        True. I should put it this way: politically and pragmatically, it would more than likely pass through the House and Senate with super-majorities. Republicans would support it because it keeps government out of the health industry. Democrats would support it because it would present universally affordable health insurance.

        Even if the two-party state is a rigged mechanism, why not hijack it and compel it to do reasonable stuff?

        • Roderick August 16, 2009 at 11:35 am #

          Republicans would support it because it keeps government out of the health industry. Democrats would support it because it would present universally affordable health insurance.

          Except that Republican politicians don’t want government out of the health industry — they like the status quo of government intervention on behalf of insurance companies and the A.M.A. And Democratic politicians don’t want universally affordable health insurance unless it’s government-controlled.

          Of course they’d have to come up with some excuse to oppose your plan. But they would. Look at the stuff the statists said about the “lodge practice evil” to make the affordable healthcare provided by mutual aid societies look like a major crisis.

        • MBH August 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

          Yeah, you’re right. But if enough people understood that networked co-ops is a win-win situation for everyone (except the big insurance executives and government agents who empower them), then, logically speaking, popular support could move in that direction. Especially if it were bi-partisan support, then Republicans and Democrats would be hard-pressed to make the excuses they would like to make. Given Obama’s community organizing experience and the shoulder’s with which he undoubtedly rubbed at the Chicago School of Economics, I’m pretty confident he would go for it. Hell, it would ensure a re-election.

          I’m not familiar with the “lodge practice evil” stuff. When was this?

        • Roderick August 17, 2009 at 8:23 am #

          Here’s the relevant chapter of Dave Beito’s book (Google Books seems to have the whole chapter).

        • JOR August 28, 2009 at 7:46 am #

          Well, good luck with that hijacking business.

    • Gary Chartier August 15, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

      Amen. And amen.

      And may I suggest supplementing your apt proposal with attention to this analysis of the state’s record of poor performance in this area


      and this grab-bag of suggestions for systematic change:


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