09 June 2005

The future of health care

Today the Supreme Court of Canada declared that the Quebec government cannot continue its monopolistic provision of certain health services. Individuals have the right to pay for private care instead of waiting in queues that arise from the inefficient public provision of medical care. Ultimately one's opinion on this matter comes down to what sort of path one thinks we need to follow in order to reach a truly free society. In this case, the federal court has overruled the provincial courts in a jurisdiction that is "provincial" so to speak - in the sense that provinces oversee the provision of health care. Leaving the question of why one level of government has the "right" to monopolize provision of a certain good, any ruling that extends liberty to the individual must be seen as a positive step forward. Instead of trying to follow some objective benchmark, should libertarians not view the overturning of unlibertarian laws as an unequivocally good thing, where subjectively speaking, "I don't know how to define an unlibertarian law, but I know one when I see one"? Quebec courts had previously decided that the collective right to a publicly funded system is more important than individual rights, and it's hard to declare this opinion as libertarian, that's for sure.

So what does this ruling mean going forward? The Liberal government has responded in its typically farcical fashion, with Prime Minister Paul Martin declaring "we're not going to have a two-tier health-care system in this country. Nobody wants that." That's weird, as it seems that's what Mr. Zeiliotis and Dr. Chaoulli want, and it's something that I want (well, actually I want nothing but privately-provided health care, but baby steps). In other words Mr. Martin, that's what you want, to simply grow the scale of government power at the expense of individuals. Indeed, the response to the shortage (created by the inefficiency of the public sector in the first place) is to throw another $41 billion at the problem over the next 10 years, at which point the system will defy the laws of economics and magically heal itself. The Canadian Labour Congress is also in on the act, claiming "for Canadian workers, the Canadian medicare system is an enormous benefit. It is one they had hoped the courts would recognize as a right." A system that runs so inefficiently that it leaves people for dead instead of allowing them to obtain service in a free market. That's not my idea of benefits and rights.

As the ruling allows individuals to voluntarily remove themselves from publicly provided medical care, this is a good thing in that it reduces the number of medical services performed using taxpayer dollars. There will still be a free rider problem as people will want to choose "free" service instead of paying for it themselves, but hopefully the privately provided care is so much better than the public system that it leaves publicly funded services for dead. While some people are concerned of a "brain drain" into private facilities, this is just statist slang designed to scare people into thinking this is a tragedy. As waiting lists indicate, there is currently a shortage of medical care in Canada. Allowing private care alongside public care will increase the quantity of services provided in the market. It is true that some workers will move to the private sector, but overall there will be an increase in medical employment. In other words, the brain drain really means that individuals will be able to freely decide whether to accept employment in the public or private sectors. Is that not what a free society should be about?

Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court of Canada will provide a ruling this Thursday regarding the constitutionality of the right to private medical care. The case was brought by 73 year old George Zeliotis of Montreal, who was forced to wait a year for hip replacement surgery. Mr. Zeliotis cannot obtain help from a private physician as Article 15 of the Health Insurance Act and article 11 of the Hospital Insurance Act prohibit private insurers from covering health services which are insured by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec.

Let's hope the Supreme Court can actually uphold the rights of the individual in this case. There is no reason for someone to be prevented from voluntarily purchasing or selling a good (in this case, medical care) simply because the government has decided they wish to control the supply of the good through state-granted monopolies. Allowing private medical care beside public health care is an important first step on the road to efficiently provided health services. Current bureaucrats and those in the medical profession will of course be opposed, the restriction of services by government mandate simply creates rents for these groups to share. Long waiting lists for provision illustrate the dramatic shortage of care currently being provided, for the sake of the health of the nation, let privitization happen immediately.

Update: At first glance, it looks like a victory for the people, I will have to go over this in more detail later today. The court has declared that the Quebec government cannot prevent individuals from privately purchasing health services covered by medicare. For coverage, see this article at the CBC website.

08 June 2005

Those "evil" corporations

I just came back from the Commons where I read a paper and enjoyed a delicious root beer. I was meaning to get an iced coffee, but the cafe was closed so I went around the corner and picked up an A&W Root Beer for $1.10. For such a low price, I was not only able to enjoy a soda, but in the process I allowed the retailer, the distributor, and those bastards at Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. to cover their costs and earn a bit of profit on their investment. The wonder of capitalism, I bought a good because the subjective value I placed on that product exceeded the price of a bottle of soda (not the natural market price of course due to the various taxes along the way), creating wealth on both sides of the transaction.

So why are these fine capitalists bastards? Well, it comes from a conversation I happened to overhear while drinking my soda. Two gentlemen were talking, and one of them noted that he had been around for a long time, and the only thing he knew with certainty was corporate evil. While people come and go, corporations live on, their power transferred from one generation to the next. Such is the economically uneducated world we live in. Corporations exits for one reason - they provide goods that consumers wish to purchase. Those that are unable to satisfy the needs of the people are done away with through the competitive nature of the market. Coca-Cola has no army with which they can come to my door and force me to consume their products while helping themselves to my wallet. Philip-Morris cannot send me a legal notice insisting I take up smoking again unless I wish to face prosecution. Such is the basis of the market - the consumer is king (or queen), and every attack against business serves only to destroy wealth and impoverish us all. There's only one entity that take my money without my consent, and that of course is the US government. Long live the consumer. Long live the market. Long live liberty. And long live root beer.

07 June 2005

Welcome to the new site

I have decided to leave my old blog behind and start fresh on Blogger, but the name hasn't changed and neither have the ideas. The purpose of this blog will be to share my thoughts on matters of economics and politics, and provide insights into issues that you won't find coming from the major parties, their talking heads, and the media. The rhetoric coming from the Democrats and the Republicans is way overblown considering the minimal difference between the two parties. Both are happy to play along in a two party system that does nothing to substantially differentiate between the two main choices. Both favor a massive federal bureaucracy that distorts free market choices and places decision making in the hands of the state at the expense of the individual. On one hand you have the tax and spend Democrats, on the other you have the don't tax and spend Republicans. The latter bunch are simply content to implicitly tax through the erosion in the value of the U.S. dollar brought about by endless deficits. When you're the ones printing the money this is fairly simple to do, and the best part is the relative transparency of the whole charade. No wonder they're so successful.

So why am I am libertarian? This hasn't always been the case, I have officially been affiliated with two (Canadian) parties in my life, one with a conservative slant and another with a decidely more liberal flavor. A love for personal freedom led me down a socialist path, as these parties have much more to offer in terms of social liberty, yet I became frustrated when trying to find state solutions to the mryiad of problems we face in society. Once I discovered that the cause of all these problems is government itself, the choice of becoming a libertarian was an easy one to make. Reading Human Action certainly helps!