I’m currently reading the book by Thoman Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions. In a sub section in his chapter on “Trends in Economics” entitled “Articulation” are a couple of great quotes that sum up a few main problems of planned economies. Yes, our future health care system will suffer from these same maladies.
“1) the difficulties of defining even such apparently simple things as an apartment or a can of peas, and 2) the tendency of products-or labor-to change in quality in perverse ways in response to price or wage controls. Both problems are pervasive under comprehensive central direction of an economy.”
Articulation is certainly a problem in the debate over “health care.” What Sowell is getting at is the elusive nature of just what “health care” is. Defining the problem or the objective is at the very heart of why a planned economy doesn’t work. The struggle during the debate became not about health care at all. It became a battle for controll of the language with the left trying to remain as vague as possible and the right trying to do the impossible which is defining just what is acceptable health care. For some reason the burden of proof was on the right. Even a can of peas becomes extrodinarily difficult and costly to reproduce when definitions get to restrictive. In the mean time, consumers are enjoying their peas under current conditions where expectations allow for slight differences in taste, peas size and number of peas per can.
Sowell continues, “Another way of looking at the vicissitudes of articulation is that one connot articulate what does not exist-namely an objective set of characteristics whic determine an objective scale of economic priorities. All values are ultimately subjective and incrementally variable.”