It's the beginning of a new year, time for an long parade of awards for The Most This or The Best That of the year gone by.
As luck would have it, we recently stumbled over an article of such shocking wrongheadedness, so utterly mistaken in every fundamental way, as to question whether its author resides on the same planet as we do or how he moves through the day without the aid of psychotropic drugs. Therefore, we anoint the article "Why health care competition won't work," written by GWU professor Amitai Etzioni published and published on CNN.com, as 2011's Most Moronic MSM Article.
Of course, there's intense competition for this august award, and it's somewhat surprising that Paul Krugman of the New York Times didn't manage to carry it away. It might also be startling that the Huffington Post didn't get the nod, except that our stomachs are insufficiently strong to actually read the thing very often. That tends to be a disqualifier.
Yet we are confident in the worthiness of our choice. Let's trudge carefully through this piece of monumental idiocy to discover why it stands head and shoulders above its challengers - and, what's more, manages to do so without recourse to invective, ad-hominem attacks, or the other sludge that so characterizes Leftist writing.
To begin with, consider its very title: "Why health care competition won't work." Notice that it's not "Why health care competition isn't working" - we might actually agree with such an article since our health care "markets" clearly aren't having the price-lowering, service-improving, efficiency-increasing, customer-satisfying effect that markets are supposed to have.
No, Prof. Etzioni is saying that competition in health care simply cannot work - we might as well just give up and stop trying! Or, more specifically, we should gladly succumb to a monolithic taxpayer-funded universal single-payer national healthcare system, since there's just plain No Hope anywhere else.
How can this be, when virtually everything and everyone else in the Western world has benefited enormously by competitive forces? Quoth the good professor:
As patients, we are just not equipped to absorb and process the information needed to make healthy choices on our own.
To highlight the issue at hand, it is best to start with the circumstances in which competition does work. It requires that the consumers purchase items that are relatively small in cost and consequences (a can of beans, a tube of toothpaste, a pizza), that they repeat the purchase often, and that the consumers are able to readily receive and absorb relevant information.
When these conditions are met, consumers can find out which products meet their needs by trying one, then trying some others, then casting away (or not purchasing again) those that fail -- without undue costs or harm. And consumers must be able to obtain the information about what the products contain, which they cannot figure out by simply tasting them or trying them on (hence the standardized nutrition labels that describe what foods contain, such as the number of calories and amount of sodium).
None of these conditions is met by most health care "products." [emphasis added]
Befitting a card-carrying member of the Elites, observe his contempt for those of us not as well-larded with Ivy League degrees as he: we are simply too stupid to make our own decisions about healthcare and should just gratefully accept whatever is decreed by our betters. Perhaps we have sufficient mental intellect to select, as he says, our own cans of beans or tubes of toothpaste, but for anything that really matters, no.
Our Gentle Readers, many of whom do not hold Ivy League diplomas, have no doubt already identified fallacies in Prof. Etzioni's argument. Cars, for instance, are certainly not a purchase that most of us repeat often; yet even the most ardent statist would not dare argue that intense competition has not both improved automobile quality and lowered the price.
Of course, statists wish to limit the range of choices available to us by regulating station wagons out of existence and cramming unreliable electric cars down our throats, but not even doctrinaire Marxists suggest that each family should simply be issued whatever government car some bureaucrat deems most appropriate, at least not yet. No, we are all perfectly capable of picking our own ride, based on our own resources, needs, and preferences.
What about the lack of information about health care products that would assist buyers in making a wise decision? Here, it sounds like Prof. Etzioni almost has a point - until you take a quick peek back in time, and realize that standardized food nutrition labels date back only a few decades. Yet, somehow, human beings have been buying and eating food for lo these many years, with productivity and quality increasing and prices dropping for almost all of that time. Somehow, shoppers managed to find out enough information to make generally wise choices. In fact, comparing photographs of Americans today with those of, say, the 1950s, it might almost seem that Americans have been making worse nutritional choices since the government required the facts to be clearly displayed.
One could imagine a Communist author in, say, 1950, demanding government provision of all food on the grounds that "consumers cannot readily obtain information about ingredients or nutrition in commercially-sold foods." Nonsense! A simple standard label resolved whatever problems there might have been.
Fortunately, thanks to Al Gore's amazing invention, we don't even need a government regulation to demand information about health care. There are countless websites allowing individual patients to rate their doctors, their hospitals, the services they received, and so on. Today, doctors and other medical practitioners are rated just as consumers rate plumbers on Angie's List or books on Amazon. And wouldn't you rather read the view of an actual patient than the judgment of some bureaucrat anyway?
Prof. Etzioni's disdain for the intellect and common sense of ordinary Americans is contemptible, but that by itself that wouldn't raise his intellectual offal to the heights of lunacy it commands. One article of exposition is insufficient; we'll carry on exploring his illogic in the next article in this series.