Over on Meet the Press, both E. J. Dionne and David Brooks assert that, once the government takes over citizens’ access to medical services, the new status quo becomes “sacred.” Robert Costa believes that Americans won’t fall for it.
But foreigners haven’t really fallen for it either, despite the claims of British Tory leader David Cameron. In the latest Commonwealth Fund survey of people in eight developed countries, well over half the respondents stated either that “there are some good things in our health-care system, but fundamental changes are needed to make it work better”; or that “our health-care system has so much wrong with it.” Furthermore, as the indispensible Greg Scandlen noted after the Commonwealth Fund’s 2008 report, the trend of opinion since 1988 has been worse in other countries than the U.S.
There is no doubt that the political class believes the “system” to be sacred. This is not surprising: Any ruling faction needs an established religion to control the people, and health care is the most likely candidate in this secular age. After all, Henry VIII claimed to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was “sacred” (and advocated it so well that the pope named him “Defender of the Faith”). However, when the Church interfered with his marital preferences, he didn’t abolish established religion, but substituted his own “sacred” Church of England.
The share of people who want fundamental change in health care is about the same in every country. The reason that people in other countries are more meekly acceptant of the status quo boils down to basic public-choice theory. Most people are healthy, and not sufficiently motivated to organize against the government’s control. Because any private interests in the health “system” are utterly dependent on government for their revenues, there are no interest groups to lobby for freedom.
Indeed, the growth of government health-care since the failure of Hillarycare a decade and a half ago (through SCHIP, Medicaid expansion, and people aging into Medicare) has already created conflicting incentives for interest groups in the health sector. Let’s face it: If we didn’t have the Tea-Partiers on our side this year, the “health-care industry” would have long since caved in.
Americans would be utterly offended by politicians asserting the power to decide which church is sacred. I cannot believe we would allow them to establish a “sacred” health-care system!
— John R. Graham is director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.