The Corner

Re: Encouraging Words

Kathryn, I wish I were as confident as Mona, but I’m not sure the British example is quite as comforting as she thinks. Thirty years ago, Mrs. Thatcher did wonders, smashing the unions, privatizing government airlines and government automobile manufacturers and government coal mines and everything else, and selling off public housing to its tenants — and by 2012 I think the GOP might benefit from some similarly clear-cut, big eye-catching liberty signature policy.

But the Tories were never able to do anything about the health service, anymore than they can in Canada and elsewhere. In private, cabinet ministers agree it’s a disaster and they wish it had never happened, but in public they’re reduced to insisting, as even Mrs. Thatcher did, that “the NHS is safe in our hands.” Why? Because a lot of people, once they’ve traded individual liberty for government security, never want to go back:

I’d love to have a safety net, to never have to worry about basic “needs”, but the sacrifice is too great. When we give up responsibility, we also give up our freedom–freedom to choose tanning beds over government-recommended SPF70 sunblock, freedom to smoke, freedom to make our own informed decisions. Single-payer healthcare isn’t the endgame, it’s just the beginning. With every “right” we demand–and get–from an ever-expansive government, we cede more power to the bureaucracy…. Giving us candy in exchange for our freedom. The fact that this exchange was forced on us, against the will of the people, is a post for another time. In a few years, the majority of the nation will be on board with this, because free candy always wins.

That’s true even when the candy sucks: Ask any Congressman how eager he is to run on ending Medicare and going back to the way things were before. I think the wild card here is business. It’s the perverse genius of Obama-Pelosi-Reid to have concocted a “reform” that will lead to the worst features of the British health system with the worst features of the British economy circa 1978. As Andy noted earlier, companies are obliged by law to factor liabilities into their earnings statements. A reader writes to note one example:

3M Corporation announced that it was taking a 12 cent per share charge to earnings for the effects of the health care bill. The costs here are really of two varieties. First, is the hard costs that shows up on company’s income statement and is reflected in the reduced earnings per share. The second cost is the effect of the reduced earnings per share on the company’s market value. 3M sells for about 18 times its earnings per share which means that a 12 cent charge reduces the stock price by about $2.16. Multiply that by 711 million shares outstanding and you get a reduction in the market value of the company of about $1.5 billion.

That’s one business. It would be interesting to know just how much value last Sunday’s vote instantly vaporized at, say, the S&P 500 companies. We will soon enough.   

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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