Earlier today I expressed puzzlement at a post by Dylan Matthews over at The New Republic, not seeing its point. Thanks to Timothy Noah, I think I get it now. Both of them are reacting to Arthur Laffer, the supply-side economist, who in a recent CNN interview said, “If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.” Matthews and Noah take Laffer to be suggesting that Medicare and Medicaid are not currently “done by the government.” Noah writes, “If there is a hell for libertarian poseurs, Laffer has secured himself a berth in it.”
I think this is a simple misunderstanding. Laffer seems to me to be saying that Medicare and Medicaid are not run well, and neither will health care in general when the government expands its role in it. “Done by the government,” that is, modifies only “health care,” not “Medicare, Medicaid, and health care.” Laffer could have spoken more precisely, but that doesn’t seem like an offense worth casting someone into Hell for.