As someone who often uses the example of vetinerary care as an example of free market medicine, I really liked Jim Manzi’s post. I think there’s another point or two to add. Not only has pet ownership surged, but Americans’ attitudes towards their pets has been changing quite a bit as well. (My internet connection is slow and spotty, so forgive me for not linking to evidence backing this up as much as I’d like). If you read up on these trends, you’ll find that more and more people are treating cats and dogs like members of their families. Tens of millions of people now get their dogs and cats Christmas presents. And huge percentages of those people even wrap them! What this says about the culture or the specific pet owners is a discussion for another time. But it seems that if you have growth in the number of people holding such views, spending more on animal care would follow, particularly when there’s so much more vets can do to extend and improve the quality of life of their pets. Maybe Mark Steyn can make a point about childless couples transferring parental impulses to their dogs and cats.
Also, I think demographic changes must play a role as well. Aging baby boomers have empty nests and they populate them with dogs and cats. It stands to reason that older folks who no longer have to pay for their kids’ medical care — never mind everything else — might take more of their considerable discretionary income and spend it on their fur-bearing surrogate kids.
Anyway, just something to noodle.