Column by B.R. Merrick.
Exclusive to STR
It didn’t spark this column; it merely stoked the flames: Arthur Silber is sick. Arthur is also poor. Arthur, who is a fantastic and observant writer, is reduced to begging. Chris Floyd, another fantastic writer and Silber admirer, has urged his readers to give something to Arthur to help. One of Floyd’s readers commented, “I would even put him up in my home and treat him to some free Canadian health care if it were possible (still can’t BELIEVE he has to pay for his health care, in the richest country in the universe).” I pulled the discussion off-topic briefly when I responded, but when a simple, divine, beautiful word like “free” is so misused, I find it hard to keep the fingers from pounding away at the keys. Floyd’s followers, for the most part, are “progressive.” In the interest of people like Arthur, and in a forum better suited to going off-topic from his suffering, allow me to show you how I see it.
We are told continuously that if we are good, we care about the poor. You’ve probably had it drilled into you. You’ve probably also heard that free marketeers (or that far filthier word “capitalists”) don’t care enough about the poor. We’re all too self-interested
, after all. You’ve probably read somewhere about how the free market, in the absence of a kind, benevolent government, would be disastrous for the poor. The “progressive” arguments on behalf of the poor are sharp, multitudinous, age-old, and deeply embedded in the psyches of millions. Discussion of what to do with the poor, whom Jesus said we always have with us (John 12:8), seldom gets to the root, however. You cannot expect a “progressive” to get there any faster than a Tea Partier. Having made a few half-hearted attempts in my life at being good, and having some care and concern for others, allow me to offer you a meme that may just eventually go a long way towards helping the poor by getting closer to that root:
When a regulation is passed, the first to suffer are the poor, and they will suffer the hardest.
It is my sincere hope that what follows will adequately explain why I believe that statement is factual. To illustrate, I would like to point to an article in The Christian Science Monitor
about Dr. Hasan, a nice guy who helps nice people. It really is nice that a nice doctor cares about the nice Pakistani poor. It’s also nice that he’s found a free market solution to a serious problem. After all, “Mr. Shah, who earns just $150 a month, paid nothing for the MRI scans and treatment he received, worth some $1,400. He now has returned to work.”
Well, that should be the end of it, shouldn’t it? The good people at The Christian Science Monitor (who care about the poor) have praised a nice guy who helps nice, poor people. But, you may ask, why were the very nice Mr. Shah’s medical bills so high? Were his legs accidentally severed? Did someone have to tinker in his brain with delicate instruments?
From what the article mentions, he needed MRIs, and, I am assuming, some other routine treatment. MRI scans are currently
in the price range of $400 to $3,500, something the article fails to mention. One reason
is that “MRI equipment is expensive. 1.5 tesla scanners often cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.” Furthermore, “MRI scanners have been significant sources of revenue for healthcare providers in the US. This is because of favorable reimbursement rates from insurers and federal government programs.” Of course, insurance companies can’t give “favorable reimbursement rates” if they don’t have customers paying high premiums, and the federal government can’t develop any “program” that pays a healthcare entrepreneur unless it takes money by force from someone else . . . deadly force if necessary
. But even this acknowledgement doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
Perhaps the contributors
to Wikipedia will help us to do that. According to them, the co-inventor of the MRI, Paul Lauterbur, tried unsuccessfully to file a patent, but The University of Nottingham in Britain did so on his behalf, and “made Mansfield wealthy.” (Then he sat around in the parlor
deciding which words were “woody” and which were “tinny,” I suppose.) And there it is, folks.
You want to know why MRIs are so damned expensive? Because someone has a patent. Before I continue, please understand that I am not an economist. I will never be able to impress anyone with any detailed knowledge of most economic factors. But the basics, like physics, can be understood by anyone. This leads me to the basic economic law of supply and demand. If supply increases while demand decreases, the price tends to go down. If the reverse, the price goes up. Simple. So simple, in fact, that it escapes people who are much smarter than I am. A man can figure out something as complicated as an MRI machine, yet fail to realize that every regulation passed raises the price. How does this happen?
In the case of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Equipment, every entrepreneur out there who wants to fabricate such a device has to get Lauterbur’s permission
, or rather, whichever current patent holder gives permission on behalf of the late inventor. This means money. Otherwise, the patent carries the distant threat of a gun. This unavoidable outcome increases the cost of creating a bigger, better MRI. This cost will ultimately be transferred to the consumer. If not, then the entrepreneur will soon be out of business. Poor people are among consumers, and now their dollars don’t go as far. They will suffer.
But that’s not all. There are other entrepreneurs who are turned off to the idea of making their own versions of an MRI, even though they can take apart an old one fairly easily to see exactly how it works. Inside one of those entrepreneur’s brains is the spark of an idea, when he notices that the doohickey doesn’t quite extend as far as it should in order for the front left button on the thingy to work properly. Unfortunately, he either doesn’t wish to bother getting the patent holder’s permission, or he doesn’t have the funds necessary to pay. So he’s out of the game. This further reduces the supply of MRI providers. This will be reflected in the price of available MRIs. Less poor people will be able to afford the new price. They will suffer.
But that’s not all. The government regulates
the use of these machines. They regulate the trucking companies that deliver them. They regulate the mining industry that harvests the precious metals that are melted to make crucial parts of the machine. They regulate how much the manufacturers of MRIs should pay their employees. They steal money from the employees, making them even more upset about their “low” wages. They regulate the universities that doctors attend, meaning that there are fewer universities for prospective medicos to choose from, and higher tuition due to the artificially low supply of universities. They insist on making it extremely difficult
to fire professors who have tenure, increasing the amount universities need to pay their teachers, and driving up tuition artificially once more. They continue to regulate the doctors in their “private” businesses, and steal from them as well. The price goes up and up and up. Poor people’s funds seldom go up at the same rate. They will suffer.
But that’s not all. It only gets worse. The government does this for so long that no one notices anymore, nor questions the workings of this coercive body in what ought to be a free market. Therefore, all anybody sees is that horrific price tag on a single, uncomfortable, claustrophobic MRI scan. “Geez! $500??!! Can’t my elected representative do something about this??!! It’s the insurance companies!”
But that’s not all. Those insurance corporations are heavily regulated too, driving out would-be competitors, artificially reducing the supply of providers, and driving up the cost of buying insurance. Doctors (including one of my former chiropractors) get sick of dealing with bureaucratic insurance companies, virtually indistinguishable from governmental bureaucracy, and drop out, or stop taking insurance altogether. This reduces the supply of doctors, and drives up the overall price. This means less poor people will be getting MRIs, some of which could be life-saving. They will suffer.
But that’s not all. Progressives then get out their little drums and start beating on them. Why oh why can’t we be like Canada? Because, my dear, when a coercive, death-oriented government
gets rid of the price that it unintentionally drove too high, the price is replaced with a queue
. The poor at the front of the line will not
suffer. Neither will the rich people at the end of the line. The latter will simply get on their private jets and fly elsewhere. The poor who remain at the end of the line, however, will
suffer. (Unless nice Dr. Hasan comes along.) But at least they don’t have to pay. I can assure you that once I’m dead, I really won’t be able to give a damn about the highly regulated cost
of the funeral. Some poor man’s family, though . . .
Libertarians, minarchists, Constitutionalists, anarchists, agorists, voluntaryists, abolitionists, root strikers, capitalists, Tea Partiers, and entrepreneurs are frequently singled out as not caring enough about the poor. I would simply point out that the only thing liberty-minded and semi-liberty-minded individuals need do is hammer home, as loudly and assertively as “progressives” who advocate the opposite, that a free market is the best damn thing for a poor man.
Any number of greedy and non-greedy capitalists, even those with only (presumably) half a brain, can participate, inventing newer, better MRI machines; newer, better ways of delivering them; newer, better ways of using them; newer, better ways of keeping the cost of production down; newer, better ways of fill-in-the-blank. The greedy entrepreneurs are hindered from initiating coercion, as there is no ultimately coercive body to which they can appeal. They will be forced to prove themselves to volitional actors or become pirates. As Gary North recently
(and brilliantly) pointed out, we don’t know all the ways that the free market operates so well. It just does. Leave it alone, Hillary.
Regulation hurts the poor, and it hurts them the worst. “Progressivism,” since it is premised upon the initiation of coercion, is a death-oriented ideology that hurts the poor, and it hurts them the worst.
Likewise, coercive, death-oriented, “conservative” religious views – foisted upon an uneducated and abject population, that instruct them never to use birth control or God will send them to Hell – create more poor people (since the proles refuse to stop screwing), and in spite of their immense love for their large families, these poor people suffer first and foremost, since the same small amount of money is now required to feed so many new people.
Furthermore, a business environment that boasts a free market where none can be found may fool some of the people some of the time, but will continue relentlessly to hurt all of the poor people first and worst all of the time. Businessmen with a penchant for grabbing the nearest thug’s gun are no friends of mine. They are legion now, and it is unfortunately much more of a chore to support family businesses and cash transactions than I would like it to be. (As a free man, however, I can attest that the hunt is exciting!)
Telling a man what to do kills his volition. More death will follow. Every regulation is someone telling someone else what to do. Each regulation increases the cost of living for someone, somewhere. That someone has to raise the price of what he’s selling, or he’s out of the game. His poor neighbor is going to feel it the most. That feeling will cause stress. Stress kills. These are easy, simple, logical progressions, people. Why won’t anybody look at them and acknowledge?
If you are poor, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are rich, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are middle class, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are an entrepreneur, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are black, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are Mormon, the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you, like so many words, are “woody” or “tinny,” the best thing for you is to be left alone. If you are alive, the best thing for you is to be left alone. This will reduce the cost and stress of your life, and increase the wealth you produce and maintain.
If you are a “progressive,” understand two things: 1.) There’s a reason
I keep putting the word “progressive” in quotes; and 2.) Pass a regulation and hurt someone poor. You aren’t going to find a “progressive,” intellectual, sophisticated, mythological, spiritual, or technological way around that one. It’s natural law, and natural law doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, “progressive” or “conservative,” or alive or dead. This is why the natural law
, end result of any and every regulation mows over poor people first: It doesn’t care, and it never will. Try wearing that on your sleeve sometime.
Correction added on 7-Apr-2011: One of the readers in the comments below was good enough to help me make a distinction between "natural law," which is derived from "natural rights," and "natural laws," which are what I am actually referring to in the body of the article.