17 thoughts on “Free drugs. Must be in Cuba, right?”

  1. That’s pretty clever. I wonder if they will rearrange their floors to put the higher profit items next to the pharmacy. Pop into Walmart for your cirrhosis medication, grab a bottle of malt liquor while you’re in line, good times.

  2. The difference being no one is forcing you to buy the malt liquor… In places like Cuba, where the drugs are free and all the happy kids fly kites, you are compelled — in the gun to your head sense — to use government services.

  3. “Gun to your head sense” in the classic Libertarian “taxes are theft” sense? Or otherwise? Please be careful with your metametaphors.

    I’m picturing concentration camps where they make fat people do jumping jacks, ghettos where diabetics have to wear armbands and receive mandatory insulin injections, and brute squads go around giving people surprise colonoscopies.

    Canada has universal healthcare too. You get shot for refusing to submit to a physical? That wasn’t in the brochure…

  4. This isn’t a “classic Libertarian” argument… this is a common sense argument.

    Hypothetical… Cuban guy doesn’t like government procurement of health care and decides he can do it better. He opens up his own shop without any problems at all? What if he stops paying the taxes that corresponds to the cost of the gov’t run health care?

    In Canada, they don’t allow private health insurance. This means an old lady with the resources to buy the services on her own must still wait longer than dogs (literally, vet queues are shorter than hospital queues) to get her hip replaced. Good thing our borders are so porous to allow her to come to the States for the surgery.

    Same lady in Cuba, not so much. Why? Because they point guns at their citizens if they want to leave. (I know this because people that are free and don’t have guns pointed at their heads don’t have to leave their country in make-shift rafts.)

  5. The situation seems more complicated than “they don’t allow private health insurance.” Actually, it sort of looks like they do.

    What if I’m not happy about how the war is being run and want to outsource my national security needs through some cheaper agency. Can I stop paying the taxes that correspond to the cost of government funded military action, or will armed deputies show up at my compound if I try that? Seriously, the queue to get a Bin Laden put down is literally longer than the euthanasia line at my local vet clinic. Good thing Pakistan’s borders are so porous to allow… well shit, nevermind.

    I mean, I see your point. Taxing to provide government services is the same as forcing you to spend those taxes at a certain store, even if you then go to a different place to spend more money on stuff you really want. Invoking Cuban refugees just seems weak. There don’t seem to be mass exoduses from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, etc., and their denizens will defend their systems as fervently as you defend your ideals.

  6. “Can I stop paying the taxes that correspond to the cost of government funded military action” NO, and that’s the point!

    That said: Taxes and government are necessary evils, which suggests there is some non-zero optimal level of both. The point, and the point of the post, was that if Micheal Moore et. al. want free drugs, then, apparently, they can get them from drug stores in the South. Why do free drugs from firms garner more suspicion than from governments? The former are run by people who want to maximize profits which usually means meeting consumer’s needs. The later are run by pandering politicians that more or less say or do anything, no matter how harmful, to get elected. I just don’t get why we trust the latter and not the former.

    Mass exodus, no. But immigration from Canada, for example, is twice that in the other direction (and when you control for population this almost is a mass exodus). And the brain drain from Europe to the U.S. is infamous.

    “their denizens will defend their systems as fervently as you defend your ideals”

    Yes. So? I measure the force an argument by its truth value, not by the number and velocity of words it contains.

  7. In theory (though probably not so much in practice), citizens have a measure of control over the government through elections. Democratically elected governments are perceived as accountable to their constituents.

    Private firms frighten consumers because there is no perception of control. Say, hypothetically, that Kmart and Walmart decide to stop their drug giveaways next week, ending this ad hoc healthcare subsidy. Do we write angry letters? Stage boycotts? Will the market spawn new chains that continue the offering? How come they haven’t been doing this all along, if there’s a demand for it and it grants tangible competitive advantages?

    So – to sum up, you claim that fat cat politicians will cheerfully sell out their constituents at any price to get elected, which might have a measure of truth to it. The socialists claim that fat cat merchants will cheerfully rip off their consumers by any means to skim a profit, which might have a measure of truth to it. I’m not sure I trust anyone.

  8. I think we’ve had this discussion before.

    The market is MUCH more responsive to people’s wants and needs than government. If voting is how you measure democracy, then people do much more voting in the market (buying from one joint instead of another) then you do in politics.

    The thing that sticks in my craw about this disagreement between you and me is that its a disagreement about facts. It should be easy to come up with a measure of democracy and test which sorts of institutions are more democratic…

  9. I don’t think we disagree about which set of institutions is more responsive. I think we do disagree over how those institutions are perceived by their respective naysayers. I think there’s a good argument to be made on how free markets can serve the wants and needs of a society in the long run. I’m not sure how a free market can serve, for example, the health care needs of an individual who can’t afford and will not be provided with services.

    The US isn’t a good example of being completely denied services for lack of funds, as there’s always the ER.

    Let’s pretend it’s food, not health care. 100% (give or take) of the population can live on a subsistence diet (socialism boo), or 85% can eat well while 15% starve (free markets yay). That 15% is supposed to have an incentive to work hard to make more food. There’s clearly demand for it. Why are they starving, then?

    It’s pretty clear that there’s demand for cheap health care. I guess the best free market response would be to remove all medical, drug, and insurance regulations and let the discount sawbones’ shops flourish.

  10. Incidentally, isn’t Davis a state school? Wouldn’t we be better served by shutting down the UC and Cal State systems?

  11. Markets serve society but government serves individuals… I think most people would say you have this exactly backwards.

    The thing is the market for food is, relatively, free and nobody is starving (in the U.S.). Food is actually the example I keep coming back to. Its more necessary than health care, but we allow the markets to provide it. Water’s the same.

    I wouldn’t insist on sawbones shops (whatever that is), but I think its silly that Walmart or whoever can’t setup up cheep clinics easily. This is partly government’s fault, but its mostly the result of the Doctor cartel. We should have more medical schools pumping out more doctors with fewer hurdles to cross to get their degrees.

    On the last comment: quit arguing against an imaginary Libertarian. I’ve admitted the optimal level of government is not zero. Plus there’s good arguments for subsidizing education/research (of which UC Davis provides both) on the grounds they produce large externalities. Lucky me, aye?

  12. Health care doesn’t also produce large externalities? Can’t do much work or research when you’re dying of polio or tuberculosis.

    Um, the food market in the US is pretty extensively tampered with. Farm Bill has a website. I’m pretty sure that water (in this and other western states, at least), is sold well below market rates, especially to farmers. Why do farmers need government support when the market should autoadjust itself?

    I guess you can make the case that subsidized corn syrup produces large externalities too =)

  13. Don’t think water will do it, no. I’m not sure if the premise behind Cadillac Desert is still valid 15 years after its publication, but I’m not aware of any big changes to the pricing structure either. Look at the recent political fights between Las Vegas and the farm lobby in Nevada.

    Electricity isn’t really a free market right now either, though I won’t point to the rolling blackouts of 2000 as an example of market failure.

    Broadband? There’s a monopoly in my neighborhood.

    How about oil and gas? There are a couple of big competing suppliers in the world, and we’re bumping shoulders with everyone else to buy them.

  14. Well, in any case, the point was relative to health care, these markets are free. The general point is that people trust supermarkets and convenience stores to provide their food. Why not health care?

    I think I should point out that I’m not supporting the status quo… Pointing out the electricity market is regulated, oil is a oligopoly and farmers are subsidized doesn’t really address my argument. I don’t support these policies/outcomes.

    My beef is with monopoly. Government is a particularly scary monopoly because it welds guns.

    The answer isn’t always let the market do its thing. I’m wondering, though, in the case of health care, why not let the market do its thing? By what standard to you let the guys with guns come in and tell people how to run their business? I might be persuaded by arguments weighing the costs of liberty against the gains to equality, but, so far at least, that discussion has involved a lot of heated words, but not much in terms of substance.

    The guys with guns tend not to have a profit motive and that makes us all have warm and fuzzy feelings. Its very hard for me, though, to be persuaded that government run health care is more efficient. Also, without a profit motive, what happens to research and development of new products? Guys with guns don’t have a profit motive, but they’re not necessarily scientists interested in doing the hard work of discovery either.

    So I’m not convinced giving up my freedom will net more equality (or enough equality to make me give a damn), I don’t think the trade-off will give us more efficiency and I worry that innovation in health care will be drastically reduced.

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