Friday, June 19, 2009

Defending the public option

Health care reform must truly be on the ropes if this column is any indication. Written by Josh Greenman, it argues that the establishment of a "public option" -- basically a government-run health insurance company -- shouldn't be all that scary since we already have plenty of public options in areas outside of health care. His examples are:
  • Education (public schools)
  • Security (private security services and public police)
  • US Postal Service (vs. Fedex, UPS)
  • Science
  • Amtrak (transportation)
  • Recreation (museums, parks)
  • Retirement (Social Security)
  • Books (libraries)
  • Health care (Medicare/aid, the VA)
What's amazing here is that most of these examples grossly underperform -- indeed I have previously chronicled most of them as great examples of the case for limited government.

Amtrak loses money and is crying out for privatization. The performance by public schools against their private counterparts is damning. Medicare and social security are fiscal disasters. The US Postal Service not only loses money but actually relies on Fedex to deliver some of its mail! Government performance is even inferior on parks. Anecdotally I stopped using the DC public library system years ago because I can either buy used books cheaply on amazon or buy new ones and resell them.

This shouldn't calm anyone's nerves about the public option, it should reinforce their skepticism.

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