Monday, August 17, 2009

The "Public Option" and Education

Proponents of ObamaCare argue that offering a "public option" will not prevent individuals or businesses from obtaining private insurance. Let the "market" decide, they chortle, while ignoring that any service that is subsidized by the government is not really competing in the marketplace. A recent article in the Chronicle illustrates this fact:
Several Houston-area public school leaders said they are picking up dozens of new students from families who can no longer afford private school tuition, which can approach $20,000 a year for high school students.

While many parents prefer private education, financial difficulties are making the "public option" more attractive. Faced with the choice between paying tuition or receiving "free" education, many parents choosing the less expensive, though inferior option.

This is precisely what will occur with health care. Businesses who continue to offer private insurance to their employees will find their costs higher than competitors who don't. Financial pressures will drive more and more businesses to the "public option". Insurance companies, who reportedly will be prohibited from writing new policies, will find their customer base steadily decreasing. They will die a slow death.

Consider a few of the restrictions that will be imposed on private insurance companies:
  • Their policies must be approved by government
  • Changes in a policy will render it unacceptable
  • Companies cannot write new policies
If such restrictions were imposed on private schools, they too would be condemned to a slow death. Their curriculum would require government approval, and any changes would render the school illegal. The schools could not attract new students, so as students graduate the schools will have fewer and fewer customers--and ultimately none.

But to recognize this, one must think in principles. Only by thinking in principles can one connect seemingly disparate concrete issues--such as health care and education. Only by thinking in principles can one project the long-term consequences of a particular policy. Proponents of ObamaCare reject principles.

They think that they can correctly say that health care "reform" will not eliminate private insurance, for the proposed legislation does not do so explicitly. Any claim based on principles is rejected as a lie. Any claim that extends beyond the immediate, concrete wording of the proposed legislation is called disinformation.

To claim that the "public option" will compete with private insurers is equally unprincipled. It is in fact a "stolen concept":
The “stolen concept” fallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends.

While offering the "public option" the government will shackle private insurers with a growing list of regulations and controls. Private companies will be at the complete mercy of government bureaucrats, whose edicts will be unchallengeable in court. And this, we are to believe, is a competition. Most would recognize the absurdity of a "competition" in which chains were placed around the feet of Michael Phelps, but when applied to a business the implications are completely evaded.

We can learn valuable lessons from the "public option" in education. To do so, we must look beyond the stated intentions and vague promises. We must use the distinctively human form of cognition--thinking in principles.

Public education is a well-documented failure. Certainly there are exceptions, but they are exceptions. The same will occur with health care, because the underlying principles are the same. The same cause will lead to the same effect, or in computer lingo, garbage in, garbage out.


Scott said...

Excellent post. It is shocking how many people fail to grasp the concepts you've put forward, most likely because they simply refuse to believe that any well-meaning policy could ever have an unanticipated negative consequence.

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks Scott. Today's paper reports that the "public option" may be dead. But our health care is still threatened.

Dawn said...

Or, perhaps people to fail to grasp the concepts because they were educated by the public option and are, therefore, incapable of thinking. Great post, Brian!

Brian Phillips said...

Yes, that is why they can't think in principles--they have been that such things are meaningless.

Rosalie said...

Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.