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Socialized Medicine and Rationing


A news story from Great Britain highlights an essential flaw of socialized medicine and of our own, also highly collectivized system of medical care. Namely, that it results in having to choose between bankruptcy, to pay for unlimited medical care, or the government's rationing of medical care, including its denial to people whose very life may depend on it.

Thus, a branch of Britain's National Health Service was upheld by a judge of the country's High Court in its refusal to pay for the expensive cancer drug required by a 54-year-old woman to extend her life, and who had brought suit to compel it to pay. The judge wrote that he found nothing "irrational" in the refusal to pay, which was based on the proposition that "`The primary care trust has to care for the whole population . . . . We have other people in our community who don't have a strong voice, and we have to consider them.'"

This rationale and its acceptance by a judge is an illustration of what Ayn Rand, with good reason, used to describe contemptuously as a "collectivist stewpot." Here is an individual, the cancer victim, who has been compelled to pay taxes all of her life to help finance the National Health Service and has thus been equivalently deprived of funds she might have used for her own medical care and who now cannot obtain medical care because the funds are required for others, whose need for her money is held to be more important than her own.

Such a situation is apparently all well and good as far as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is concerned. Last December, in arguing for socialized medicine, he wrote: "Eventually, we'll have to accept the fact that there's no magic in the private sector, and that health care - including the decision about what treatment is provided - is a public responsibility."

There is a different system: namely, that medical care is the responsibility of each individual and family, with the right to keep and use its own money for its own purposes and to choose the best it can find for its money.

This is the principle we follow with tremendous success in the purchase of food, clothing, automobiles, computers, and almost everything else. Its abandonment in medical care, and also in education, is the cause of the great and growing problems we are now experiencing in these areas. But more on this in future postings.


This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that the author's web site www.capitalism.net is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved.


George Reisman

George Reisman, Ph.D., is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics and the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996; Kindle Edition, 2012). More articles like these can be found at his blog.