Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ontario Libertarian Party

If there is a general principle of the party it might be called reliance on the Invisible Hand. The solution to almost every problem is to have the government do less and leave individuals free to make choices in the marketplace. I read a few of the sections of their platform. I was not impressed. In education vouchers are not even mentioned for example. I include as a sample of their approach their platform on health care. They would do away with any government medicare or even any licencing of physicians. I suppose there will be a market of skilful doctors and quacks and after thousands of deaths and lawsuits--to the great benefit of lawyers, the market will beatifically and efficiently sort it all out for the best. Everyone will be so productive they will naturally provide charity for the poor to get their care, or maybe the market will provide cheap quacks who will up the death rate among the poor, no doubt a splendid thing.
There are about two dozen candidates running for the party. The website is here.
Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom" or even better Nozick's "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" would be much better introductions to libertarianism than this site. Although perhaps Friedman is not strictly a libertarian his emphasis upon the virtues of the free market are very much in the libertarian tradition.

When governments decree all will have free medical care, the laws of nature seem to have been abolished. There is at last something for nothing for everyone.

Time passes. Needs keep growing by leaps and bounds. They become difficult to satisfy. Meanwhile, the taxpayers reach their limit of tolerance for demands to hand over ever more of their money to satisfy the wishes of others. No more can be extracted from them. The easy times are over.

There are now many problems with government health care in Ontario. Notwithstanding high taxes and enormous expenditures, there are shortages of medical staff and facilities, poor allocation and distribution of resources, and inadequate patient care. Treatments are often available only after long waits if at all. These are the consequences of unrestrained demand for “free” services coupled with central bureaucratic planning and government mandated supply restrictions.

In spite of all the problems, 35 years of government health care makes it difficult for many to envision that this important service can be provided without any government involvement whatsoever. Nonetheless, getting government entirely out of health care is the only way to provide the greatest access for the most people to the best available treatment at the lowest possible cost. That is the policy of the Ontario Libertarian Party.

The old-line political parties proclaim themselves able to preserve Medicare in its current form. No matter what they say, you can expect further deterioration to occur while they continue to spend more money attempting to address the scandalous issues which happen to receive media attention. Furthermore, health care will become increasingly privatized in the near future. There is no other way to provide the services. Even now, many who can afford it are forgoing the lower quality service in Canada and are choosing to receive medical treatment in the U.S. To relieve pressure on local facilities, the Ontario government is already sending patients there for treatment.

A mix of private and government medicine will approximate what now exists south of the border. U.S. medical care is probably the best in the world. However, it is very expensive and often unaffordable for people who are ineligible for government assistance and do not have health insurance. Contrary to commonly held belief, high cost and inaccessibility results primarily because American health care is not even close to being free market medical care, with governments in the U.S. being very much involved in controlling and paying for it.

Ontario will begin to have competitively priced, widely accessible, high quality health care the day there is no Minister of Health. A number of outcomes are predictable. Firstly, all the taxes needed to support government health care will be entirely eliminated. Ontario residents will have more money in their pockets. They will then be able to afford to pay for their own medical care and will cease being supplicants begging government to give back some of their own money for this purpose. Another predictable outcome is that variously structured private health insurance plans will spring up to provide protection against disastrous major illnesses. Unlike the U.S. system, the cost of insurance will not be boosted by government laws forcing extended coverage upon insurance companies for political reasons. Those who wish to obtain insurance for more than major medical catastrophes will be able to do so at additional expense.

Once government is out of the picture, there will be less frivolous use of medical services. When the benefit of a service is received and the cost paid by one and the same person, it is less likely there will be abuse. If privately owned insurance companies are paying, they will protect themselves from having their money spent without good reason. At the same time, competition and the need to preserve and improve their businesses will result in a reasonable balance being struck between heavy-handed coverage restriction and too easy payment of benefits. For similar reasons, there will be less health care fraud. Governments simply do not have the same interest in protecting money under their control that you and private insurers have.

A Libertarian government will eliminate any requirement for government licensing of physicians, medical treatment facilities, or other medical care providers. The existing government licensing monopoly reduces competition in medicine by erecting needless barriers preventing or impeding entry into the medical services field. Getting rid of these will lead to increased supply of medical personnel, less costly health care services, and more innovation. Private certification will let us know whether someone is qualified to provide medical treatment.

Dismantling government health cannot be done overnight. A transition period will be necessary. This could take the form of government continuing to pay for medical services for the elderly while requiring co-payment on an increas­ing scale as age decreases. Another possibility is to have the government continue to pay for more serious illnesses with the level of payments decreasing over time. Eventually everyone will be respon­sible for the full cost of their own health care.

What about the poor or the unlucky? This question is often asked. An important Libertarian objective is freeing people to create abundance. Abundance cannot be achieved in the absence of free markets. Where there is abundance people will be more benevolent to those who need help. Where there is scarcity benevolence is less likely and there will be many more poor people needing charitable assistance. Government meddling in health care has led to scarcity. A truly free market in medical services will lead to greater abundance which will benefit everybody including those unable to provide for themselves.


No comments: