Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Test of Logic

In response to a discussion question on state subsidies of higher education several of my students wrote, "Everyone has a right to a college education who wants one."

That doesn't sound too bad, does it? But, what if we test the syntax by simply subsituting another good or service as the direct object of the sentence. How about "Everyone has a right to a car/boat/iPod who wants one"? How does that work for you?

A college education may be a "public good" and therefore it may be proper to subsidize it since the state will benefit from a better educated populace, a better equipped work force and a higher income base for collection of tax revenues. But, it also may be an individual responsibility governed by a free market.

What if we throw one more issue into the mix, the US Constitution and its limits on governmental power?

Try this fantasy. The government decides it is going to go into business in a market which already has an over-regulated private enterprise model in operation. The government will provide a product in direct competition with the free-market. The government will set pricing based on an arbitrary standard of what a consumer is able to pay and without regard to the cost of providing that service. The government will subsidize through direct payments to the buyer the purchase of the government's product without regard to the cost of the service. The government will mandate that certain traditional purchasers of the product will buy the government's offering or suffer fines and possible imprisonment. Does that make sense? Does it scare you a little bit?

Now, let us say there are some moral perspectives to be overlaid on the product which the government is going to provide in competition with the free market. Because of that political dynamic the government will not offer tax-payer dollars for some controversial aspects of the service which other private companies provide. And, to finish the scenario the government will then outlaw provision of those services by the free market company so that it will be removed from legal free-market access.

It sounds pretty heavy handed and indeed seems to this observer to be clearly an over-reaching, well beyond anything authorized by the enumerated powers of our Constitution. Of course, by now you recognize that the government established business is healthcare insurance and the particular service is family planning medical functions, most specifically abortion.

But, what if that same operational model were applied to auto insurance. Is it proper for government to compete with private insurers by offering a product with subsidized purchase and at cost unrelated to risk. Would it be proper for government to not offer theft insurance and then prohibit any free-market competitor from offering that insurance either? Clearly the answer is no.

Play this game with other industries. You will have a lot of interesting scenarios. Use automobiles, computers, groceries, underwear, coffee pots or any other product. you will have some laughs and you will always reach the same conclusion.

1 comment:

Six said...

There you go again. Using logic to emphasize absurdity.
You must dig deep and feel the pain. Logic wants when emotion rules.
Give yourself to the dark side.