I recently had a delightful discussion with a friend who is a physician—we’ll call her Kortney—about the Affordable Care Act.
I’ve long been skeptical of the idea that the federal government could create an efficient and affordable consumer marketplace for healthcare, a notoriously complicated and expansive system that touches many industries. Recent developments, I said, had confirmed some of my suspicions.
I contended a wiser course would be to knock down regulatory barriers, create a natural and competitive national marketplace by allowing Americans to purchase plans across state lines, and subsidize needy Americans on a sliding scale based on means testing.
“You're absolutely correct that you and I will never agree on this,” she said.
She admitted favoring Soviet-style central planning because, in her words, she trusts the government more than greedy corporations.
Kortney is a bright woman whom I respect. But her thinking seemed irrational to me.
It brought to mind a recent post Jeffrey Tucker shared on his Facebook page regarding a new TV show called Incorporated. The show, produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, takes place in a dystopian future in which governments have collapsed (because climate change) and corporations now run the world.
Tucker mocked the idea that the world’s greatest threat is people selling stuff others wish to buy. But he would admit, I suspect, how pervasive this idea is in our politics, art, and culture.
Of course this idea ignores a dark reality: governments killed more people in the 20th century than warfare. The late R.J. Rummel’s book Death by Government (Transaction, 1994) reveals the truth of democide in nauseating fashion.
In light of this, it seems irrational to me that people would fear corporations, which seek to create and sell desirable products and services, more than governments, which can exert direct power over people (both deadly and petty).
We need government, of course; anarchy is not a suitable condition for mankind.
But the simple truth that power tends to corrupt—an idea that runs from Plato’s Republic to the works of Tolkien, and beyond—seems evasive to those who would fear thousands of corporations more than the long arm of a powerful central government.