Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Arguments that generalize poorly

If only Megan McArdle would make the same argument for medical care that she does for congestion pricing:

But that brings us to the heart of the populist argument against congestion pricing, and even express toll lanes, and I think ultimately supports Tim's argument that this is never going to be democratically popular: most people don't pay. And they tend to resent the people who do. It is not an accident that congestion pricing is a system most beloved of people who are a) relatively affluent and/or b) don't drive to work. This tells us empirically why congestion pricing is unlikely to ever get enough political support to be implemented in America. But maybe it also tells us, maybe, why it shouldn't be implemented. Who are we to tell people that they ought to prefer prices to queuing?

The is a reflection of how conservatives often seem to (oddly) switch sides when the question is one of transportation. Clearly, a single payer medical system is the most fair (see Canada). Canada's single payer system has also got issues with efficiency, being one of the few countries to have worse physician wait times than the United States.

But with health care we always see the reverse argument (efficiency > fairness), which strikes me as an odd mixture of priorities. Or am I missing something?

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