Where's my Christmas stimulus?

Is everyone ready for the Christmas season? I'm not.

However, Sean Kinsell got me in the mood with this quote from Virginia Postrel on buying Christmas gifts:

The problem of buying good presents for other people, even people you supposedly know well, illustrates that old familiar Hayekian concept, the knowledge problem. If you can't even give your loved ones the right presents, how likely is it that a central authority could make the right decisions for everyone?
Sean then makes an excellent analogy to government health care:
That's especially true of goods such as health care, in connection with which the criteria for satisfaction vary so widely from person to person. Some people go to the doctor for every case of the sniffles. Others get a general physical every year, see the dentist whenever prompted by a reminder card, and otherwise don't bother with doctors. Still others never see the inside of a doctor's office unless a limb is turning blue and hanging at a strange angle.
Government health care, of course, makes all three equal in the sense that everyone pays for everything. The guy who rarely goes to the doctor would have to pay for the guy who goes to the doctor for every little ache and pain. That this is inherently unfair to the frugal patient (and provides unjust enrichment for the more extravagant patient) is lost on those who think that it is fair to "treat all people equally." It's like asking someone who scrimps and saves by living off beans and rice to suddenly pay into a giant pool to pay for lobster tails and caviar for everyone.

And how long would anyone expect that to last? (About as long as the hypothetical world I imagined in which everyone could write an unlimited number of government-guaranteed blank checks for everything.)

To those believing in individual rights, there is nothing fair about mass (or group, or societal) fairness, because fairness is an individual thing. I see it as inherently unfair that I should have to pay for someone else's health care without my consent. It is no more fair to make me pay for others than it is fair for them to receive their ill-gotten gain. (Of course, communitarianism is considered unfair by individualists, while individualism is considered unfair by communitarians, so this argument goes in circles. However, now that the president has actually stated that there is a "right" to healthcare, the communitarian argument might be poised to win by government force.)

Anyway, with the government in charge, ultimately government-run healthcare makes about as much sense as government-run Christmas shopping. So why not just have everyone pay for everyone else's Christmas shopping? Isn't it unfair that some people get cars, while others get a pair of socks, and still others get no gifts at all?

Why should Christmas be limited by the ability to pay?

posted by Eric on 12.01.09 at 12:03 PM


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