Apropos Austrian Aphorisms

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My one rule for government action

If I were to have one rule for government action it would be this: Do not act unless you can make everyone happy.

And because government action is, by definition, acting for one on behalf of another, this should render all government action impossible.

I create this rule thinking about the messy discussion over health care and how it is "broken". Despite centuries, decades, and years of medical progression thanks to the market (i.e., the voluntary actions of individuals)—the greater access to medical care, services, and information; the greater access to nutritional care, services, and information; the greater access to fitness care, services, and information; the reduced cost of all of these; etc.—some people are still unhappy and want the government to step in and force what they believe will benefit some on behalf of those who are reluctant.

I asked myself today, "How is our health care 'broken'?" Fifty years ago you couldn't obtain a sliver of what you can obtain today, and certainly not at the cost. The market is an ever-changing network of consumer satisfaction. Entrepreneurs are constantly assessing and reassessing what it takes to satisfy consumers' endless wants. There is a ceaseless drive to improve the general standard of living. And who would say we are worse off today than in 1999? 1989? '79? '69? and so on and so forth.

Yet this is not enough. Allegedly 47 million Americans are uninsured (compared to the nearly 100% in 1930, health insurance wasn't even an issue!). The United States allegedly ranks 37th in the world in health care. Health care is too expensive. You can't get insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. Hospitals won't admit you without insurance. Etc. The bottom line is: The market doesn't provide for everyone. Not everyone receives what they want. Somewhere, all the time, someone is unhappy. And so the government must act. The government acts in other countries we are told. These countries have cheaper health care. They rank higher in health care. Etc.

Except people still die in those countries. People are still denied treatment. Etc. Not everybody is happy. Some would gladly pay more to receive better health care. They can't. They're unhappy.

If we examine every industry, someone is unhappy. Someone doesn't have as much as they want. Why then, when government is force and benefits one person only by exploiting another, and government does not make everyone happy (and doesn't necessarily increase happiness in general)... why must government act?

According to my rule, it shouldn't.

Published Mon, Jun 29 2009 11:20 AM by thedo


# re: My one rule for government action@ Tuesday, June 30, 2009 5:09 AM

Good rule thedo

Hayek, if I remember rightly, thought the same.


by Mac