John Stossel: “Thanks, Private Property!”

Over at, John Stossel has an interesting take on socialism and the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims?


The Pilgrims had clashing ideas about how to organize their settlement in the New World. The resolution of that debate made the first Thanksgiving possible.

The Pilgrims were religious, united by faith and a powerful desire to start anew, away from religious persecution in the Old World. Each member of the community professed a desire to labor together, on behalf of the whole settlement.

In other words: socialism.

But when they tried that, the Pilgrims almost starved.

Their collective farming — the whole community deciding when and how much to plant, when to harvest, who would do the work — was an inefficient disaster.

“By the spring,” Pilgrim leader William Bradford wrote in his diary, “our food stores were used up and people grew weak and thin. Some swelled with hunger… So they began to think how … they might not still thus languish in misery.”

His answer: divide the commune into parcels and assign each Pilgrim family its own property. As Bradford put it, they “set corn every man for his own particular. … Assigned every family a parcel of land.”

Private property protects us from what economists call the tragedy of the commons. The “commons” is a shared resource. That means it’s really owned by no one, and no one person has much incentive to protect it or develop it.

Actually, this failure makes a great deal of sense if we only stop for a moment and apply it to our lives today.

When property rights are tossed aside, even for the sake of religious fellowship or in the name of the working class, people just don’t work as hard.

Why farm all day — or invent new ways of farming — when everyone else will get an equal share?

You may not intend to be a slacker, but suddenly, reasons to stay in bed seem more compelling than they did when your own livelihood and family were dependent on your own efforts.

Pilgrim teenagers were especially lazy. Some claimed they were too sick to work. Some stole the commune’s crops, picking corn at night, before it was ready.

But once Bradford created private lots, the Pilgrims worked hard. They could have sat around arguing about who should do how much work, whether English tribes or Indian ones were culturally superior, and what God would decree if She/He set rules for farming. (emphasis ours)

In the next coming year, you are going to hear a lot from Presidential candidates on things such as socialized medicine and how great it works.

Fact is, it doesn’t.

Canada is being forced to throw more money into the system. England’s system is under attack due to not enough doctors, bad facilities, and a devastating report on maternity care which cited, in part:

Babies left brain-damaged because staff failed to realise or act upon signs that labour was going wrong.
– A failure to adequately monitor heartbeats during labour or assess risks during pregnancy, resulting in the deaths of some children.
– Babies left brain-damaged from group B strep or meningitis that can often be treated by antibiotics.
– A baby whose death from group B strep could have been prevented after its parents contacted the trust on several occasions worried about their newborn baby.
– Many families ‘struggling’ to get answers from the trust around ‘very serious clinical incidents’ for many years and continuing to the present day.
– One father whose only feedback following his daughter’s death was when he bumped into a hospital employee in Asda.
– One parent reporting a ‘closed culture’ at the trust over hospital fears of being sued.
– Families who told how ‘the trust made mistakes with their baby’s name and on occasions referred to a deceased baby as “it”’.
– Multiple families ‘where deceased babies are given the wrong names by the trust – frequently in writing’.
– One family who was told they would have to leave if they did not ‘keep the noise down’ when they were upset following the death of their baby.
– One baby girl’s shawl was lost by staff after her death even though her mother had wanted to bury her in it.
– The ‘misplaced’ optimism of the regulator the Healthcare Commission (a predecessor to the Care Quality Commission) that maternity services would improve following its interjection in 2007.
– Families who were advised ‘they were the only family’, and that ‘lessons would be learned’. The report said ‘it is clear this is not correct’.
– A ‘long-term failure’ to involve families in serious incident investigations, some of which were ‘overly defensive of staff’.

Finland, cited by Bernie Sanders as having a great health care system, is in trouble:

Finland is planning to plough some 200 million euros into municipal healthcare services in the next four years to try and reduce waiting times for non-urgent appointments.

In 2020 an initial 70 million euros will be available as part of the new government’s drive for reform of health and social care reform, as stated by the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru.

“Now is the time for the money to flow to grassroots level,” said Kiueru at a press conference on Tuesday. “If we don’t hire the doctors we need to attract, then how can it be done?”

There are currently some 300 vacancies for doctors at health centres across the country, and the government has vowed to hire an additional 1,000 doctors by 2023.

The money is to be directed at local health centres, rather than specialist care units, as the government aims to get the waiting time for non-urgent doctor’s appointments below seven days.

At present some 43 percent of health centres achieve that.

This despite Finns being taxed at a greater rate than citizens of the US (30% to 28%.)

If you think the Finnish system is “free” (even after higher taxation) think again.

Finland has more doctors per capita than the UK but, at the level of primary care, a far higher proportion of these are private than is the case in Britain. And the Finnish equivalent of the NHS is far from free at the point of use. A GP appointment costs €16.10 (£12.52), though you pay for only the first three visits in a given year. A hospital consultation costs about €38, and you pay for each night that you spend in hospital, up to a maximum of €679. And once you get to the chemist, there is no flat fee; no belief that you shouldn’t be financially penalised for the nature of the medicine you require. The service is not national, but municipal, meaning that poorer areas of the country tend to have a bad health service and limited access even to private GPs, who set up practices in more affluent areas.

We are not trying to say the US health care system does not have problems. We aren’t that naive.

The first step in fixing the health care system would be to limit – not increase – government involvement.

We have seen dramatic increases in health insurance premiums since the Affordable Care Act. Some people are surprised by this even though there is no indication that any government involvement in almost any industry results in lower costs.

When car insurance was first mandated by states, rates rose. The effect has been that people are paying more and the number of insured people on the hasn’t changed much since the implementation of the law. Currently roughly 1 out of every 8 drivers on the road is uninsured but costs of insurance have risen.

The student loan bubble was a product of government intervention.

Arguably, the housing market bubble which lead the the recession was a product of government intercession into the housing market.

If you want a health care example, look no further than the often lousy health care provided to veterans at VA hospitals.

So why do people still think that total government control of health care will improve anything?

Here’s but one example of how government hurts directly hurts health care costs and is based on the “certificate of need” law we talked about earlier in another post:

Dr. Singh treats his patients like family. His career as a surgeon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has always been about taking care of others. So Dr. Singh listened when his patients told him they were struggling to afford the high cost of imaging services like MRI scans in his area. In fact, MRIs cost—on average—close to $2,000 at a hospital in North Carolina. Worse, Dr. Singh’s patients also reported being surprised with multiple bills for the same scan. They would never know up front how much they were going to have to pay for a simple procedure. For an MRI scan, for instance, hospitals will often charge separate fees for the procedure itself, the radiologist’s reading fee and the dye used in the procedure.

Dr. Singh decided there had to be a better way, so he opened Forsyth Imaging Center in 2017 to provide X-rays, ultrasounds, echocardiograms, CT scans and MRI scans at affordable prices that patients could see up front. Patients can pay cash or use insurance, and they always know exactly how much they are going to be charged ($500 to $700 for an MRI scan, for example).

As with any startup, getting Forsyth up and running was expensive. But these expenses have been exacerbated by artificial constraints on Dr. Singh’s ability to recover costs: Instead of buying an MRI scanner, Dr. Singh is forced to rent a mobile scanner on a trailer at an enormous cost. And even then, mobile MRI scanners are required by law to be moved at least once a week, which means Dr. Singh cannot provide reliable access to MRI scans. The freedom to purchase a fixed MRI scanner—which would be available for use every day, on demand—would put Forsyth on much sturdier financial ground and reduce its operating overhead.

Dr. Singh is suing the State of North Carolina over the “certificate of need” law after government regulators decided that there was no need for another MRI scanner in the area. With a closed market and competition controlled by the government, hospitals can charge more for scans. Those higher charges result in people paying more and higher insurance premiums.

There are many problems with socialized medicine.

The first is that there is no data that backs up the idea that costs are lowered. The only thing that happens is that costs are more hidden under higher taxes but the money is still coming out of your pockets. (Unless, of course, you have some sort of magical “faerie dust healthcare money tree” in your back yard.)

The second problem is that in markets, government intervention always increases prices – not lowers them.

The third issue is that socialized medicine tells health care providers – doctors, nurses, lab technicians, etc. – that their labor belongs to and is controlled by the government. It sets up rates that can be charged no matter skill levels, experience, or anything else.

That’s not what freedom – in this case economic freedom – is about.

Government control of the health care system has led to higher costs and yet there are some people who continue to think that more government control will lesson costs.

Stossel’s article makes the point that people are more industrious when they are working for themselves.

We see that all the time in real life – not just from history.

The question is then, “who owns your labor?”

“Who owns your work?”

It should not be the government.

That’s for sure and that is what socialism, including socialized medicine, does. It takes the labor of people and makes it the government’s.

We can’t support that.

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