13 December 2010

The commodification of health care and its consequences in the courts

A Virginia judge has ruled that the section of the health-care reform law that requires individuals to purchase a health-insurance plan or suffer penalties is unconstitutional, on the ground that the Constitutional grants the government no power to oblige people to purchase a commodity or punish them for failing to do so. His decision as a whole is being received as a mixed verdict, since Republicans had hoped that he would strike down the entire law. The Obama administration will certainly appeal the ruling, but should expect no different result from the U.S. Supreme Court as currently constituted. The ruling is probably the inevitable consequence of American persistence in treating health care as a commodity. It's probably not what most Americans meant who said that health care was a right. Were it a right, or had the law made it so, there'd be no talk about buying it or being made to buy it. You'd simply go to the hospital and get it, but that would require a more drastic overhaul of the entire health-care sector of the economy than most Democrats dare contemplate, if not a nationalization of the medical profession. If those alternatives sound radical, today's decision throws into question the wisdom of half-measures aimed at enacting a right through commercial transactions. Instead of questioning the judge's ideological credentials or his reading of the Constitution, blame the party in power for writing a bad bill and the system that made them think this was the best option.


Anonymous said...

A consumer society is bound to eventual collapse because, like capitalism in general, it is based on a false premise that everything is a commodity and that all commodities are infinite.

Once a society has reached a point where the population outstrips the ability sustain itself and all commodities become scarce, collapse becomes imminent. In a manner of speaking, consumerism is a cancer.

LordAzrael said...

Capitalism is not based on the assumption that all commodities are infinite. That would be socialism that believes you can give everything to everyone. Capitalism inherently is about using price to most efficiently allocate SCARCE resources. Maybe you should at least read the first chapter of an economics text before trying to define capitalism.

LordAzrael said...

Actually its communism that assumes that all commodities are limitless, and also that humans will work purely for the common good, without profit motive.

Capitalism assumes that commodities are scarce, and price set by demand and supply is the most efficient method of allocation.

This is first week economics stuff.

Samuel Wilson said...

Azrael, that may be how capitalism describes itself, but it doesn't square with the prevailing assumption that free enterprise can generate unlimited amounts of wealth. If by communists you mean the Bolsheviks, I'd agree that they were just as unconscious of inherent limits, but capitalism as it acts in the world, not the classroom, is just as utopian in its assumptions.