Single-Payer & the Maginot Line

“Where the U.S. corporation has failed — is in its inability to change its objective — not in its ability to achieve it.” – Thurman Arnold.

Even the most passionate pro-business advocates would be hard pressed to disagree with that. As a culture, perhaps even as a species, we tend to value stalwart ideals. We appreciate strength and consistency far more than we do the less tangible characteristics of gracefulness and adaptability. Throughout history, mankind has often clung to the old ways despite overwhelming evidence that doing so might spell disaster.

Just before WWII, the French built the Maginot Line to protect themselves from Germany. Originally planned to span nearly 1000 miles, the completed 280 miles of intricate, chess-like defenses were based on an old fortress mentality dating back to the crusades. We all know how that turned out.

Old ways usually fail to solve new problems. Progress is change, and change is good. Constant change might not be optimal, but timely change surely is. Big business and big government are eminently poor at making timely changes. In fact, they usually have to be dragged along, kicking and screaming like babes to the bathtub, only to realize that once they’re in the warm soapy waters, it’s really not as bad as they thought.

Today, our duty is to drag the big babies of the world kicking and screaming into the future. Job one is to ferret out the mental Maginot Lines of our day.

The most pressing example of outdated thinking is this: free-market solutions are the only solutions, to everything, period. That simply is not true, and demonstrably so.

Warfare, for instance, is never fought according to the foot-loose rules of laissez-faire. Doing so would be suicide. Can you imagine if FDR had called his generals into his office, pointed them toward Germany and said “Go get ’em, boys! And the first one to Berlin gets the best Christmas bonus he’s ever seen!”

There are many ways to slice and dice a country’s economy, but the two most fundamental sectors would be production and provision. Markets are best for production. Governments are best for provision.

Where production is concerned, capitalism is hands down the best model. No contest. Aside from the sheer volume and variety of consumables we produce, quality control methods have evolved to a point known as “Six Sigma” which means instead of having one defective product out of every few thousand, we now reliably have about 3.4 defects per million.

But provision — as in “provide for the common defense” — is not an act of production. It is a facilitation of activities that consummates the best, large-scale objective, and aside from the military, health insurance has to be the clearest example of provision economics.

After all, what is health insurance? It’s where you pay a big, private company a few hundred dollars a month…then, when you get sick, they may (or may not) give some of the money back. There is nothing that private health insurance can do that the government can’t do better. That is a fact, and the two best proofs of that fact are coverage and overhead. Private insurance equals limited coverage and high overhead. Single-payer insurance equals total coverage and low overhead.

Globally, the USA currently ranks #27 in health care. The most powerful country on earth, and our diabolically expensive “free market” system didn’t even crack the top ten. That’s why single-payer is obviously the best way to keep a country healthy. “Single-payer” simply means that the government is the “single-payer” of all the medical bills.

Aside from the fat-cats in the health insurance biz, every American will benefit overnight from a single-payer system. For instance, business owners will no longer be forced to provide health insurance for their employees. Imagine the savings. Employees will no longer keep jobs that they hate simply to provide coverage for their families. Best of all, elderly employees will no longer be seen as a liability simply because, due to their age, their employers are forced to pay stunningly high insurance premiums.

Despite single-payer’s obvious advantages for 99% of America, surely some staid, turtle-faced senator will wag his finger at us and lament, “If we switch to single-payer, hundreds of health insurance CEOs will lose their jobs. How could they possibly learn to live on less than $100,000 a day?”

How indeed. Let’s take the high road here, and show a little magnanimity. Let’s help those poor health insurance CEOs the same way they’ve been helping us for decades. We’ll toss them yesterdays classified ads and tell them to get a job.