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Responsibility for Health Care

Here's a letter that I sent recently to the Los Angeles Times:

Writing about medical-care provision in America, Ezra Klein laments
that "we abdicate collective responsibility and let individuals fend
for themselves" ("When it comes to healthcare, the U.S., Britain and
Canada are hurting
," April 7).

Mr. Klein's anthropomorphizing of
the collective causes him to get matters backward.  Collectives aren't
sentient beings; they're abstractions.  As such, a collective cannot be
responsible (or irresponsible) any more than it can be sexually excited
or break its wrist.  Only individuals are capable of acting
responsibly.  But when some individuals, masquerading as oracles for
"the collective," take resources from other individuals and then use
some of these resources to subsidize individuals' consumption, each
individual whose consumption is subsidized does behave irresponsibly. 
Each subsidized individual is freed from the necessity of taking
account of the full costs of consuming the resources he uses.  That
individual, therefore, no longer ably responds to economic reality; he
becomes truly irresponsible.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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