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“Free” Policies Aren’t Free

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Your headline today reads “Under Health Care Act, Millions Eligible for Free Policies.”

More accurate wording would be “Under Health Care Act, Millions Eligible to Free Ride at Other People’s Expense.”  That the people actually paying for all this “free” health insurance are faceless does not make them unreal – only invisible.  And being invisible, the people footing the bill are ignored by Pres. Obama and other politicians preening publicly over their faux-generosity in spending other people’s money to bribe voters with promises of “free” health insurance.

The ethics of this situation are abominable, and the economics are no better.  Hippopotamuses will fly before reams of rococo regulations, taxes, and sanctions will prevent recipients of “free” policies from over-consuming and inefficiently using health-care resources – and, hence, from driving health-care costs to astronomical heights or health-care availability to dangerous lows.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

Free-rider situations are sources of problems that demand government intervention to end the free-riding (says the mainstream economist) – unless the free-rider situations are themselves created by government intervention, in which case these situations are examples of “Progressive” and enlightened and compassionate social policies.