Letter to the Editor by Don Boudreaux
Health Care and the Value of Life
17 June 2009
News Editor, WWL Radio
New Orleans, LA
Dear Sir or Madam:
A listener called in today during the one o’clock hour to assert that “health care isn’t like other services” – and so it can’t be supplied reliably on the market because people are willing to “incur any cost to save their lives.”
First, if this assertion is true, it’s unclear how matters would be improved by socializing the payment of medical expenses. Second, everyday experience shows that this assertion, in fact, is false. If people really are desperate to save their lives at all costs, then everyone would exercise regularly, eat only healthy foods, and completely avoid rock climbing, horseback riding, snow skiing, and tanning booths. No one would smoke, drink to excess, or have unsafe sex. Women would never get pregnant, as there’s still some positive chance of dying while giving birth.
Unless and until people stop behaving in ways that reduce their life-expectancies, it’s mistaken to believe that each of us is committed to living longer at all costs.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University