Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Dismal Science

Notwithstanding the plurality of undergraduate and graduate credits in Economics on my transcripts, I am not, and have never aspired to be, an economist. The Econ courses I took were never my favorite courses (though I did mildly enjoy some of the ones given in grad school). Nevertheless, I do know the basics, and I do understand that we all function in an economic environment as well as a social, political, legal and climatic environment, each such environment affected by remote events and forces.

Our rabbi is away this week, so it has been somewhat of a challenge to get a minyan (English translation: At least 10 Jewish men so that a proper prayer service can be conducted). Last night, while waiting for numbers 9 and 10, the discussion came to health care. One of the guys present, who lives in Melbourne, Australia but who is here for a month visiting his mother-in-law, mentioned that he can cover the gap in Australia's socialized medicine system by purchasing insurance for his family for the equivalent of about $300 per month, which is obviously far less expensive than the equivalent coverage here in the US.

One of the other guys, who is an electronics engineer, wondered aloud why it is so much cheaper in Australia than in the United States. I said that the Aussies do not have as high an incidence of illegal aliens using the hospital emergency rooms as their primary health care providers. At which point the engineer became very angry and started screaming "What does that have to do with it? Your health insurance is for you, not the illegal aliens! The illegal aliens should not affect your health insurance rates!" And on and on.

This man is an engineer. He certainly understands that too many electronic devices place a load on an electrical circuit. How can he not understand that too many non-paying patients place a load on the health care system? And that the more the healthcare system is strained, the greater the load imposed by one more patient, paying or otherwise! [This is known in economics as the marginal cost.].

It deteriorated even further! As this engineer was advocating for socialized medicine as a cure for the healthcare system's woes, I mentioned that his plan would require even higher taxes. He said, "I don't care what my taxes are, I just want affordable health insurance!"

This is a man who is intelligent, very handy with tools on the workbench, and whom I do hold in high personal regard (he and his wife were, after all, among the first to welcome us to the community when we moved in about 20 years ago). He understands electronics. He understands physics. He even understands meteorology and the workings of storm systems on the weather. But when it comes to economics, the Dismal Science, he goes totally irrational.

What is it about Economics that alienates so many people? It's not just this engineer, but a very sizable cross-section of the population that cannot cope with the simple principles of supply and demand. Including those apparatchiks in the various education unions who, as I write this, are now planning to converge upon Albany to demand more funding and no cutbacks for education, and for lower tuition, all at a time when New York State's budget is in deficit mode.

As for that argument last night, the physician among us did the wise thing. He stayed out of the healthcare argument.

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