Saturday, August 29, 2009

It Isn't Rationing Unless the Government Does It

Seriously: over at Reason, or 'Reason', Ronald Bailey uses a whole mess of words (no rationing there!) to argue exactly that. Here's Bailey quoting himself:

It's not rationing if an individual decides to spend his money on a 16-ounce steak-[d'Fuh?]—but it is rationing if he can only purchase a USDA prime rib eye when he has a coupon issued from a government agency. In other words, true rationing occurs when individuals are forbidden from spending their money on products or services they want to buy.
Right. And as David St. Hubbins says, it's such a fine line between stupid and clever.

If (as Bailey apparently believes) there's nothing inherently wrong with people being denied necessary medical attention, then the only objection to government pulling the plug on Granny is that it is being done by the government. That may work for libertarians, but I don't think it's terribly persuasive to normal people: "under Obamacare, the unobjectionable thing currently being done by health insurers will instead be done by the government!"

So Bailey tries to have it both ways: he uses the word rationing for the emotional impact derived from its primary meaning, while dismissing the thing we all understand it to mean as really no big deal, and claiming some tertiary connotation is the real reason 'rationing' is A Bad Thing.

Fine line, indeed.