A gentleman of The Free Agent’s acquaintance posted a comment on Facebook recently to the effect that he’d sooner trust Congress to provide his health insurance than the “greedy” insurance companies “now prowling the halls of the Capital office buildings”. This is not the first time I’ve heard this argument, that trust is required somehow in the attainment of goods and services. So let’s get this out of the way.
One of the most elegant aspects of capitalism is that trust is irrelevant. One needn’t trust anyone, one only needs to expect that everyone will act in their best interest, not too much of a stretch. The Internet supplies a crucial element of reputation, which used to be provided by word of mouth, to the free market picture—if a company doesn’t do what it promises, word will spread quickly and potential customers will have a way of knowing about it. When she hears the trust argument, rather than argue against the government’s trustworthiness (easy and tempting target though it is), The Free Agent prefers to remove the necessity of trust from the equation. Do I trust Pathmark to provide my food? Of course not. I expect that if they’re making a profit, I don’t have to worry about where my next bag of groceries is coming from. Furthermore, as long as Pathmark, Safeway, Giant, Stop & Shop, Fairway, etc., are all in business, they’re not going to be able to gouge me too much on prices, and if I don’t like one, I don’t need to spend a dime on their products.
So very unlike the “trust the government” strategy! No downward pressure on prices, no option to not pay for goods I don’t want, and what do I do if I’m unhappy, leave the country? The pigs my friend worries so much about are only in Washington because that’s where they’re building the trough.
By the way, this friend is a federal employee. The Free Agent offered this deal in response to his post: she will support his seeming desire to enroll in Medicaid (not Medicare, which is powered by a lobby he’s not represented by yet) on two conditions—that he and others who want political health care pay the full cost of their Medicaid policies, and that The Free Agent gets what he has, access to a dozen private health insurance companies. He did not reply.