Politicians tell us what a policy is supposed to do, what it is intended to do, and they ask to be judged by their intentions. The so-called Affordable Care Act, we were assured, was intended to make health insurance a better value and to make health-care institutions give their customers better service at better prices. Never mind the unspoken premise that is the law’s foundation — “We can radically increase demand for health-care services while reducing costs and improving quality because politicians are magic!” — and its inescapable contradictions. “We meant well,” they say, and that is supposed to be enough.But that's why I never lacked for work.
It falls largely to persnickety, unpleasant eat-your-spinach types, and to certain happy souls blessedly liberated from the romance of politics by events and experience, to document that what is supposed to happen and what happens are not the same thing. Britons and Canadians and Americans can go on all they like about their “right” to health care, but calling something a right does not make it any less scarce (indeed, it is absolutely meaningless to proclaim a “right” to any scarce good), and whether you choose an anything-goes free market or an Anglo-Soviet single-payer monopoly model, there is going to be rationing, normally through the instrument of price. The only question is whether you get to make that decision for yourself or whether an Orwellian [official] makes it for you. You can raise wages at Walmart in the naïve expectation that there will be no consequences — in much the same way that all manner of bad decisions begin with the exhortation, “Here, hold my beer.” But there will be consequences. You can loot California until the only people comfortable living there are too rich to care or too poor to care, but the people between those limits have cars, and they know where the local U-Haul office is.I think Mr Williamson mischaracterized Paul Krugman on the matter of inflating a housing bubble as a way of offsetting a popping dot.com bubble, because, he, too, is aware of the presence of tradeoffs, and of unintended and unanticipated consequences to policies that sound so good when debated in Congress.