On The Morality Of Choice

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by James E. Miller of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada

The Morality of Choice

Picture yourself walking into a department store to purchase some laundry detergent.  As you approach the aisle stocked full of brightly-labeled containers, you come face to face with a crucial decision.  Which detergent do you choose?  Do you go with the tried-and-trusted brand?  Do you save money with the generic variety?  What’s on sale?  What about the high-efficiency kind?

The choice between something as inexpensive as laundry detergent seems trivial in a modern economy marked by mass production and the division of labor.  But the large selection of goods that consumers are faced with today is an incredible betterment relative to the past thousand years of human existence.  Indeed, the lives of even the most impoverished in Western economies far surpasses that of kings centuries ago.

For all the condemnation it receives by those considered on the forefront of intellectual thought, capitalism is responsible for lifting mankind out of a dreary life of hand to mouth survival.  Economic freedom is ultimately to blame for the higher standard of living the West enjoys compared to the once Communist East.  Material prosperity is a phenomenon not brought to the world by governments but by entrepreneurial spirit.  The state just is a reactionary institution that derives its power from the gun it puts to the back of public’s head.  Those who succeed in the marketplace only do so by appealing to consumers.  Businessmen force no one to purchase their wares less they play footsie with the political class for special privilege.  The pursuit of profit is what drives competition and expanded choice.  Without it, societal progress stagnates as living standards lower.

In Canada, the demand is growing for the country to allow a private alternative to its public health care program to emerge.  In a new poll conducted by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television, almost three quarters of the respondents were in support of a mixed model of health care delivery.  From the Vancouver Sun:

The majority of Canadians support a “mixed” model of health care that would give them the option of spending their own money for care in a private system, according to the results of a new poll.

And three-quarters of them support being able to buy private health insurance for all forms of medically necessary treatment, including cancer care and heart surgery, which they could then obtain outside of the public health care system.

In recent years, the very health of the system has come into question and there has been persistent debate about whether the federal government should allow the emergence of a “mixed” model in which the non-profit public system and for-profit private system operate side-by-side to give patients greater choice.

As many know, the Canadian health care system is publicly funded and under strict government control.  Care is administered in so-called “private entities” that receive their funding from the various levels of government.  In reality there is little private competition.  It has been this way since 1984 with the passage of the Canada Health Act.  The only exceptions are dental work and drug coverage which aren’t usually covered by the government but by private insurance.

According to the Vancouver Sun article, the mixed model would allow Canadians to purchase private insurance “for all forms of medically necessary treatment, including cancer care and heart surgery, which they could then obtain outside of the public health care system.”  It is believed that such an option would relieve the wait times for major surgeries.  While the extending of private competition is certainly a step in the right direction, it will by no means be the definitive cure to a non-market model that lacks the necessary characteristics which allow markets to function.

The problem with Canada’s health care system is the same problem every socialized industry faces: the lack of price signaling.  Doctors are prevented from charging extra and user fees are prohibited.  Services can’t be rationally allocated because consumers have little indication of prices.  Government acts as a third party by picking up the tab and concealing the true cost of care.  State administered health care almost always has the same results of high demand, low supply, and scarcity of service.

Economic issues aside, Canada’s health care system isn’t lacking in just market incentives.  What is missing is the allowance for something so simple and taken for granted, it hardly receives serious consideration.

What I am referring to is the option of having a real choice when it comes to medical care.

Choice itself is really an extension of the moral basis for capitalism.  In exercising your preference for a particular good or service, you are really exercising your free will to consume.  Choice is the embodiment of freedom, private property, and is the key ingredient to rising living standards.  As long as people aren’t obstructed from pursuing their interests, they will act in a way to improve their own lot.

What government does through its various regulatory edicts is stomp down upon the free interactions of others.  The political class can only inhibit commerce; it can’t enhance what would otherwise be unrestricted.

To imagine what the prevalence of choice in healthcare would look like, it helps to picture the world of television’s The Simpsons.  In the famous cartoon show, two reoccurring characters are that of Dr. Julius Hibbert and Dr. Nick Riviera (typically referred to as Dr. Nick).  Fans of the show should easily remember that Dr. Hibbert is considered the more competent of the two while Dr. Nick is horribly inept.  Given his track record and blatant incompetence, few would trust Dr. Nick to perform major medical procedures.  However, despite all of his shortcomings in being a professional, he might still be able to perform relatively simple medical procedures and check ups.  Because of the low quality of care he offers, Dr. Nick would thus have to bid down his prices to appease consumers.  As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

The question is, why should consumers not be able to choose Dr. Nick over Dr. Hibbert even with their clear differences in ability?  Surely Dr. Nick would botch any complex procedure, but should he be barred by the state from practicing medicine?  Should consenting adults not be allowed to pay for his services?

Recommending that someone reconsider their choice in doctors and forcefully prohibiting them from doing so are two starkly opposed positions.  The former is a recommendation without the threat of violence to back it up.  The latter is the crushing of liberty by dictatorial insistence.  In erecting legal barriers to industries, what the political class is effectively telling the public is that they are incapable of making sound decisions without the help of the paternalistic state.  The real objective is instilling an all-encompassing dependency to a nanny government that is always on the prowl for excuses to increase its own power.

It is a shame that Canadians currently have little choice in medical care.  It is equally disheartening that “for-profit” industry is demonized while a system built up on the violent suppression of genuine competition is dominant.  What’s really perplexing to hear big government supporters antagonize over the threat of monopolies when they give full dedication to the greatest monopoly of all.

With the outlawing of a complete private option, the Canadian authorities have denied the people the right to do as they see fit with their own property. It has, in essence, disallowed them to be human and exercise their own free will.  As Ludwig von Mises wrote, “under capitalism, private property is the consummation of the self-determination of the consumers.” With “government knows best” superseding consumer choice, Canada’s health care system will only continue to suffer in terms of quality and service.  And it is all because the most human of all aspects has been forcibly removed; that is the ability to choose for oneself.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Freedom and capital, bitchez!



We provide buyers of rolling bearings in Peru a CHOICE!  Anytime someone buys one of our Korean bearings, that means they saw value in OURS vs. the competition.

Fancy Bear's picture

Two important points:

1) Canadians already can and do buy private health insurance, which covers care provided at private hospitals (generally in the US).

2) #1 doesn't compromise the public system because individuals must purchase such insurance in addition to participating in the public system. Thus, the universal system benefits from decreased utilization when people use supplemental insurance.

It's a beautiful system the US has no hope of approximating any time soon.

mjk0259's picture

Yes, even in the linked article it says 80% want non-profit health care vs profit or mix of non-profit or profit.

MillionDollarBonus_'s picture

I really liked this article, which highlights the role of “public-private” initiatives in the 21st century:


It’s a great compromise between the left and the right, that can bring everyone together to build practical solutions to social problems. The article examines previously successful public-private initiatives like the emergency financing of General Motors in 2009, and how we could build on this success by mandating green technologies. It’s not about government vs the free market, as libertarians like to characterize it. Government can work WITH corporations to achieve positive outcomes for all Americans. Public-private – who could disagree with that?

GMadScientist's picture

"Public-private – who could disagree with that?"

Pretty much everyone.

Precious's picture

Obama, Pelosi, Reed and the Rinos have led us to the kind of choice you get in China.  It's not a tax.  It's a penalty.


jeff montanye's picture

imo public/private initiatives are the essence of fascism.  i'm more inclined toward the usefulness of countervailing forces: profitable corporations with strong, shareholder-friendly boards of directors, consistent enforcement of just and practical regulations by a rule of law government, good labor unions that truly represent their workers' interests and a curious, adversarial, investigative press.  so pretty much utopian.

PulpCutter's picture

Bullshit.  China is about corruption and state control, which the GOP specializes in.  Check the vote totals: on issue after issue that has supported corruption -  NAFTA, the "Patriot" Act, Gramm-Leech-Bliley (repealing Glass-Steagall), Commodities Futures Modernization Act, etc - virtually the only no votes are from the Democratic side of the isle.

The GOP is trying hard to be "China West", hoping they'll get some crumbs that fall off the table. Just ask your Senate minority leader, Mr. Elaine Chao.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Sounds like Democrat Citizenism to me, comrade

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

A penalty that happens to be collected by the IRS and if you don't pay that, they'll put you away using the same "legal" basis as those who refuse to pay the IRS which has no business existing.

whoisjohngalt11's picture

you are  a very good troll , always in Character, :-)

Pure Evil's picture

Not really, in a later post he claims only the state knows what's best.

MDB is a hypocrite

Reptil's picture

Yes, but ONLY if there are very VERY STRICT controls that prevent conflicts of interest. It's IMPOSSIBLE to serve two goals that are radically different. It's not that hard a concept to grasp.

Otherwise you're opening the door for FASCISM.
Also there must be complete openness and awareness of the public (whatever the construction). Pretty hard to do when the banks OWN the newspapers and news outlets (like they do here)

Otherwise it's a setup. And leads to the lobster trap the world will find itself in, very soon. (prognosis: FUBAR)


one thumbsup for the hilarious "green" reference. you must've been inspired by the good honest folks at the IAEA.


bigkahuna's picture

yeah, that sounds beautiful.

orangegeek's picture

Canadians pay 50% in income taxes plus a 13% VAT.  So every six months, Canadians skip eating for two weeks to pay for their private insurance.

Manbarepig's picture

That must explain the almost 40% lower obesity rate in Canada, eh?

Mareka's picture

US sickcare system allows no price discovery.

Several years ago I needed to have a CAT scan and knew my insurance wouldn't cover it.

I asked at the radiology clinic that performed the test what the charge would be and they did not know.

This is a test that they perform every 20 minutes every day but no one in the office could tell me an approximate price.

Apparently no one had ever asked that question.

They sent me over to a separate office that handled insurance claims who gave me a price range of $1,200 to $2,800.

That number could vary more if more people reviewed the results and sent in separate bills.

Until the discussion centers around how much heathcare costs and why, instead of how to pay for it, there will be no long term solution.


vast-dom's picture





Reptil's picture

Fabric softeners are like a toxic coat.

Got some links please of products or brands that are ok?

wrs1's picture

Capitalism is nothing but a dream in the minds of some people.  It is people that are responsible for every bit of that progress cited in the article, nothing other than that.  Systems of thought such as capitalism are not people, systems of thought produce nothing and people don't need systems to motivate them.  As far as I can tell, ism's are responsible for the enslavement of man and these products on the shelves are the result of the enslavement mentality.

As to the real world of business, the person that wrote the article obviously never ran a small cash-flow positive business.  They are grossly naive with respect to the "entreprenuerial spirit".  So was I when I started my business.  I ran a small business for 15 years and all but one were positive cash-flow.  I don't think it was any kind of example of how one succeeds by working hard.  I was run over by larger businesses that lied about their products and services and by crony capitalism up and down the line.  If you weren't part of the group, it was damn hard to sell a thing, no matter how good what you had to sell was.

Finally, isn't it the pursuit of profit that produced the limor scandal and the subprime failure and the failure of the whole mortgage securitization scheme?  Surely this isn't the kind of thing we should be desirous of and if it produces that kind of result, how good are the products it produces?  Not that good IMO.

InjuredThales's picture

Funny, but people thrive under the auspices of some systems of thought, and stagnate or regress under others. 

Opportunity for consumption is a function of enslavement (or rather degrees of enslavement). It's just that you have the direction of that function upside down.

wrs1's picture

The more you consume, the more you are enslaved by the very desires that drive you to consume.  I believe a number of highly regarded people have aptly pointed that out over the centuries.  I am not sure that is the function to which you were referring though.

Oh regional Indian's picture

That wrs1, is the disease of Supply Side-ism. A fractal, in-finite growth model, which, just like it's medical counter-part, cancer, finally finds it's full expression in an oxygen starved environment, ultimately kills it's host. 

The faux choice that the supply-side presents is merely same-ness in disguise. The root move is a move to demand-side mechanics in every sphere of our lives.

This so called choice? It's the mother of cognitive dissonance. It's true, CD ;-)



bigkahuna's picture

the real battle is statism versus individualism. Where is the median? 

The capitalism/communism/socialism titles are window dressings.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Remember.  Economic Freedom also means the freedom to fail.


CrockettAlmanac.com's picture

That's what makes capitalism work.

MachoMan's picture

work towards regulatory capture and ensuring that failure means YOU pay, not them.

Sophist Economicus's picture


Capitalism is nothing but a dream in the minds of some people

Uhm,  Capitalism is a DESCRIPTION of a system where individuals get together and FREELY trade their goods in services with other individuals WITHOUT being harassed.    Each side of the transaction benefits or else there would be no transaction.   What happens in the 'real world' falls far short of this.

As far as I can tell, ism's are responsible for the enslavement of man and these products on the shelves are the result of the enslavement mentality

'ISMS' are responsible for nothing.    Individuals, in positions of power (however obtained) AS WELL AS THOSE WILLING to subject themselves to their abuse are responsible for any ills you may feel towards the 'ISMS'.


As to what you write about small business, etc.   What can be said?   Hard work, capital, etc are not sufficient nor even necessary conditions for success.   If you have an idea, follow it with passion, work hard at it, etc you  WILL PROBABLY fail more times than succeed.   I worked in the large corporate sphere for years and now I own several small businesses.    Each have their risk and reward.   I like the freedom to succeed or fail, and I've been on both sides of that equation.

MachoMan's picture

You're talking about free markets, not capitalism...  the only way free markets remain free is to have government intervention...  however, government intervention necessitates central planning, regulatory capture, mandated monopolies, barriers to entry, and ultimately, fragility.  Capitalism is at least conceptually some balance of government forces (keeping markets free) and market participants (those seeking to avoid the normalization of profits/competition), but it falls off the apple cart due to the allure of absolute power being greater than the discipline of humans and the political acitvism of those uninvolved.

The concept of free markets is a unicorn...  that has never seen the light of day for more than an instant and only in a particular locale... 

Apocalicious's picture

The concept of a society free from murder, rape and theft is also a unicorn. Such has never existed, at least in the 10,000 years of history I've studied. However, these activities are more common in some societal structures and less common in others. In the same vein, should we not strive to be more like the economic structure that has always been correlated with the most rapid expansion in average standard of living for a group of people throughout history, despite the undeniable fact that in practice this economic structure must certainly fall short of its theoretical "perfectly" implemented version?

MachoMan's picture

Well...  I think "try" is an interesting term.  If your "attempt" involves setting up a system that requires exponential growth to continue, is that really an attempt in the most realistic sense of the word?  Especially considering that the boom bust cycle inevitably leads to placing the entire world at risk should the boom go more wrong than usual (development of world killing technology and all), taking into account the interconnected and interdependent nature of the world economy and political organizations.

I think an attempt necessarily entails an examination of the proposed system's durability...  otherwise, an attempt is merely repeating actions we know not to work...

Lebensphilosoph's picture

'Isms' mould thoughts and thoughts provoke and direct actions. Of course 'isms' are responsible for things.

Everybodys All American's picture

What you fail to understand is the examples of limor, subprime, etc. are failures of law enforcement and not capitalism. I would also tell you that not using bankruptcy is another failure of this current era and is again an example of not following capitalism rules. Capitalism has to allow for profit as well as bankruptcy when failure occurs. What you have now under Obama is not even close to capitalism. Is it any wonder?

MachoMan's picture

The political system is ALWAYS beholden to the economic system.  As a result, limor, subprime, etc. are failures of the economic system, not law enforcement.  The desire of market participants to avoid the normalization of profits (manifesting itself as regulatory capture) is a natural function of the market...  If you let people do as they please, it ALWAYS happens...  it's how order comes out of the chaos...

What we have now can be described as capitalism...  it can also be described as socialism...  the truth is that it's both...  and EVERY economic system is a mixture of both.  

You're confusing capitalism with the theory of free markets...  that theory is meant solely for an academic vacuum...  whereas capitalism actually has some real world experience, it's still always subject to the desires and incentives of rational actors to avoid the normalization of profits...  the instant you attempt to utilize government to avoid this action, you either digress into regulatory capture that solidifies the acts or further down the spectrum towards socialism (albeit the same guys at the helm or..  the "party").  

Capitalism and socialism are just different points on the same timeline...  they're really just ways of describing the particular sex act taken out on the plebs' anus.

killedbyshortvol's picture

It's worth considering how much of standards of living were "fought for with blood" vis a vie "trickled down" by Capitalism.

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism - it's all bullshit. The best we can do is simply strive for the most open system we can, a system that allows human beings to exchange goods, services and ideas to the greatest extent possible, with "the greatest extent possible" decided democratically by human beings (not corporations) and human beings (not corporations) protected by inalienable rights. It's obvious that, as more people populate the planet, "the greatest extent possible" becomes more limited and democracy, therefore, becomes ever more crucial. Good grief, enough with the lame-ass "isms" from simple-minded twits.

I want to vomit when I hear people speak of the economy as an entity that exists separate from human beings. An economy is a metaphysical entity that does not exist without human beings. Economies, therefore, should serve human beings, not the other way around (unless of course we're masochists). As for "Economics", well that just appears to me as nothing but narrative created by human beings about what is happening as a result of human beings' behavior (also, a wonderful source of mental masturbation for creative academics and intellectuals).

midgetrannyporn's picture

division of labor my butt. the proles do all the work and the maggots steal all the money. the division of the 99% from all the cash and power is what it is.

InjuredThales's picture

Yeah, those proles are just so wonderful. Can't get enough of all those people who, if it were up to them, would still have us living in caves and grubbing for berries and insects with our bare hands.

Ohhhh, the poor proles! Such victims!  You can deny the equity of this sytem without this ridiculous populism frere Gracchus!  Your lumpen working stiff may be honest and all, but what have they ever given that 6 billion contemporaries couldn't give?

Dr. No's picture

That same freedom of choice resulted in the iPhone... There are pros and cons.

wrs1's picture

I got an S3, the iphone is what my wife and kids have, it can't compare.

Dr. Engali's picture

"Businessmen force no one to purchase their wares "

No but now you can be forced to through tax policy.

Dr. No's picture

as well as the complexities of that tax policy will require you to buy software to complete your mandated returns.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Applications that assist with regulatory compliance (government and industry)are all the rave.

 Too bad for T3, who cannot even use the simplest of them all.

midgetrannyporn's picture

I didn't order those baby bombing drones via amazon, did you? I didn't order those xray machines at the airport either.

LowProfile's picture

Shit, you can order those drones via Amazon?  Wit sidewinderz n' everthing?

Ima get me three or four, gonna set up 24/7 air surveillance over my compound.  2nd amendment bitchez!

wrs1's picture

Maybe not but they sure are willing to lie about what the product does in order to sell it.  That's pretty much forcing it on people with false claims.  This is how the big software companies operate.

Totentänzerlied's picture

Ah yes, blame the shrewd producer for the idiot consumer. Very good. Difference between the state and private enterprise: one can force you to do something or else, the other must compete for your business. If they succeed in outcompeting their rivals, who are you to say it's unfair? A fool and his money will soon be parted no matter who is setting prices. Trying to protect people from their own stupidity and/or freedom to make mistakes is the worst good intention.

AnAnonymous's picture

And when the state is private, what gives?

AnAnonymous's picture


Not to be confused with brown or black shirts, red coats...