My Quiet Life My Quiet Life

carson on patents

A few days ago, Kevin Carson posted a pretty good evisceration of this post, among others, by Ron Bailey (who is quickly becoming the Hit&Run contributor I agree least with). A good part, posted without comment:

The one thing we can’t spend it [higher incomes –chris] on is cheaper health care, because the government patent system that Bailey loves so much outlaws competition in the supply of so much of it. (And as for the “higher incomes” that “we” allegedly have, Bailey must have a mouse in his pocket. Average hourly pay for nonsupervisory production workers hasn’t gotten any higher in thirty years. But I’m glad those CEOs have the burden of choosing between bigger McMansions and more gold-plated medical services.)

The title of his piece suggests that if we think healthcare prices are too high, we should consume less of them. But there’s a term for a market in which the seller sets the price without competition, and the only restraint on him is the consumer’s choice of how much to buy at that price: monopoly.

His defense of the amount of money spent on health care in terms of its value to us is rather lame. A lot of things are valuable to us, but when the supplier of them is able to price them according to how badly we want them, you know something fishy is going on. My life is valuable to me, and in certain hypothetical circumstances I’d pay a lot of money to keep it. But when somebody says “Your money or your life,” you can be pretty sure there is a gun involved. In this case, the gun is the patent system and the licensing cartels.