Saturday, June 06, 2009
"Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy.
This is why universal health care needs to be the norm. After that it can be debated whether a mix of public and private health care is a good idea (and it probably is; if you are a private company capable of providing better service for less then you should be allowed to compete), but due to the nature of disease it's in a country's interest to provide the assurance that health care will always be available.
The same occurs with education, and the logic behind giving the assurance that these can be obtained for free is very simple: the number of years of productivity wasted by individuals that are forced to pay large sums for one or the other. When education reaches tens of thousands of dollars per year this means that students generally only have one shot at it; they either find a way to save up the money beforehand, their parents have to foot the bill, or they get a huge loan to pay for it, and the degree they acquire better be worth the cost because there's no way the student will be able to go back to university soon after graduation and entering the workforce. If the student then wants to get a master's later on that also requires quite a bit of saving up, which generally means wasted years as most people want a master's because they don't like the job they're working in, and thus will be leaving the company as soon as the opportunity strikes. Health care is similar to this except that it strikes unknowingly. One day you have a productive worker at a company with a gradually increasing wealth, and the next day all of a sudden you have someone struck with a huge bill that takes years to pay off, and with that you can say goodbye to the new car/stereo/computer/whatever that person had intended to buy.
Each country needs to provide these services in their own manner so one size doesn't fit all in health and education, but the issue needs to be looked at from the point of view of productivity (where much more common ground can be found) instead of an emotional one - health care is a right, education benefits culture, etc. Depending on how much of a strain on the budget it is, a country might only want to provide free education in areas where labour is most strained, such as math, science, engineering and so on, and perhaps other areas less crucial to industry (philosophy, religion) would remain paid for by the student.
Also don't forget that an investment in those industries then make it less necessary to bring in immigrants to do the job. Not that immigration is bad but it's always easier to find someone within the country to do a job if there's a sufficient amount of people educated in the field.