It's easy to shop for an OB/GYN, or ask around for LASIK. Try demanding the lowest cost emergency room when you're on an ambulance gurney and hooked up to an oxygen tank after a heart attack, or when your doctor diagnoses you with cancer and says this is the specialist he recommends. At those moments, consumers aren't, to use another fancy economics term, particularly price sensitive... Health care isn't just another widget. -Ezra Klein, fighting for socialized medicine in the U.S. at Tapped.
Mr. Klein will perhaps pardon me for losing patience with this cliché; it is mass-produced in my home country so I am a bit more tired of the stench than he expects his usual readership to be. Here is the question that I think serves to disperse it instantly:
What exactly, on these premises, would be just another widget?
Are shoes subject to the ordinary laws of supply and demand? Try telling that to a child in a snowstorm who doesn't have a pair! Are flashlights a widget? Even been in a blackout without one?--there are times when you'd pay a thousand dollars for a flashlight. If you're homeless, Pizza Pops aren't a widget. They might mean as much to a bum under a bridge as a defibrillator does to a pork-fed executive collapsed in a marbled bank lobby. To a fellow who's just been laid off from the only job he's trained for, food, shelter, clothing, even money itself, all have non-widgetary nature.
So all hail the new lifeboat economics, which instantly replaces orthodox price mechanisms with the scrawlings of an idiot child in the presence of any good that might conceivably be immediately necessary to life, health, or safety. Is there any reason this intrepid nescience should be limited to health care? If we can't plan for an ambulance ride, how can we plan for anything? (Maybe, he said in an ominous whisper, there are no widgets at all.)