December 30, 2004

Imports and Price Controls for a Mature Nation

Justin Katz

The idea, which Marc noted in the previous post, that "Europeans and Canadians are able to get quality drugs at lower prices only because Americans pay free-market prices that fuel research and development" is one that I've touched on before. Michelle Malkin had made the point that the price negotiation practices of the Veterans Administration would be catastrophic if transported to a program as huge as Medicare. (She also offers this bit of corrective to the Harrop line: "the [Medicare drug] law will create a number of regional health plans, each of which will be free to use committed-use contracting on its own.")

As I wrote at the time, the benefits of collective bargaining and unified administration only outweigh the costs as long as the group is reasonably small compared with the total market. This goes for various groups within the U.S. market, and it goes for various countries on the global market.

There are a number of topics in which we find other countries getting away with practices that would have dire consequences were the United States to emulate them (the atrophied militaries of Europe come to mind). That, it seems to me, is the price that the U.S.A. pays for being the U.S.A. The question of the century may very well be whether we're a sufficiently mature people to acknowledge and accept it.