Morals and Medicine

Brian Beutler notes the fear that Michael Moore has put into the hearts of insurance executives. It seems to me that the main cause here is that Moore has gone where liberal health wonks fear to tread, touching not only on the policy issues but on the question of ethics. He helps tap into the anti-capitalist folk instincts that worry Bryan Caplan. The crux of the matter is that ordinary people think that if there's a sick person, and you're in a position to help the sick person, that you ought to help the sick person.

Insurance companies strengthen this commonsense moral obligation by actually entering into contracts -- you pay them, each and every pay period, so that when you're sick, they'll help you. But insurance companies are largely in the business of devising excuses to avoid helping you when you're in need. They employ people wake up every morning, drive to the office, and work all day denying sick people health care. The labors of these individuals line the pockets of the companies' executives. Most people find this repugnant. Bloodsucking vampires and flesh-eating zombies have the excuse of being driven by insatiable urges. Insurance companies have free will and just choose to do bad things because they're greedy.

That's not an argument that'll win you high grades in a public policy class or get you made a fellow at a think tank. It's demagogic and anti-intellectual. But it's effective and not, I think, entirely wrong