Leave it to the Government

Sometime yesterday I was discussing politics. We were comparing how healthcare is handled in various countries — for instance, that hospitalisation in the USA is a mess, while in the United Kingdom healthcare is paid for by the government. So on one end, poor people won’t be able to afford healthcare at all, while on the other, people may wait up to months to be treated.

And why was that? This was apparently something to do with the hospitals and insurance companies. Hospitals are mega conglomerates that monopolise the healthcare industry (yes, I still can’t get over that healthcare is an industry now) and insurance companies have no choice but to accede to their every request to get recognised, and hospitals are then free to jack up their bills, causing patients to become bankrupt trying to foot those bills.

I laughed and said this was mainly the fault of a lack of government regulation then. If the government stepped in and decreed that medicine should have a maximum price, and that businesses weren’t allowed to get so much power that they could trample over everybody else, then we wouldn’t be seeing all these problems, would we? Of course, we see a different problem, something to do with the power of the government like Singapore is facing here, but at least people are not as worried about paying their medical bills.

I saw another example today of private corporations gone wrong. It is summarised in 1 simple picture.

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The abomination you see above is the complete map of all the train lines in Tokyo. There are interweaving lines of different colours and boldness, and some routes seem to go to all the same places. This is because Japan is run by several train companies, who don’t believe in merging. When you pay train fares, you pay separately for different lines unless you get some hyper-expensive all-in-1 card. But really, if the government had stepped in to standardise train routes, maybe some of these lines wouldn’t be as complex as they are now. No monopoly in this case, but just as much trouble in the form of the proverb “too many cooks spoil the broth”.

Capitalism brings with it its fair share of complexities. When you encourage competition, you obviously end up with many competitors, and it’s not always that one will emerge to trump all others. And even if that one does (usually after 2 or more groups join forces) it starts to get greedy and abuses its power to extort even more benefits from the helpless public. Capitalism is not just or fair. They pride themselves on that. Whoever has the most power wins. It would sound fair in theory, except that people are born with different competencies (and privileges), which are valued differently in society. So most of the time it has always been unjust on the outset.

Not that I’m really pushing for government intervention. Governments are also made up of people, who have their own theories and agendas. It is only slightly better than communism, which is made up of even more people also with theories and agendas. There’s no real way to run a country that is perfectly correct, and we cannot always please everyone.

Can we?

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