Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Value of Nothing

Last night I saw Raj Patel on The Colbert Report talking about his book The Value of Nothing. I've yet to read it but I found that I strongly agreed with some of the things he was saying. What really caught my attention was his observations about how the low prices we pay for products at the store really mask the costs that we pay outside of the store. This has been the direction I've been leaning when talking about health care. There are many problems when trying to insure everyone in America (understatement?). One that jumps out at me is why should I pay for the coronary bypass of some slob who drinks 6 big gulps a day and eats nothing but taco bell. I think this part of the problem is addressed quite well by Michael Pollan who points out all the subsidies and government interference that keeps the prices of these ridiculously unhealthy foods so low. So, just because it only costs a dollar to buy a soda, doesn't mean that your finished paying once you drink it. There are many more 'hidden' costs to be considered, costs to the individual and to society as a whole. Maybe my leftists big-government leanings are wrong, perhaps what we really need is some libertarianism. It seems obvious that if we ate healthier then health care costs would fall and we wouldn't be having such a huge problem. Then again, going towards libertarianism means giving an even freer rein to other big businesses like insurance companies who seem to be motivated but nothing other than corporate greed. So, we need government to regulate some industries more, and we need them to subsidies others less. It can really shake ones faith in capitalism and democracy.

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