18 May 2012

Allocating Scarce Resources

If only there was some way to solve this problem:

People struggling with headaches, toothaches, and even feelings of loneliness are calling 911 -- often several times a day.
This chronic abuse is overwhelming what industry experts call the 911 "safety net" system. It's also wasting what could add up to billions of dollars every year, paid ultimately through higher taxes and medical fees.
This costly problem has gone unnoticed in the current debate on health care reform.

Oh wait; there is a way to efficiently allocate scarce resources:  it’s called the free market.  In the free market, people bear the direct costs of that which they consume, instead of offloading the costs onto a third party.  While this might seem heartless, it’s actually better in the long run because it ensures that valuable resources—like emergency help lines—are given to people who have a substantial need for them instead of being given to someone who is, say, “suffering” from a cold.

Now, there are probably some who might object that deserving people may fall through the cracks.  This is a rather insulting objection, though, as it presupposes that everyone is as uncharitable as the average leftist.  The reality of the situation is that there will likely be some form of charity provided to poor people who are truly in need of emergency consultations.  Of course, this charity will undoubtedly be provided for by those who defend the free market, and not by the socialists who want the government to provide for everyone’s needs, even if that means letting people suffering from the sniffles waste everyone’s time by tying up emergency help lines.


  1. The solution is to fine people who misuse 911, not to charge its users by the minute, or to make 911 require health insurance, which are the kind of things the free market would inevitably lead to.

    Your statements that free market champions would donate an emergency service don't hold water. It's like the shady salesman saying, 'Don't worry that my verbal promises aren't in the written contract, you have my word!' If party X is supposed to be the one providing some necessary service in whatever scheme, then let's get that in writing.

  2. @Xamuel- Having users bear direct costs is pretty much my point. The specific avenue by which this occurs is of no concern to me. As long as users somehow bear direct costs, then the market is working.

    Also, at the risk of making Karl Popper roll over in grave, the historical trend has been that the more pro-market segment of the population is also the more personally charitable. There's plenty of research that indicates that self-identified conservatives give more than self-identified leftists, with the former group being more pro-free-market.