Thursday, November 5, 2009

A touch of irony caught my eye

While checking out some of the day's news on Google I came across a headline, "Students at Queen's Park to protest poverty."

Reacting to the first line of the article, "Hundreds of student protesters...[forced] road closures and traffic snarls for part of the afternoon," I couldn't help but chuckle at the irony.

The way to end poverty is to get out of the way and let entrepreneurs engage in production and trade. Forcing road closures and traffic snarls not only effects commerce and trade, but also the quality of life of those whose free time was ruined, which is probably more important. Afterall, we work so that we can produce a more enjoyable standard of living, not just for the sake of production.

I could have just let it go with a chuckle over the irony had these students been addressing serious solutions to poverty (of which we in Canada really know nothing about, but I digress...). Instead, the protests were pushing predictable ideas of more government interference in the wealth-producing private sector in order to redistribute funds.

The article goes on to mention that the students were also concerned about rising unemployment and rising tuition set against the backdrop of the current recession. The students are concerned about their futures, and for good reason. If only they understood about the debt they are inheriting, they would have far more reason for concern about the future. My one-year old niece is on the hook for $15,000 of federal government debt, just waiting for her in the coming years. And due to the policies of the same government, I have trouble forming an optimistic outlook for the job market she will be participating in.

We are on the verge of discovering what real poverty is all about. Thankfully, Canada hosts a great deal of opportunity with the vast resources that could be put to good use in a free market. If only we let the private sector produce wealth, it will pull us all higher.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Flames should be vaccinated

An uproar has resulted from Calgary Flames players and their families receiving preferential treatment in receiving h1N1 flu shots while many Albertans were turned away due to a shortage of the vaccine. Other stories tell of the Flames' farm team, the Heat, receiving shots at an undisclosed clinic.

No one should be surprised to hear of such things happening. But there are important points to consider here. First, there is a shortage of the vaccine. Whether it is Dion Phaneuf or John Q. Public who is turned away by the shortage is moot. In the sense that there wasn't a random selection, or some discerning criteria for selection, it is very troubling to see a group of people given the shots instead of another group, the regular Joes that stood outside public vaccination clinics only to be turned away. But in general, I feel no better or worse knowing that the limited group of people receiving the treatment were of one group or another.

What bothers me about this situation is that free market principles would have enabled the Flames to pay for vaccination according to high market prices (induced by the shortage). But instead we reject market principles because it seems unfair to allocate resources through free transactions. But I ask those who cringe at the thought of the wealthy buying up vaccines, is it any less troubling to watch a shortage affect the wealthy than the poor? At least if the market forces were at play, there would be some additional revenue to speak of which could be reinvested to produce more vaccine. And when shortages cause prices to be bid up in the market, it signals entrepreneurs to invest in the activity and provide the product so that they can get a cut of the action.

Instead the government wants to ration out the vaccine according to certain criteria and otherwise to random selection (or first come, first served). While putting a price on health care seems cold, there is no moral high ground to random selection. This is particularly so when we consider the harmful effects of government supply mismanagement and disinterest in maximizing revenues that could be reinvested into ongoing production of the vaccine.

Just think, the Flames could have been vaccinated AND there could have been a profit to encourage further production of the vaccine to counter the shortage.