The paradox of “free toilets”

John Cochrane writes:

You will jump to “what about people who can’t afford to pay?” as House did, consuming the majority of her article that should instead have been about practicalities. This too is a great teachable moment. One of the top 10 principles of economics is, don’t silence prices in order to transfer incomes.  That dictum is particularly salient here because we’re literally talking about quarters. Let’s add: especially, ludicrously small amounts of income. Is it really wise to silence the incentive to create, provide, and maintain clean safe toilets, in order to transfer a few dollars of income to the less fortunate? 

Before, a person experiencing homelessness had to beg for a nickel to use a toilet. Now there are no toilets. They are worse off than if we had pay toilets and them no money. And, really, does your and my life need to be so screwed up, does the government have to interfere in a business’ desire to provide a clean restroom and make a little money, and your and my desire to pay a small fee to relieve a bursting bladder, because of the problem of transferring a few dollars’ income? Now let’s talk about health care and insurance. 

The neo-liberal or the socialist arguments about the healthcare being “free” are appealing. The extreme end of capitalist system charging through the roof for everything is abhorrent. The insured wouldn’t want to pay for a non-negotiable instrument- health which remains their own responsibility.

How do you address the competing concerns? I am sure there are numerous economic theories to address and each of them remains polarized with their own adherents. However, a specific system cannot be picked up and translated into another devoid of socio-cultural contexts.

I have always strongly advocated for people paying through their own “health-user charges” as part of the healthcare delivery. There is a credible disincentive for moral hazard in case of “free healthcare”. Socialism assumes that there is an endless tap of free money though the need of the hour is to offer it as part of the private healthcare industry with the government defining the regulations. Arguably, the governments have constitutional responsibilities for providing the healthcare- adequate user charges with universal health insurance should be the key. Prevention for chronic diseases (lifestyle diseases) and their morbidity reduction should remain the goal to delivery.

We have a lot to learn from free toilets.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.