Free Market Can’t Do This

I was making my home visits and spent some time talking to a nice woman who lives on disability. She told me that she used to work at a strenuous low-wage job. Now she is in a wheelchair, because one of her knees was destroyed by MRSA and cannot be repaired. What should have been routine surgery became a year-long ordeal when infection set in, and she lost the use of one leg.

Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus is the bane of surgeons and the plague of nursing homes. Oceans of disinfectant and mountains of gloves and gowns can’t eliminate it. But Norway has succeeded in beating back the resistant superbugs. From Americablog…

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now, you economists out there will note the words, ‘public health system’ and also the implication that patients would not be able to shop around for a doctor who hands out antibiotics like candy.

How contrary to a free-market system, where choice rules and rationing is unacceptable, at least to the people with money. In a market system you will darn well get your antibiotic when you demand it, and no government bureaucrat will get between you and the doctor you bought.

Too bad we can’t get nature to go with our program. She keeps cranking out germs faster than we can crank out cures.

What’s called for is some measure of wisdom, some measure of unselfishness and looking at the population as a whole. You may not believe in evolution, but the germs keep on evolving. Antibiotics used wisely are lifesaving. Used selfishly and carelessly they lose effectiveness and leave us outsmarted by bacteria once again.