The first step was to involve the government in “public health”—a concept as invalid as “public interest.”
Government’s retaliatory force to quarantine a Typhoid Mary is not an action to promote “public health” but to protect specific individuals against tortious contact with disease spreaders.
By analogy, the fact that the police would stop a vandal from smashing a statue is not something done to promote “public esthetics.”
After promoting “public health” was accepted as a proper function for government, it followed that the government should take control of the whole country during a pandemic. Which is exactly what was done. No longer is the question: “Should I take the risk of going to that store, restaurant, tennis court?” No longer would parents decide whether to risk sending the children to school. No longer would businesses decide on what terms they will deal with suppliers, employees, customers. Now all that is decided by government. Because it’s a matter of “public health,” you see.
(Some make a big issue about whether the government involved is state or federal. That is a red herring. The issue is individual rights vs. physical force, freedom vs. compulsion—not which overlords are to be holding the guns.)
Then the testing, treatment, and vaccine development had to be placed under the control of the government. And now, incredibly, the distribution of the products is to be done by government. And it must be doled out for free.
Government taking responsibility for “public health” is why now, in the midst of the highest number of daily deaths so far, with vaccine available for inoculation, it’s not getting distributed. It’s government control of distribution that produces scenes like this, from Florida:
Under government distribution, about 1 million per week are being vaccinated. At that rate, to vaccinate just half the population would take 160 weeks, i.e., over 3 years.
If government were in charge of distributing eggs, there would be lines for eggs.
If eggs were to be given for free, there would be no lines. Because there would be no eggs.
Eggs are in fact produced and delivered for private gain—the profits of the egg producers, the profits of the distributors, the profits of the supermarkets, and the equivalent of profit for the egg buyers. The egg buyers prefer the eggs to the other things they could buy with the money to be spent on eggs. That is their gain from the trade.
Under this system, we witness what John Ridpath called “The Miracle of Breakfast.” The supply of eggs is always matched to the demand for them. You never have to think about whether enough eggs (and bacon and bread and . . .) will be available for you to get some. Miraculously, there always is. Every day. Every week. Every year. That “miracle” is the result of unrestricted greed. When property rights are protected, everyone seeking the most gain he can get results in an abundance of goods that seems miraculous.
The deepest reason is that, when individual rights are protected, problems are profit opportunities. The existence of a problem, such as a supermarket not having enough eggs to meet demand, makes it profitable to solve that problem. The short-term solution may be as simple as ordering more eggs from the distributor. The longer-term solution may be as sophisticated as developing computers and just-in-time delivery. Or using AI to model consumer demand for each of the days of the year, enabling better anticipation of demand.
The enabler of all these solutions is: price rises. Shortages cannot exist when prices are free to rise. Lines disappear when prices rise.
And why shouldn’t they rise? When more people want to get something, or when the supply of it goes down because of a natural (or government-caused) disaster, why should sellers be the only ones to face the consequences? Why is it moral for buyers to exploit sellers in this way?
For instance, if the cost of the vaccine were allowed to rise from its present price of zero to, for the sake of argument, $10,000 per two-dose inoculation, do you think there would be lines? Do you think there would be a shortage of qualified personnel to inject it? Do you think there would be some baffling problem of how to get enough trucks to move the vaccine from warehouses to inoculation sites?
But according to traditional notions of what is moral, that is held to be unfair. It is stigmatized as “price gouging.”
In this view, what’s fair is for “the public” to get all the benefit from the vaccine’s creation, development, testing, and distribution, and for little or none of the reward to go to those who created, developed, tested, and distributed this enormous value.
Why? Why should the life-savers get no special monetary reward, but those who have done nothing to earn it, are to reap all of the gain? Why should the producers be the humble, rightless servants of the non-producers? By The Divine Right of Non-Production?
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” in the Marxist formula.
This is the morality of altruism. The rich, who got rich by enriching us, are to be deprived of the possibility of using their wealth to get the vaccine first. Why? Because they are non-needy.
The second half of the price system, under capitalism, is that high-profit areas draw capital. That expands production. Extra supply comes on the market. Prices fall.
People see this every day. The prices of new technology always start high and then fall as lower-cost methods of production are developed and early adopters are replaced by the general public.
The only reason that the commentators are bewailing the “staggering difficulties” of getting everyone vaccinated is that they never dream of putting the vaccine on the free market.
What about the “staggering difficulties” of getting eggs to 330 million Americans? Oh, you think it’s the required personnel that makes the difference? What about the “staggering difficulties” of every four to six weeks giving haircuts to almost everyone in the country?
From what I hear, a haircut is a fairly long procedure requiring a highly trained technician working one at a time with clients for up to an hour each! How is this possible? Oh, it’s provided at a mutually agreeable price on a (moderately) free market.
Wait, you say. Barbershops and beauty salons are already in existence. They don’t spring up overnight in a crisis, so these aren’t comparable.
Well, yes, they are. Things spring up overnight when there is big money to be made. How many homes bought Christmas trees this season? Well, the figures for last year are in: 26 million.
That’s about 8% of the U.S. population supplied in perhaps 2 weeks. If nothing more advanced than the Christmas-tree mode of distribution were being used, 1/3 of the U.S. population would be vaccinated by the end of January.
Whether it’s eggs, haircuts, Christmas trees, or a new vaccine, the market has no problem in distributing goods and services to eager buyers. The problem regarding the vaccines is our anti-market ideology. The problem is the altruist/Marxist cries of “price gouging,” “windfall profits,” and “corporate greed.”
Supplying, distributing, and inoculating the vaccine should be a for-profit, supply-and-demand-respecting private business operation. That would turbo-charge the whole process.
Adapting the line from “Fields of Dreams”: Bill it, and they will come.