Diary

The phrase I've been hunting for

A really nice blog entry/editorial in today’s London Telegraph about their wretched National Health Service used a phrase which I’d been hunting for for quite sometime. It’s so obvious, I’d have never have come up with it. I’ll get to it in a second …

I’ve said many, many, many times over the years that I learned more from any four books by Dr. Thomas Sowell than I learned from four years of college. The Big 10 will do that to you. Two of the most important concepts he taught me were that ‘coincidence is not causality’ and that ‘price is not cost.’ As to that first point my favorite example is the technically true statement that 100% of heroin addicts drank milk as children. The causality fallacy of course is saying that therefore, drinking milk makes you a heroin addict. Or put another way as Dr. Tom did in a recent column, gravity does not cause airplane crashes.

As to his second point, back in early spring my bride, her sister and our brother-in-law took a lovely 12 day cruise which left from the seedy port of Bayonne, NJ (those of you who like to cruise be warned– this is a horrible port to get in and out of). It was a cold blustery day so the wife and I did what any sensible couple on vacation would do and took refuge in the bar. As we were gliding by the Staten Island ferry dock I idly remarked to her that when we’d live in CT when I was in grade school my Dad had taken me for a ride on the ferry and it cost a nickel.

A fellow nearby piped up and said, “It’s free now.” I said, oh really and this fellow proceeded to explain that he worked for the ferry. I sheepishly said, “Well, someone must be paying for it.” I could tell by the look on his face that the notion of price and cost was completely lost on him. After a moment he said, “Yeah, I suppose so.” Since I was on vacation, I let it go.

Back to the Telegraph’s piece on the NHS: it’s a discussion of a recent consultant’s report on reforming the NHS. At one point it implicitly agreed with a point that Rush has made a number of times recently, namely

Labour rejected McKinsey’s plans because it deemed them politically unworkable. It is not prepared to have a mature conversation with the British people about how their right to a health service free at point of use would not be affected by a desire to secure better value, in an economy that is cruising towards bankruptcy. Sadly, the Tory party doesn’t want to have this conversation, either. Feeling morally blackmailed by a climate in which public spending, irrespective of the value obtained from it, is a good thing, it too has dismissed McKinsey, though with the caveat of saying (quite rightly) that there are bureaucratic jobs that can be lost.

Rush has made the point reflected here that even a watered down version of Obamacare passed into law creates the climate where it can’t ever be repealed and in the process, forever reduces the Republicant party to a watered down pseudo-conservatism.

But buried in that paragraph is the phrase I’ve been looking for for a long time, one which describes those “free” rides on the Staten Island ferry — “free at point of use.” A great way indeed to describe collective foolishness, consumed in ignorance.