The Age of Derp dee Derp


A common argument against the establishment of a universal health insurance system in the United States goes like this: Healthcare is just like any other commodity, and as so, why should government provide healthcare and not provide cars or laptop computers or what have you? The so-called Hobby Lobby case recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court also rested on a similar assumption, that business owners were being compelled to provide a commodity they had religious objections toward.

First, let me point out the sleight of hand being played here: healthcare is not the same as health insurance. The former is a type of abstract commodity (a service provided) but the latter is a form of illiquid money, something people don’t want to own per se but use as a medium of exchange to get something they do want and/or need. Unlike cash however, insurance is restricted as to what it can be used to purchase and when it can be used.

Therefore, anyone who claims that insurance is the same type of commodity as cars or computers has zero idea what they are talking about. There are many different types of commodity (and capital) markets with their own sets of rules and incentives. People want insurance for different reasons than they want cash. The value of insurance is determined differently than the value of cars. In fact, insurance is somewhat unique in that it is something one must constantly pay for to maintain its value and thus can be rendered valueless for a variety of different reasons, not the least of which because one’s insurance provider simply cancels one’s policy arbitrarily.

As to the Hobby Lobby decision, the fallacy it rested upon was the assumption that businesses and their owners provide insurance benefits rather than the insurance itself, i.e. healthcare services rather than simply a form of money given as part of its employee’s compensation packages. In other words, the objection of Hobby Lobby’s owners amounted to: money = whatever commodities it can purchase, a profound lapse of logic that bafflingly the Supreme Court affirmed.

Has the derp gotten so thick we can’t see how much we are stumbling over our own feet?

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