Let me open this post with one of my favorite jokes. A mathematician, an engineer, and a lawyer were arguing about the nature of God. The mathematician said “Look at the mathematical perfection of the universe! Who but a mathematician could have created that?”. The engineer responded, “Creating the universe is certainly the greatest of engineering feats. God is an engineer.”
The lawyer just chuckled. “God is a lawyer”, he said. “How do derive that?” replied the mathematician. “What was there before God made the universe?” the lawyer responded. “Well, there was chaos” the engineer retorted. “And where do you think the chaos came from?” said the lawyer.
In practically every op-ed or newspaper column these days there’s at least one belly laugh. Here’s the one I found in Alan Blinder’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal:
Now the big question: Does anyone think it is sensible to have nine lawyers decide what sort of health-care payment system the nation should have? Yet that’s what may happen when the Supreme Court hands down its ruling.
I gather that Dr. Blinder has never looked at the composition of the Congress or looked into the educational background of the incumbent president. Suffice it to say that regardless of whether it’s decided by the Congress or the Supreme Court, the decision will have been made by lawyers. Why is an elected lawyer more sensible than an appointed one? More legitimate?
It may well be the case that elections increase popular support. In the case of the PPACA and if popular support is the issue the law should be struck down.
Should economists make the decision? Economists might be able to describe the economic implication of various different plans but identifying the best payment system is beyond their expertise (they might not be able—remember Harry Truman’s wisecrack about the one-handed economist). Physicians? Their expertise is in providing healthcare not in designing a system to pay for it.
It seems to me that the logical implication of Dr. Blinder’s criticism is that we should actually have a market for healthcare. But that doesn’t seem to be what he’s arguing for. He’s arguing in favor of lawyers making the decision. Lawyers he likes.