Arnold Kling  

Taking the Initiative on Health Care

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A proposed initiative in Arizona reads,


No law shall be passed that restricts a person's freedom of choice of private health care systems or private plans of any type. No law shall interfere with a person's or entity's right to pay directly for lawful medical services, nor shall any law impose a penalty or fine, of any type, for choosing to obtain or decline health care coverage or for participation in any particular health care system or plan.

While I sympathize with the substance of the proposal, I am not a fan of government by popular initiative. It seems to me to invite tyranny of the majority. It's fine when you agree with the majority, but terrifying if you disagree with it.

To put it another way. How many freedom-depriving initiatives would have to pass in order to cancel out the value of one freedom-enhancing initiative?


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
group benefits writes:

There are many many fields where there is a clear despoliation of our basic human rights and the health care is the most important I think. How can they doubt the public`s ability to choose what is convenient to them? If somebody wants to have term life insurance or a different type of health insurance plan that is obvious one cannot regulate this. I think that laws are merely build up on premature decisions launched by people having vague ideas about the theme.

Rolf writes:

But surely this is a problem with government in general, rather than private initiatives as such? I don't see any reason to expect private initiatives to be either more or less freedom-enhancing, on average, than the initiatives of elected representatives. And the voting body is the same in either case.

Which is easier to corrupt, a 120 member legislature or 10,000,000 voters? Which group is more susceptible to passing earmarks and funding pointless commissions staffed by ex-politicos and friends of the campaign?

This is not to say that both groups aren't corruptible, but if you are a minarchist, is it easier to rally 61 votes or 5,000,001 votes to enact a new law?

I don't understand why an initiative process isn't prefereable in a constitutional government.

Ben Kalafut writes:

Are you terrified by initiatives as a hypothetical, or is there something about the history of initiative politics in the western USA in general or Arizona in particular that leads you to such terror? This reaction strikes me as akin to that of gun-"control" nuts on hearing the latest liberalization policy. One can't simply make up consequences for it, as it's usually been tried someplace.

We've had initiatives since statehood, and they've been a mixed bag. Two years ago, we passed Epstein's doctrine of partial-takings into law. This year we intend to pre-empt "single-payer" and , if necessary, set off the biggest federalism fight since the New Deal, if not since the Civil War. We also, however, passed a few shameful proposals designed to stick it to spicks (or, officially, to chase undocumented immigrants out of the state), and were taken in by the "victim's bill of rights" hooey about a decade ago, too. It's worth noting that the former could be mooted by Federal reform.

Arizonans may be illiterate bigots, but, even though we've had a century to do so, we haven't ruined our State with initatives. What leads you to believe that we will. Cite examples, or refer to the process as it currently exists (barriers-to-entry intact) in the context of the current political climate.

TGGP writes:

Why do you care whether it originates in the legislature or outside of it?

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