I’ve only mentioned Friedrich von Hayek tangentially on The Hannibal Blog so far, although he probably deserves his own post in my great-thinker series quite soon. Hayek was one of the great liberals, properly defined. He was close intellectually and personally to my great-uncle Ludwig Erhard. His book The Road to Serfdom should be required reading.
So I was glad to see Andrew Sullivan revisit The Road to Serfdom to see whether Hayek addressed the topic of health care that so captivates America these days. Hayek did, it turns out, and I had forgotten.
(Recall that I, also with classical liberal instincts, concluded, in my amateurish way, that health care is different enough from other industries to warrant one of two clean and equally acceptable solutions: universal private insurance or universal government–ie, “single-payer” insurance. Anything, in short, but America’s current, fragmented, employer-government-individual hodgepodge.)
Here is Hayek, from Chapter 9 of The Road to Serfdom, via Andrew:
Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision…. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong… Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.