24 December 2009

How markets fail – part two

Filed under: books, Economics, market failure, regulation — David Wood @ 2:46 am

Free markets have been a tremendous force for progress.  However, they need oversight and regulation.  Lack of appreciation of this point is the fundamental cause of the Great Crunch that the world financial systems recently experienced.  That’s the essential message of the important book by the New Yorker journalist John Cassidy (pictured right), “How markets fail: the logic of economic calamities“.

I call this book “important” because it contains a sweeping but compelling survey of a notion Cassidy dubs “Utopian economics”, before providing layer after layer of decisive critique of that notion.  As such, the book provides a very useful (if occasionally drawn out) guide to the history of economic thinking, covering Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Pigou, Hyman Minsky, and many, many others.

The key theme in the book is that markets do fail from time to time, potentially in disastrous ways, and that some element of government oversight and intervention is both critical and necessary, to avoid calamity.  This theme is hardly new, but many people resist it, and the book has the merit of marshalling the arguments more comprehensively than I have seen elsewhere.

As Cassidy describes it, “utopian economics” is the widespread view that the self-interest of individuals and agencies, allowed to express itself via a free market economy, will inevitably produce results that are good for the whole economy.  The book starts with eight chapters that sympathetically outline the history of thinking about utopian economics.  Along the way, he regularly points out instances when free market champions nevertheless described cases when government intervention and control was required.  For example, referring to Adam Smith, Cassidy writes:

Smith and his successors … believed that the government had a duty to protect the public from financial swindles and speculative panics, which were both common in 18th and 19th century Britain…

To prevent a recurrence of credit busts, Smith advocated preventing banks from issuing notes to speculative lenders.  “Such regulations may, no doubt, be considered as in some respects a violation of natural liberty”, he wrote.  “But these exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments…  The obligation of building party walls [between adjacent houses], in order to prevent the communication of a fire, is a violation of natural liberty, exactly of the same kind with the regulations of the banking trade which are here proposed.”

The book identifies long-time Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan as one of the villains of the Great Crunch.  Near the beginning of the book, Cassidy quotes a reply given by Greenspan to the question “Were you wrong” asked of him in October 2008 by the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms…”

Greenspan was far from alone in his belief in the self-correcting power of economies in which self-interest is allowed to flourish.  There were many reasons for people to hold that belief.  It appeared to be justified both theoretically and empirically.  As Greenspan remarked,

“I had been going for forty years, or more, with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

Cassidy devotes another eight chapters to reviewing the history of criticisms of utopian economics.  This part of the book is entitled “Reality-based economics“.  It is full of fascinating and enlightening material, covering topics such as:

  • game theory (“the prisoners dilemma”),
  • behavioural economics (pioneered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky) – including disaster myopia,
  • problems of spillovers and externalities (such as pollution) – which can only be fully addressed by centralised collective action,
  • drawbacks of hidden information and the failure of “price signalling”,
  • loss of competiveness when monopoly conditions are approached,
  • flaws in banking risk management policies (which drastically under-estimated the consequences of larger deviations from “business as usual”),
  • problems with asymmetric bonus structure,
  • and the perverse psychology of investment bubbles.

In summary, Cassidy lists four “illusions” of utopian economics:

  1. The illusion of harmony: that free markets always generate good outcomes;
  2. The illusion of stability: that free market economy is sturdy;
  3. The illusion of predictability: that distribution of returns can be foreseen;
  4. The illusion of Homo Economicus: that individuals are rational and act on perfect information.

The common theme of this section is that of “rational irrationality”: circumstances in which it is rational for people to choose courses of action that end up producing a bad outcome for society as a whole.  You can read more about “rational irrationality” in a recent online New Yorker article of the same name, written by Cassidy:

A number of explanations have been proposed for the great boom and bust, most of which focus on greed, overconfidence, and downright stupidity on the part of mortgage lenders, investment bankers, and Wall Street C.E.O.s. According to a common narrative, we have lived through a textbook instance of the madness of crowds. If this were all there was to it, we could rest more comfortably: greed can be controlled, with some difficulty, admittedly; overconfidence gets punctured; even stupid people can be educated. Unfortunately, the real causes of the crisis are much scarier and less amenable to reform: they have to do with the inner logic of an economy like ours. The root problem is what might be termed “rational irrationality”—behavior that, on the individual level, is perfectly reasonable but that, when aggregated in the marketplace, produces calamity.

Consider the [lending] freeze that started in August of 2007. Each bank was adopting a prudent course by turning away questionable borrowers and holding on to its capital. But the results were mutually ruinous: once credit stopped flowing, many financial firms—the banks included—were forced to sell off assets in order to raise cash. This round of selling caused stocks, bonds, and other assets to decline in value, which generated a new round of losses.

A similar feedback loop was at work during the boom stage of the cycle, when many mortgage companies extended home loans to low- and middle-income applicants who couldn’t afford to repay them. In hindsight, that looks like reckless lending. It didn’t at the time. In most cases, lenders had no intention of holding on to the mortgages they issued. After taking a generous fee for originating the loans, they planned to sell them to Wall Street banks, such as Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, which were in the business of pooling mortgages and using the monthly payments they generated to issue mortgage bonds. When a borrower whose home loan has been “securitized” in this way defaults on his payments, it is the buyer of the mortgage bond who suffers a loss, not the issuer of the mortgage.

This was the climate that produced business successes like New Century Financial Corporation, of Orange County, which originated $51.6 billion in subprime mortgages in 2006, making it the second-largest subprime lender in the United States…

The book then provides a seven chapter blow-by-blow run through of the events of the Great Crunch itself.  Much of this material is familiar from recent news coverage and from other books, but the context provided by the prior discussion of utopian economics and reality-based economics provides new insight into the individual tosses and turns of the unfolding crisis.  It becomes clear that the roots of the crunch go back much further than the “subprime mortgage crisis”.

The more worrying conclusion is that many of the conditions responsible for the Great Crunch remain in place:

In the world of utopian economics, the latest crisis of capitalism is always a blip.

As memories of September 2008 fade, revisionism and disaster myopia will become increasingly common.  Many will say that the Great Crunch wasn’t so bad, downplaying the government intervention that prevented a much, much worse outcome.  Incentives for excessive risk-taking will revive, and so will the lobbying power of banks and other financial firms.  If these special interests succeed in blocking meaningful reform, we could well end up with the worst of all worlds.

As Cassidy explains:

It won’t be as easy to deal with the bouts of instability to which our financial system is prone. But the first step is simply to recognize that they aren’t aberrations; they are the inevitable result of individuals going about their normal business in a relatively unfettered marketplace. Our system of oversight fails to account for how sensible individual choices can add up to collective disaster. Rather than blaming the pedestrians for swarming the footway, governments need to reinforce the foundations of the structure, by installing more stabilizers. “Our system failed in basic fundamental ways,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner acknowledged earlier this year. “To address this will require comprehensive reform. Not modest repairs at the margin, but new rules of the game.”

Despite this radical statement of intent, serious doubts remain over whether the Obama Administration’s proposed regulatory overhaul goes far enough in dealing with the problem of rational irrationality…

In his final chapter, addressing the question “What is to be done?“, Cassidy advocates a few specific proposals, ranging from the specific to the over-arching:

  • Banks that create and distribute mortgage securities should be forced to keep some of them on their books (perhaps as much as a fifth) – to make them monitor more closely the types of loan they purchase;
  • Mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders should be regulated at the federal level;
  • The government should outlaw stated-income loans, and enforce the existing fraud laws for mortgage applicants, which make it a crime to misrepresent your personal finances;
  • Wall Street needs taming … the more systemic risk an institution poses, the more tightly it should be controlled;
  • The Federal Reserve should set rules for Wall Street compensation and bonuses that all firms would have to follow … the aim must be to prevent rationally irrational behaviour.  Unless some restrictions are placed on people’s actions, they will inevitably revert to it.

Footnote: For more by John Cassidy, see his online blog.


  1. David,

    Perhaps I am foolish naive but it seems to me that the current difficulties are fairly simply explainable using perfectly standard economics but at a different scale to that previously applied.

    The problem with both the conventional Communist and “Free Market Capitalist” models is that in both cases the system models only large agents such as governments, banks and corporations. The issue is that each of these agents is made up of people and in many (but not all) of each the people within the organisation will be working to maximize their own personal wealth (however measured) rather than that of the organisation.

    Whether this is reflected in corruption (bribes), bonus culture, deliberately creating financial systems designed to be too difficult to be understood or just keeping quiet when seeing trouble brewing in order to keep your job it is this that is one of the most important reasons why market agents act “imperfectly”.

    Until these “imperfections” are better modeled or damped down by either legislation or social mores the market will continue to be unpredictable over the long term.

    Comment by David Durant — 25 December 2009 @ 2:02 am

    • Hi David,

      I think that standard economic models do take into account the motivations of individual consumers and individual employees, as well as the motivations of larger agents.

      The aggregation of the individual self-interest of all these players, mediated by a market in which prices can rise if demand rises or supply falls, etc, does in many cases result in generally good outcomes for all.

      However, there are circumstances in which this “magical” aggregation of self-interest fails. That’s the topic of the second part of John Cassidy’s book. Some people take this as obvious, but many highly-placed economists (such as the previous chairman of the US Federal Reserve) saw things differently.

      Comment by David Wood — 25 December 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  2. Let me introduce you to a more pernicious myth called “utopian government.” It’s believed in by intellectual lightweights like John Cassidy, who constantly carp at markets in the hope of winning power for regulators/government so that they can try to reshape the world according to their wishes, almost always with disastrous consequences. There is a field of economic study called Public Choice, that lays bare all the myriad ways in which government fails and exactly why. Cassidy, and likely you, could learn a lot from the various lessons from that field.

    Comment by Ajay — 25 December 2009 @ 9:34 am

    • Hi Ajay,

      You’re right: the fact that there are big underlying problems with the operation of unfettered free market economies should not blind anyone to the long history of problems with government and other regulatory intervention into economies. No one should lurch from a viewpoint of “utopian economics” to an equally untenable viewpoint of “utopian government”.

      However, people should also avoid the opposite mistake. The fact that there have been problems with government interventions should not blind anyone to the big underlying problems with the operation of unfettered free market economies.

      There are no easy answers for this complex set of interlocking issues. However, the first step forwards is recognition of the issues.

      You uncharitably describe John Cassidy as an “intellectual lightweight”. I’m tempted to ask if you would use similar language for everyone else who points out reasons to explore regulation of parts of the economy – people such as Adam Smith (see the quote in my original posting), or John Maynard Keynes? However, I recognise that there are intellectual heavyweights on all sides of this discussion. In the end, the matter should be advanced by force of ideas, rather than force of people’s reputations.

      Thanks for the pointer to the field of Public Choice Theory. I’ll look more closely into that. Would you recommend any URL or book in particular? I like the following extracts from Wikipedia:

      Public Choice theory is often used to explain how political decision-making results in outcomes that conflict with the preferences of the general public. For example, many special interest and pork barrel projects are not the desire of the overall democracy. However, it makes sense for politicians to support these projects. It may make them feel powerful and important. It can also benefit them financially by opening the door to future wealth as lobbyists. The project may be of interest to the politician’s local constituency, increasing district votes or campaign contributions. The politician pays little or no cost to gain these benefits, as he is spending public money. Special-interest lobbyists are also behaving rationally. They can gain government favors worth millions or billions for relatively small investments. They face a risk of losing out to their competitors if they don’t seek these favors. The taxpayer is also behaving rationally…

      [Public Choice theory] focuses on the problem of hiring the agents required to carry out government functions agreed upon by the members.

      The main questions are: (1) how to hire competent and trustworthy individuals to whom day-to-day decision-making can be delegated and (2) how to set up an effective system of oversight and sanctions for such individuals. To answer these questions it is necessary to assess the effects of creating different loci of power and decision-making within a government; to examine voting and the various means of selecting candidates and choosing winners in elections; to assess various behavioral rules that might be established to influence the behavior of elected and appointed government officials; and to evaluate alternative constitutional and legal rights that could be reserved for citizens, especially rights relating to citizen oversight and the avoidance of harm due to the coercive power of government agents.

      These are difficult assessments to make.

      I don’t see anything in this that John Cassidy would object to.

      Comment by David Wood — 25 December 2009 @ 10:40 am

      • Precisely what “big underlying problems with the operation of unfettered free market economies” do you see and what govt intervention do you propose to mitigate them? Cassidy’s proposals are fairly silly: the reason banks went under is precisely because they had so many mortgage securities on their books, so forcing them to keep even more is not going to accomplish anything. Regulation is a joke: these are govt bureaucracies we’re talking about here, think about the type of people that go into govt work. Madoff proudly trumpeted to potential investors that the kind of scam he was in fact running was impossible to pull off because of the SEC. The truth is that the SEC was so willfully ignorant, they were not able to even understand the evidence that Harry Markopolos started sending them in 2000, showing them that Madoff was running a huge Ponzi scheme. Markets are a learning system, after a debacle like this, people learn to be more careful with their money, just as the great depression produced a generation of savers. I describe Cassidy as an intellectual lightweight because like most journalists, that’s clearly what he is. I reached that conclusion because of the superficiality of his ideas and analysis, not the other way around. I don’t have a particular pointer on Public Choice theory but if you want a real nuanced explication of the current crisis, I recommend the Econtalk podcast, particularly the recent one with Charles Calomiris (http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2009/10/calomiris_on_th.html). I highly doubt that Cassidy would acknowledge those problems with govt that you quoted from the Public Choice wikipedia page: if he did, he wouldn’t make such vague and undeserved calls for more govt control.

        Comment by Ajay — 26 December 2009 @ 2:20 am

        • The big underlying problems with the operation of unfettered free market economies are the items I listed in my original posting, taken from part two of Cassidy’s book. They include, for example, prices failing to take adequate account of externalities, prisoners dilemma type situations where the narrow self-interest of each player adds up to conclusions that are globally far-from-optimal, and the perverse psychology of investments bubbles.

          You make an important point that regulators are often far from suitably skilled or qualified to carry out their task. To reword the famous George Bernard Shaw remark, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, regulate”. One of the major challenges for society, therefore, is attracting and motivating people to do these roles well.

          Regulating the economy is a bit like regulating vehicle traffic. Without speed limits, I would almost certainly drive faster on many occasions, and so would lots of other people – but there would be lots more accidents. In countries where the traffic enforcement officers are particularly corrupt or unskilled, I can imagine that drivers might wish there were no traffic regulations. That wish, whilst understandable, would be mistaken. The right thing to wish for would be better enforcement officers. It’s the same for financial regulations.

          I’ve downloaded the Charles Calomiris interview and I’ll find some time to listen to it.

          Comment by David Wood — 26 December 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  3. Rather than have your software squeeze my comment ever tighter, I started a new thread. 🙂 Regarding your noted problems, some of those are partially true, while others are overblown. Prices cannot capture all side effects but externalities are fairly easily mitigated by the Coase theorem. Prisoner’s dilemma comparisons are overblown as some institutions can and do withstand the herding of the crowd, as JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo have and reaped the benefits since, becoming the biggest remaining banks. Cassidy carefully avoids naming then in his linked piece because he’s not a disinterested reporter presenting all the facts, he’s a deeply political advocate who’s filtering out contradictory information to lead you to his preferred conclusion. As for investment bubbles, considering quasi-govt entities like Fannie and Freddie were enjoined by govt to fan those bubbles bigger, leading to two bankrupt entities that the govt is having to shovel the most money into today, clearly the madness of govt during bubbles is much worse. The difference is that markets punish people for those delusions so that they learn their mistakes and do not repeat them- you can bet house prices will not have a bubble again anytime soon- govts just steal more money from others and keep on carrying on. Whatever problems markets may have, the mooted alternative, govt and regulators, has proven itself to be much worse.

    You do repeat the central fantasy of all those who call for regulation, “If only we could get better regulators, it’d all be alright” (this is perfectly analogous to those who say, “if only we had the right philosopher-king in charge, everything would turn out okay”). The point of free marketers is that the institutional incentives of govt agencies are so broken, it doesn’t matter who you put in there: the market will always do better. As for your traffic example, do you imagine that people wouldn’t come up with their own rules of the road if there were no govt? Rules of the road long predated govt attempts to codify and enforce them. Nobody’s saying there won’t be any rules of the road or consumer oversight, only that a free market can provide those functions instead and do a much better job (for example, the govt Food and Drug Administration can be replaced with multiple competing private certification agencies), no need to bring govt in.

    Comment by Ajay — 27 December 2009 @ 1:07 am

  4. Hi Ajay,

    >externalities are fairly easily mitigated by the Coase theorem

    As you’re no doubt aware, there are lots of different views about the extent of the validity of the Coase theorem. Cassidy covers some of this material in chapter 9 of his book. Here’s a brief extract:

    Today, many Chicago-leaning economists argue that the only policy necessary to deal with spillovers is the adequate selling out and enforcement of property rights. According to one of Coases’s followers, “We should expunge the concept of externality”. Coase himself didn’t go this far. In this 1960 article, he acknowledged that when an activity inflicted harm on many different people, getting all the interested parties to agree on an efficient solution might be difficult and costly. Economists refer to the costs of negotiation as transaction costs: in his Nobel lecture, Coase acknowledged that the theorem named after him applied only when these were negligible. “I tend to regard the Coase theorem as a stepping stone on the way to an analysis of an economy with positive transaction costs”, he said. And he went on: “It does not imply, when transaction costs are positive, that government action … could not produce a better result than relying on negotiations between individuals in the market”…

    [Cecil] Pigou wouldn’t have disagreed… when it came to large-scale spillovers, such as industrial pollution or the existence of urban blight, he believed that private bargaining was impractical, given the highly complex “inter-relations of the various private persons affected”. In cases like these, he said, government intervention, even though it might create some problems of its own, was often the best option available.

    Pigou was surely right. For three decades after World War II, two factories operated by General Electric dumped more than a million pounds of carcinogenic PCBs into the Hudson River, polluting a 200 mile stretch of the famous waterway…

    The GE episode illustrates the folly of relying on the Coase theorem to prevent environmental disasters. Property rights were hardly the issue. Even had GE been willing top strike an efficient bargain, providing compensation to some of the fishermen and bathers downstream from its plants so it could continue to use the Hudson as a dump, how could it have done this? Millions of people inhabit the Hudson Valley, and as history has demonstrated, PCBs linger in a riverbed for decades. Calculating all the individual costs and benefits would have been impractical, and would one-to-one negotiations. In cases of large-scale pollution, such as this one, government action is the only way to provide some sort of balancing of social costs and social benefits…

    The Wikipedia article on the Coase Theorem covers some of the same issues in its section "Criticism“:

    The main criticism often targeted at the Coase theorem is to say that transaction costs are almost always too high for efficient bargaining to happen… Ronald Coase himself asserts that it would be unrealistic to assume there were no costs in the conduction of market transactions, and that these costs are “often extremely costly, sufficiently costly at any rate to prevent many transactions that would be carried out in a world in which the pricing system worked without cost.” (Coase, 1960 – first paragraph of section VI.) This isn’t a criticism of the theorem itself, since the theorem considers only those situations in which there are no transaction costs. (At least, this is how Coase described the theorem during a 1997 interview). Instead, it is a criticism of applications of the theorem that neglect this crucial assumption.

    Another strain of criticism often points out other problems often associated with public goods which manifest in Coasean bargainings. In many cases of externalities, the bargaining doesn’t happen between two economic factors, but instead the parties might be a single large factory versus a thousand landowners nearby. In such situations, say the critics, not only do transaction costs rise extraordinarily high, but bargaining is hindered by basic prisoner’s dilemma problems. For instance property rights might say the landowners must pay the factory to stop polluting, certain landowners might downplay the harm of pollution on them, trying to free ride on the other landowners’ wallets.

    A third critique can be found in the work of the critical legal scholar Duncan Kennedy…

    Switching briefly back to the traffic regulation analogy:

    >do you imagine that people wouldn’t come up with their own rules of the road if there were no govt? Rules of the road long predated govt attempts to codify and enforce them. Nobody’s saying there won’t be any rules of the road or consumer oversight, only that a free market can provide those functions instead and do a much better job

    Yes, I am sure people would come up with their own rules of the road, even in the absence of government. But how will these rules be imposed, in the absence of some regulators?

    Final question: do you concede any role for government, or are you advocating removing government altogether?

    Comment by David Wood — 27 December 2009 @ 6:19 pm

  5. The Coase theorem has a few uncommon situations where transaction costs pile up, but such private bargaining has worked much better throughout history than govt rules. Highlighting that “government action… could… produce a better result than relying on negotiations between individuals in the market” is like saying pigs could fly if one strapped a motor and glider to them and dropped them from a large enough height, the chances of it happening are almost nil. Funny how the GE situation is used even though there were no property rights there, that was a govt failure where regulators neither provided property rights nor stopped the pollution. It’s interesting how people like Cassidy will flatly assert that it’s impossible for such private cost/benefit calculation and bargaining to take place, yet simply assume that whatever govt solution is imposed is optimal. Also hilarious is how extreme examples like that are then used to justify all kinds of social controls that are nowhere near reaching the limits of the Coase theorem, such as certain municipalities banning trans fats. The Coase theorem doesn’t get invalidated when transaction costs aren’t zero, as some obvious opponent has inserted into that wikipedia article, it just gets harder to apply as transaction costs get higher. However, whatever few difficulties the Coase theorem has, such private bargaining has always worked better than govt regulation. Pointing out that private bargaining has difficulties and then suggesting govt regulation is like pointing out that cars have a few flaws and then suggesting bicycles as an alternative, a solution so silly and backwards as to be laughable. It’s also interesting how you choose to focus on the Coase theorem so much, apparently ignoring the other criticisms in my previous comment.

    As for how rules of the road would be enforced, you’d simply have private enforcement, for example through insurance companies. If enough drivers report that you’re not following the rules, your insurance premiums would go up, analogous to traffic fines and the like. As for the role of govt, I see no role for it as I’m an anarcho-capitalist. However, I think it’ll take time to move there as most are ignorant of the benefits. Also, I have no problem with others choosing socialism or their own form of govt, as long as they don’t try to impose it on me. For example, I have no problem with Massachussetts choosing to force their citizens to have medical insurance as I don’t live there, but the problem is that Obama is now trying to emulate that disaster- the average premiums in that state rose a lot after they made insurance mandatory and there are huge budgetary shortfalls as a result- by forcing it on everyone in the US. I have no problem with others being stupid and choosing such collective measures, such as your NHS in the UK, just as long as they don’t try to force it on everybody else, as they inevitably try to do. Perhaps you could also declare where you fall on this ideological spectrum, as I have: it’s obvious where Cassidy stands given the clear prevarication and leftist advocacy in his writing.

    Comment by Ajay — 27 December 2009 @ 9:50 pm

    • >Perhaps you could also declare where you fall on this ideological spectrum

      I’m not an economist, though I am trying to learn more about this subject. Over the years, I’ve voted for several different parties in UK elections. As things stand today, I’m unsure who I’ll vote for in the UK general election that will take place in the next 6 months.

      As a software architect and manager, I’m a big fan of the Lean approach to processes. That is, aim to have only a small number of defined processes, and allow software engineers to follow their own professional judgements for the vast majority of decisions. However, some activities have particular importance, and in these cases, formal rules and processes still have a key role. I haven’t been through any exercise to articulate my thinking on politics, but my inclination would be that my preferred form of government would follow a similar principle: minimal but smart and thorough supervision of a relatively small number of key activities.

      As for the NHS: people of a wide range of political persuasions in the UK are uniformly baffled by the gross distortions that opponents of health-care reform in America have made about the NHS – see eg http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8198084.stm

      >It’s also interesting how you choose to focus on the Coase theorem so much, apparently ignoring the other criticisms in my previous comment

      I’m just trying to deal with things one at a time 🙂

      Comment by David Wood — 27 December 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  6. So I guess that makes you a political independent who leans left. Your lean process approach basically describes libertarianism, or it is meaningless as you likely ascribe a lot more “key” activities to govt than they would. That’s your defense of the NHS? That Stephen Hawking survived it and that the mooted medical reform in the US is not true socialized medicine like the NHS? You and I both know that the main claims of those NHS critics are true, that rationing and waiting lists are endemic in the NHS, just as in any socialized medical system. Trying to distract from that truth by linking to some BBC fluff piece without any facts- hmm, socialized news media is unable to produce any actual facts, how predictable- doesn’t help you seem credible on this topic.

    Comment by Ajay — 31 December 2009 @ 10:39 pm

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