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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about national healthcare, forgiving debt, aid workers in Ethiopia, and UN sanctions against Iran.

March 7, 2008

The government hand in healthcare raises costs

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Regarding the March 3 article, "Arguments mount for national healthcare": In David Francis's recent commentary on national healthcare, Shannon Brownlee blames rising healthcare costs on a failure of the free market. In my opinion, the exact opposite is true. It is government interference in the free market that has created the current crisis. Any system of national healthcare would merely worsen the current problems.

National healthcare programs violate the rights of consumers and healthcare providers to contract freely for medical services according to their best judgment. Such programs inevitably lead to rising costs and rationing, as demonstrated repeatedly in Sweden, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

In contrast, the free market consistently lowers costs and increases availability. Those sectors of medicine that are least regulated by the government (such as LASIK and cosmetic surgery) have shown the typical pattern over time of falling prices and rising quality that we take for granted in the rest of the US economy. Because the free market respects individual rights, it is the only practical and moral solution for the problem of rising healthcare costs.

Paul Hsieh, MD
Cofounder, Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine
Sedalia, Colo.

Cancel poor nations' debt

Regarding Jason Stearns and Colin Thomas-Jensen's Feb. 21 Opinion piece, "Bush's peace opportunity in Congo": The piece presents hope for peace and a chance for President Bush to "gain a positive legacy in one of the most devastated corners of the world." His trip to Africa also presents us with an opportunity to reconsider forgiving the foreign debts of the world's poorest countries, the majority of which are in Africa. This would do even more to improve Mr. Bush's legacy, and the tarnished reputation of the United States worldwide.

Most underdeveloped countries have been pressured to accept loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Mostly earmarked for projects such as developing infrastructure, much of the money involved ended up in the pockets of corrupt heads of state. Many projects, especially large dams, brought more harm to people than good.

Now the ordinary citizens of these countries are paying interest on the loans at a rate of millions of dollars a day – money that should instead be used for education, healthcare, and clean drinking water.