We pay a lot of money for health care in the United States, more per capita than anywhere else in the industrialized world. If you point out this inescapable fact to opponents of socialized medicine, they invariably respond that we get high-quality care in return. Exasperated, you might go further and say that spending nearly $8,000 a year per capita still leaves us with the 8th-lowest average life expectancy among OECD countries, that the Japanese spend $5,000 less per person per year and live longer. But rich foreigners flock to the United States for operations, your interlocutor insists, so clearly we get what we pay for. The uninsured, alas, would agree with this grim assessment – since they have little to no money, they get little to no care.
Americans also spend more per capita on the military than any other industrialized country (the United Arab Emirates, with a population of only 7 million people, is the only country with a higher rate). The Pentagon and its clients boast that all this money is well spent, that no country comes close to us in terms of quality or quantity of security. Critics, meanwhile, decry the waste, the cost overruns, the systems that work poorly (the F-35) or will never work (missile defense), and of course the enormous opportunity costs.
On health care and the military budget, no one can dispute that the United States spends exorbitantly. Whether we get our money’s worth is a matter of considerable debate.
But there is one arena in which the United States is a world-class spender where you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that we get world-class results for our money. I’m talking ...