The Obamacare nightmare has brought back all kinds of memories for me. Years ago I lived in Poland. I went there because the Cold War was on, and I was fascinated by anything remotely related to Russia and the USSR. At least Poland was next door, a “satellite” socialist republic.
I expected a bleak and grey daily life. I was not disappointed.
One of the biggest stunners for me was the lack of any kind of incentive to work or produce anything of real value. Simply going shopping was torment. I called it foraging, since I never knew what was going to be available on any given day.
Upon entering a store—any store—I would be confronted with a huge line of people waiting to see what products were available that day. Nothing was out for customers to examine freely—everything was behind a counter.
Grumpy sales clerks trudged along slowly. Often store employees would be huddled together, drinking tea and gossiping. A customer was a huge annoyance to them. It could be a long wait before anyone bothered to ask me what I wanted to see.
What kind of business model is this? What kind of enterprise abuses its customers on a daily basis?
When everything is owned and run by the central government, it doesn’t matter if you’re nice to the customer or not. There is no bonus for making a sale or for creating goodwill.
Conditions were no better in medicine. Because medical care was “free,” doctor’s offices were packed. People went to the doctor for the slightest reason—mainly to get a written excuse from work. A doctor friend calculated he only spent 3-5 minutes with each patient, mostly writing excuses.
The “successful” (translation: “rich”) doctors had a private practice on the side, a kind of black market practice where patients paid under the table with dollars and brought special “gifts” that were hard to get in that centrally planned economy.
Anyone who says that communism or socialism is a good economic idea has probably not lived under it. A centrally controlled economy creates scarcity, a squandering of resources, and pathetic shopping and service. There is always an elite group of government bureaucrats who decide what will be available.
Whether it’s shopping, medical care or opportunity doesn’t matter. You can only get what is available. And guess what? It won’t really be “free,” either.