How to compare?
Many of the political discussions we have every day involve comparison. Income redistribution advocates compare the incomes of the top 1% or 10% with the income of the bottom 1% or %10, Gun restriction advocates compare gun murder rates in the U.S. versus the same rates in France and Nationalized heath care advocates compare the cost of health care in the U.S. vs. the cost in U.K. or France. Activists cite these comparisons to create a single punch line such as “the top 1% control majority of wealth” or “Nationalized healthcare will save the U.S. a lot of money” but these are misleading comparisons.
When you shop for a car you don’t just look at the price then buy the cheapest option. You look at the individual features, safety, price, warranty and many other variables and then you make your decision. Not all aspects will have the same weight and you will take that into consideration but if you care about price more than anything you may still buy a car that is a bit more expensive if it has a nice feature and the difference in price is acceptable to you.
We should use the same mentality when we evaluate options offered by politicians for a certain problem. When socialists claim that it is unfair for a CEO to have much more income than a typical employee in a company, we should look to other differences between the two people such as education, skills and productivity.
When socialists claim that nationalized healthcare is better because it costs less and everyone will have access, after investigating whether these claims are true we should ask: are these the only variables for that decision? There are many questions that we could ask to explore the differences:
- How much more in taxes will we pay to support that system?
- Do the countries that offer nationalized health care have budget deficits?
- Do the countries that offer nationalized health care offer the same other programs the U.S federal government offer?
- Will health providers have an incentive to compete?
- Will access to new treatments be affected?
- Who will decide which treatments to offer?
- How long do people wait for care?
When income redistribution advocates claim that it is not fair for a surgeon or a CEO to earn six figure income while a McDonald’s worker earns minimum wage we should ask is income the only difference between these people? of course not, there are many more differences such as difference in output, choices, experience and education.
When comparing two countries we consider all the different variables that shaped the different states of these two countries such as political system, natural resources, population and economic output.
When comparing two people, we should consider all aspects such as life choices, careers, health choices and economic outputs.
It is very easy to focus on a single variable when doing a comparison, but this is usually a bad comparison leading to a worse conclusion.