Hey Josh Kanter? It’s easy to attack the “free market” when you don’t know what it is

By Jesse Harris

Just like Pee-wee Herman saying “I meant to do that”, Alliance for a Better Utah’s founder and chair Josh Kanter likes moving the goalposts and declaring victory. In an op-ed light on both facts and arguments to support his thesis, he derides the abysmal health care industry as being an example of the free market being an abject failure at delivering medicine. Let’s pick apart this exercise in how to write like an overconfident high school sophomore.

One thing he does get correct is defining a functional free market, one in which you’re able to make informed decisions about goods and services you can buy and sell from among competing vendors. And just a couple paragraphs later, he describes an experience at a hospital which he did not pick and which would not discuss pricing. This sounds suspiciously like a monopoly at play, the antithesis of what he just defined as the free market. How can that possibly be held up as an example of the free market failing?

It only gets better from there. He also blames the high cost of ambulance service on free markets. What he doesn’t seem to know (or, more likely, knows and chooses to omit) is that ambulance service operates on a literal legal monopoly basis. Yes, that’s right, competition among ambulance companies in a given service area is legally prohibited. I fail to see how this meets the definition of a free market either, but Josh is totally convinced that it does. Maybe that motorcycle accident he mentioned came with some undiagnosed head trauma.

This also brings up a point of style: an inability to relate to regular people. “Hey, I’m just like you, a Chicago lawyer married to another lawyer who builds my own dream home from scratch in Utah. I enjoy high-risk hobbies like motorcycling and skiing. Aren’t I so gosh-darn relatable?!” Uh, no, you sound like a limo liberal Hill-bot. This might explain why ABU has been failing to sell its issues in Utah since it was founded. Go ahead and name a major policy win in their column that wasn’t riding something else’s coattails. I’ll wait.

Some people might be impressed by your “economics and law degrees”, but I’m guessing it’s people who agree with your thesis and don’t care how badly you choose to support it. But hey, I’m actually okay with you being a bumbler like that. The further you are from public policy success in this state the better.

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