I was watching a report on health insurance companies tonight on MSNBC when it occurred to me how similar the health insurance "industry" is to the music industry.
I have long been a staunch opponent of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and not because I'm too cheap to buy CDs. If the internet had always existed, the concept of a "record company" would never have come into existence. Why would it? Using the internet, artists could directly transmit their songs to their fans. The artists themselves would make their salaries from live concert, attendance at which would certainly be bolstered by the band getting their name out using the internet.
Obviously, the internet didn't always exist. There was a time, when we needed a middleman between artist and consumer. There had to be a way to package and distribute the music, in the form of records, cds, or what have you. These middle men never actually produced the music, they just transmitted it. Their services are now largely obsolete, but they've managed to use their hold over the government to continue to justify their own existence.
At any rate, I think it is important that people keep in mind that health insurance companies don't actually produce anything. They are just a middleman. They are the link that pairs the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, and researcher to the patient. I think questions of capitalism, free markets, and the like need to be kept in their proper context. At the end of the day, I have a difficult time believing that the "invisible hand of the marketplace" would ever come to the conclusion that using a middle man in the first place is the best way to get a service from A to B.
As it turns out, I believe there is room for record companies in today's world. I would even be enthusiastic about the prospect of fairly priced CDs, perhaps 5 bucks a pop, available at stores. I might walk in and buy a few albums just to experiment. However, when the prices of albums are artificially inflated to ridiculous levels, I'm not interested (and they most certainly were artificially inflated. I won $ 15.00 for being a part of a class action law suit against the major record companies for holding prices up). Just because I'm not willing to play by the RIAA cartel's unfair rules doesn't mean I don't get music. It just means I don't get it legally. Likewise, there is certainly room for health insurance companies, in some form. What there is no longer room for, however, is the anti-competitive oligarchy we have today; essentially an obstructive and overcompensated middleman who gets between doctors and patients.