Now that the Wall Street Journal has run not just one but two op-ed pieces calling for more government spending to fix a physician shortage, the Boston Globe is waddling into the debate with an editorial on the "shortage of primary care doctors." As we said the last time around, "It shouldn't surprise anyone that a government effort to control the supply of physicians would cause a shortage. Genuinely free markets are dynamic and self-correcting; efforts by government central planners to control supply lead to shortages." In a free market, a shortage of primary care doctors would allow them to raise their prices, so they could make more money, which would lead to more people entering primary care, which would lead to an alleviation of the shortage, and perhaps even a decline in the price. You wouldn't need an act of Congress to alleviate a shortage, just some time. In the health care market, though, government already, before Obama-care, controls about 45% of health care spending, and had a lot of price-setting power. In addition, government licensing rules and professional associations bar doctors who did their residencies overseas from practicing in America. With government restrictions on both supply and price, it's no wonder there is a shortage. The government-imposed corrective measures the Globe advises to create more primary care doctors might well backfire and create a shortage of specialists.
As a separate matter, the Globe's way of seeing the question of immigrant doctors is mind-boggling. "This year, 9 percent of residency slots in family medicine went unfilled -- proof that the cap is not the cause of primary care doctor shortages. An estimated 21 percent went to foreign graduates of overseas medical schools, a sign that more slots would only mean drawing in more doctors who are needed in their home countries," the newspaper says. Imagine this attitude applied toward other immigration issues: Too bad Sergey Brin and Andrew Grove and Albert Einstein and Freidrich Hayek and Rupert Murdoch and George Soros and Irving Berlin were allowed into America, because they were needed in their home countries. It's a zero-sum view of human capital rather than a growth-oriented one in which immigrants who do well here also end up contributing to improving their home countries, as Mr. Soros, no matter what you think of his politics, did in Eastern Europe with his Open Society Institute. And, in the event of a conflict, it seems averse to putting America's own national interest above those of other countries.