11-17-15 – A Right to an Attorney?

by Matthew Strong

Governor Shumlin has made no secret of wanting to completely regulate how and how much doctors and hospitals are compensated. This raises a bigger issue: What business does the government have to be involved in determining how professionals in the private sector are paid? In their altruistic attempt at making things “fair” for everyone, the effect is actually the opposite. Every government action intervening in private enterprise creates a market distortion, which creates inefficiency, stifles innovation, and requires more resources to deal with regulation, increasing costs to consumers, eventually leading to the monopolies they claim to abhor.

Here’s why it matters to everyone and not just doctors. If Montpelier can tell one profession how they can be compensated, why would they stop there? A year ago I was in the middle of a conversation about the “healthcare is a human right” social media campaign. I jokingly told my friend I should start a similar campaign entitled “reasonably priced legal representation is a human right”. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but it seemed funny at the time.

Recently however, a report completed by a joint commission looks to take that joke seriously. In the report, “The Vermont Joint Commission On The Future Of Legal Services” determined the cost of legal representation to be too high for the average Vermonter (among many other issues with our legal system), and the summary encourages the legislature to get involved. Making our court systems more efficient and technologically advanced is a definite need. Attempting to legislate how much lawyers can charge, however, not so much. The commission was made up of a wide swath of legal professionals, but the rest of the lawyers in the state might have a few things to say about the matter.

There are many businesses which could easily be deemed to be just as vital to Vermont human rights as healthcare. Healthy, high quality food is vitally important to everyone’s health. Maybe Senator David Zuckerman’s organic farm should charge the same prices as Costco. Safe, well maintained vehicles are crucial for the safety of all Vermonters. Maybe the large Subaru dealerships should charge the same hourly rate as local neighborhood mechanics. A warm coat is an important health issue in this state. Maybe all North Face jackets sold in Vermont should be the same price as Wal-Mart brand jackets. If this seems like an over simplification, it’s not, you don’t have to be brain surgeon or a lawyer to know price variations occur for a myriad of reasons (even among doctors and lawyers), and the variation between individuals and businesses in the same line of work is the foundation of our economy, and freedom itself.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jim bulmer November 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

With all this intervention insanity, I’m reminded of our great President Ronald Reagan’s famious observation, “the ten most scarey words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.'”


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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