Blog | Economics

The Wealth of Nations

. 1 min read

A few blocks from where I live is a large hospital. It has an organ sharing agreement with other hospitals in the region and a nearby academic hospital where they perform the more complicated surgical operations.

When an organ has come available an ambulance carrying the organ will race to the hospital where the patient resides and where the surgery will take place. Because of the extreme time pressure the ambulance is usually escorted by police on motorcycles who, in relay, block all traffic junctions to allow the ambulance free passage.

I hope I’ll never be on the recipient side, but even so it fills me with gratitude to live in a country where this is possible. This is what public policy is for.

Individual wealth will not do in this case. A private helicopter may get you to a private hospital, but it won’t get you the donor organ. The example that I just sketched depends on a number of public goods that only governments can provide through years of investment. To name but a few:

• Infrastructure
• Higher education (doctors, surgeons, research etc.)
• General education (nurses, laboratory assistants etc.)
• Healthcare (hospital, insurance etc.)
• Law enforcement (police)
• Legislation (the legal aspects transfering donor organs etc.)
• Etc.

Of course I’d like to have more purchasing power and pay lower taxes and I too disagree with some of the ways the government of my country allocates its budget. But there is a different form of private wealth which depends on the public infrastructure of the country you live in.