Conservative Spotlight: Pacific Research Institute

Everyone worries about the state of the health care industry and almost as many people have a plan to fix it. Those who believe that we should go in a direction opposite of that taken in most other Western countries–and, indeed, taken by the Republican Congress and President Bush–can seek out a new book by someone who knows. Miracle Cure: How to Solve America’s Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn’t the Answer, was published by a joint effort of the Pacific Research Institute of San Francisco and the Fraser Institute of Canada. Written by Sally C. Pipes, president of Pacific Research, it boasts a foreword by Milton Friedman.

“This is the 25th anniversary of the Pacific Research Institute,” said Pipes, who is from Canada. “We have promoted the free market since 1979.”

“Because health care is provided by a government-run, single-payer system, it is the Canadian patient who ultimately pays the price in terms of access and quality,” says Miracle Cure. “Despite obvious differences, the U.S. and Canadian systems are growing to resemble one another in their shortcomings. What these two and many other countries share, for that matter, is too much government, too much bureaucracy, and too many regulations and mandates.”

Echoing other observers, Pipes predicted: “We will see movement in the next ten years to people taking greater control over their own health care finances.”

The institute works in five areas: health care, education, technology, economics, and the environment. Pipes said that she hoped for progress toward smaller government and free markets in California under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R.). “We’re hoping the elections will yield more Republicans [in the state legislature], which will give him more power and control,” she said. She said further reforms in California’s worker’s comp law and a repeal of the state’s onerous health care mandate are necessary to keep businesses from continuing to flee California.

Pacific Research also sponsors things off the beaten policy track. “Does style have any substance beyond defining what’s hot and what’s not?” asks a notice about an October 8 event. “In her latest book, The Substance of Style, Virginia Postrel says that the ‘look and feel’ of people, places, and things are more important than we think. Aesthetic pleasure taps deep human instincts and is essential for creativity and growth. Drawing from fields as diverse as fashion, real estate, politics, design, and economics, Postrel deftly chronicles our culture’s aesthetic imperative and argues persuasively that it is a vital component of a healthy, forward-looking society.”

The institute’s website features endorsements from the likes of Friedman–“PRI is one of the most innovative and effective think tanks in the world”–and Margaret Thatcher, who said, “This institute has done so much to further the idea of a law-governed liberty.” It supplies up-to-date news and testimony, such as the following given September 27 by Lance Izumi, a Pacific Research scholar and a member of the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges, endorsing aspects of the California Performance Review’s report: “The report, for example, recommends that state law be changed to allow local school districts greater flexibility to contract private entities to provide non-instructional services. CPR also recommends that many required but unnecessary education reports be sunsetted. Categorical funds that are currently earmarked for specific purposes are recommended to be block-granted to local districts. Further, because older children in kindergarten achieve at higher levels, children should be slightly older in order to enter kindergarten than currently required,” he said. “In my view, these are eminently sensible suggestions.”

“California’s performance in K-12 is poor,” said Pipes. Pacific Research’s answer to the education problem is simple: the free market. The institute “works to restore to all parents the basic right to choose the best educational opportunities for their children,” it says. “Through research and grassroots outreach, the institute advances parental choice in education, high academic standards and accountability, charter schools, teacher quality, and school finance reform.”

“Government doesn’t provide anything,” said Pipes. “It all comes from us, the taxpayers.”

Unfortunately, she said, “Arnold is something of an environmentalist,” so California’s absurd environmental rules may not be rolled back. Hybrid cars are currently being pushed in a big way by eco-fascists, but, said Pipes, “A lot of electricity is used by hybrid cars.” She is not convinced that the cars are really better for the environment. “I personally think it’s just a ruse for environmentalists,” she said.