In a democracy, what should a healthcare system do? A dilemma for public policymakers

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (1):23-52 (2015)
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In modern representative democracies, much healthcare is publicly funded or provided and so the question of what healthcare systems should do is a matter of public policy. Given that public resources are inevitably limited, what should be done and who should benefit from healthcare? It is a dilemma for policymakers and a subject of debate within several disciplines, but rarely across disciplines. In this paper, I draw on thinking from several disciplines and especially philosophy, economics, and systems theory. I conclude that economist and philosopher John Broome’s writing provides the framework for an answer: a healthcare system in a democracy should do as much good as possible, although sometimes we should sacrifice some overall good for the sake of fairness. This leaves open some detailed questions about what in practice we consider to be good and fair, and about when some good should be traded off in order to be fair. The answers to these questions depend on our values, or as explained by systems theory, our weltanschauung. How policy decisions should be made when citizens’ values differ is a subject of extensive academic debate. However, it is a separate question. Representative democracies have mechanisms for resolving such debates



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Malcolm Oswald
University of Manchester

References found in this work

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - New York: Basic Books.
Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - New York: Oxford University Press.
A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2001 - Oxford University Press.

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