That line probably cost Romney the general election because of the ease in which it’s taken out of context. But really he has a point. If you don’t like a service, Capitalism gives you the ability to pick someone else. The only problem is that capitalism in the US has produced a lot of duopolies, triopolies, a certainly cartels.
I’ll try to be more tech than politics here so I’ll pick telcos and smartphones as my example. I have an AT&T iPhone. If I don’t like them I can just fire Apple and AT&T right? Let’s say I switch to Verizon. I’ll get better coverage, but the same bill. If I don’t like the price I can fire Verizon and switch to – oh wait (don’t pretend Sprint or T-Mobile are real carriers). That’s it. I’m “not allowed” have an iPhone without a voice plan, or without a data plan, or without a texting plan.
My theory as to why handset makers (as well as auto makers) do not suffer from duopolies is because international players are a big part of the game. The biggest Android manufacturer is not a US company.
Until about a year ago when FiOS landed in my area, my central jersey apartment had one choice for cable (cablevision). This was not due to a contract with my renter. There simply wasn’t a choice. Firing them would mean living without TV (I choice I decided on eventually) but also without internet. In case you aren’t aware, New Jersey is the most densely populated state. You’d think we’d be crawling with competition for services – there are multiple auto service centers in every zip code after all. Diners too, we love diners.
Gas prices have so many externalities that the differences between oil companies and gas stations have become negligible.
Romney was talking about health insurance which is no different. Few providers are national. Most are regional. Really you have at most 3 choices if you buy it yourself. Your employer usually gives you one choice of provider and maybe two choices for plans (the married and unmarried version). Pre Obamacare, buying your own insurance too often meant being declined for having diabetes or high cholesterol, so really your one choice was to get hired and covered by your companies blanket policy.
“We all like to get rid of our insurance companies.” Yes. A right to healthcare would be great.
Romney is right that choice is good, but only if there’s enough choice to be had. If he wants to salvage this without looking like he’s doing damage control (which is often more damning than whatever went wrong) he should campaign on making capitalism more competitive by eliminating “socialized” corporate welfare *cough* GE *cough* and encouraging small businesses. Maybe appeal to disenfranchised environmentalists (yeah we’re pretty underwhelmed with Obama) by investing in solar companies. Sure the right will scream Solandra but who cares, it’s not like they’re gonna vote for Obama.