Candidate Evaluations: Ben Carson

by Benjamin Studebaker

Despite the continued explosive popularity of my UK election post, I am now drawing down my comment responses and focusing on doing new work for my regular readers (though newbies are more than welcome to join in). This means resuming the Candidate Evaluations series and covering Ben Carson, who recently declared his intent to run for president. If you’re new to this series, the goal is to examine a US presidential candidate’s background, policy history, and explicit statements in an attempt to figure out whether the candidate would actually be any good at being president. Too often, no one bothers to ask these questions, focusing instead on electability or likability. The series often ventures into fun digressions–for Rand Paul, we talked about the Austrian school, for Hillary Clinton, we talked about welfare reform and financial deregulation during the 90’s. I’ve also covered Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and–my favorite so far–Bernie Sanders.

This is Ben Carson:

Like Rand Paul, Ben Carson has no academic training in politics. He has a BA from Yale in psychology and a medical degree from the University of Michigan. Unlike Rand Paul, Carson also has no political experience of any kind–he was a surgeon until 2013, when he became an opinion columnist for The Washington Times. Since Carson does not have much in the way of political education, his views have been heavily informed by his experience as a surgeon. This can sometimes be a good thing–unlike Rand Paul or Chris Christie, Carson was quick to condemn the anti-vaccination movement–but it can also deeply skew Carson’s viewpoint. Carson has focused heavily on opposing Obamacare. Many doctors fear healthcare reform because they know that in most societies with a public option (e.g. France, Japan, or Germany) or single payer healthcare (e.g. Canada or the UK), doctors are paid significantly less than they are in the United States. Here are the figures for GPs:

In this table, you can see specialists and nurses as well:

The US also has very high healthcare costs relative to these other countries:

Doctors’ high salaries contribute to this (so do bureaucratic insurance companies and hospitals), but there is a deeper cause. Healthcare is a high demand market–medical care is so important to people that, if the government does not regulate the market, people will bankrupt themselves to obtain it. Private companies know that they can extract ever-expanding sums of money for medical treatment and will do so unless the government steps in with price ceilings. US medical costs consistently increase every year and will continue to do so as long as there is no public option:

Doctors have a significant financial stake in preserving the US healthcare status quo–as long as it continues, the healthcare sector will continue to generate more jobs than the rest of the economy and incomes will continue to rise faster than inflation:

Carson’s attacks on Obamacare have been heated. He said:

Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.

He also compared it to Nazism:

Throughout history many societies have failed to push back and have allowed an overly aggressive government to expand and dominate their lives. Nazi Germany is a perfect example of such a society…[Adolf Hitler’s] regime may have started out innocently enough, but because the people did not oppose a progressively overreaching government, the entire world suffered a great Holocaust.

He also claims that Obamacare is not working:

…a lot of people will lose their care or either have their premiums drastically increase. In terms of getting rid of it, it’s pretty much going to collapse under its own weight.

This is odd, because the numbers for Obamacare have been pretty good, in many cases better than expected. The CBO is now estimating that Obamacare will cost the government 20% less than expected:

There has also been a significant reduction in the number of uninsured Americans:

Critics like to point out that healthcare costs are still growing, but the rate of growth has been sharply reduced:

But Ben Carson doesn’t really care about any of that, because Carson says he would oppose Obamacare even if it was a success:

Even if it worked I would oppose it.

This means that Carson is against Obamacare predominately because he thinks it’s totalitarian. This is bizarre, because many other countries around the world have much more government involvement in their healthcare systems and are not in any obvious way slave societies–Canada, the UK, Germany, Japan, France, etc. This suggests that Carson is either deeply ignorant about other healthcare systems or that he and his friends have an odious financial stake in preserving a status quo healthcare system that adversely affects millions of people. Either way, it’s not looking good.

Carson does have a proposed alternative–he wants to replace Obamacare with a $2,000 per year health savings account for those Americans who don’t have employer-provided health insurance. This is totally unrealistic. The average annual medical costs for a family of four is over $23,000, which is $5750 per person per year. Carson suggests that other members of the family could donate parts of their accounts, but but even in combination this is nowhere close to enough money. Add to this the reality that Carson has no mechanism for controlling the growth of healthcare costs, and what is already a large shortfall would become catastrophic in 10, 20, or 30 years.

Outside of healthcare, Carson is a routine GOP candidate with many of the same views:

  • He calls global warming “irrelevant”.
  • He’s against gay marriage.
  • He wants a flat tax rate, which is very regressive and would massively increase income inequalities.
  • He wants to get rid of the IRS.
  • He doesn’t believe in evolution.


Ben Carson is either deeply incompetent or self-serving. He has no political education, no experience, and his policy views are full of holes. He clearly should not be president.