CXLIX – Alternative Medicine Is Libertarian Medicine

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Talk
presented at LewRockwell.com conference
on revisionist health and finances,
Foster City, California December
2, 2006

How
many of you own yourselves?

I
ask my first year property students
this question on the first day
of class. I raise the question
not simply as an abstract proposition,
but to get them to focus on the
functional reality of the property
concept. If you do claim
self-ownership, I ask them, why
do you allow the state — or anyone
else — to control your life? And
if you do not claim self-ownership,
upon what basis can you object
if the state — or anyone else
— decides to claim what you do
not want?

This
question leads us into the Dred
Scott case, in which the slave,
Scott, appealed to the courts
to have his claim of u201Cpersonhoodu201D
recognized under the law. His
claim of u201Cself-ownershipu201D was,
as we know, denied. Scott was
the property of others. The reference
that was made last night to Hitler's
wrongdoings, failed to mention
that der Fhrer was also
an advocate of animal rights.
He opposed the use of animals
in medical research; but had no
problem with human beings being
used for such purposes.

From
a libertarian perspective, the
u201Cself-ownershipu201D question is what
this conference is all about.
Indeed, this is all that libertarian
thinking comes down to. The u201Cwar
on drugs,u201D conscription, taxation,
compulsory education, war, . .
. everything the state touches,
comes down to a question of u201Cwho
owns you?u201D Ownership is manifested
by control, . . . who gets
to make decisions about what?

State-licensed,
state-mandated, state-standardized
medical practice, are all at war
with the concept and practice
of self-ownership. Your body and
your health have long been regarded
by the state as an interest to
be subjected to its control in
satisfaction of its purposes.
Lest you believe that the 13th
Amendment abolished slavery
— rather than nationalizing
the practices — consider the
dissenting words of U.S. Supreme
Court Justice, John Harlan, who
— in a 1905 case dealing with
state legislation limiting the
number of hours employees could
work in bakeries — supported such
legislation, declaring that long
hours u201Cmay endanger the health
and shorten the lives of the workmen,
thereby diminishing their physical
and mental capacity to serve the
state. . . u201D(emphasis added).
Things have only become worse
since then.

I
will not recount the numerous
statutes, court decisions, administrative
regulations, and other coercive
state measures by which men, women,
and children have been literally
compelled to submit their bodies
and minds to state-enforced standards
of medical and other health practices.
Neither will I detail the writings
of various historians who have
informed us of how the institutionalization
and standardization of productive
processes reduce the resiliency
of societies to make creative
responses to the processes of
change, and eventually bring about
the collapse of civilizations.

I
will suggest to you, however,
that our civilization is in such
a state of collapse; that our
social world is becoming increasingly
decentralized and organized along
horizontal lines, rather than
the vertically-structured systems
that have defined the state. The
Internet is decentralizing the
communication of information,
with some twenty-two million
blogsites in the world — of
which LewRockwell.com has become
one the most influential — providing
the opportunity for horizontal,
two-way communication among people
through some one billion personal
computers. For the first time
in human history, each one of
us has the technological capacity
to directly communicate — bilaterally
— with every human being on
the planet, provided (a) they
all have computers, and (b) they
choose to communicate with us.

Business
firms are discovering the profitability
and other advantages of smallness
and decentralized managerial practices,
as well as the sense of profitability
that is measured by more than
material, u201Cbottom-lineu201D considerations.
Government schools are being effectively
challenged by private schools
and home-schooling methods. Alternative
religions are providing people
with different avenues for satisfying
their spiritual needs. Satellite
radio, iPods, photocopiers, u201Cflash
mobs,u201D cell-phones, video cameras,
and the rise of documentary film-making,
all add to the decentralization
of information. There is also
the wonderful example of u201CWikipedia,u201D
the on-line encyclopedia that
is both generated and corrected
by untold numbers of individuals
adding evidentiary and analytical
interpretations to specific subject
matters. There was a recent incident
in which one man, apparently desirous
of disparaging Wikipedia, worked
some eight to ten subtle, factually
erroneous statements into a number
of Wikipedia subjects. He apparently
thought his factual misstatements
would remain undetected for weeks,
months, or even years. To his
chagrin, each error had been discovered
and corrected within a matter
of a few hours!

In
matters of health care, alternative
methodologies are appealing to
men and women who have become
disenchanted with traditional
medicine.

Because
ownership is reflected in identifying
who has control over what is to
be owned, it is encouraging that
the movement from vertical
to horizontal forms
of organization is being accompanied
by individuals exerting an increased
control of their lives. And with
increased control comes increased
responsibility for one's
decisions and actions. The Internet,
for example, places a greater
burden upon users to validate
the information received — rather
than simply accepting authoritative
pronouncements as u201Ctruth.u201D Alternative
schooling requires parents to
be more critical of the content
and methodologies of their children's
education, and to actively participate
in their learning process. In
alternative health matters, individuals
exert a greater degree of influence
in communicating symptoms and
other information to a practitioner,
and seeking out — via the Internet
and various publications — alternative
explanations and remedies of which
one's physician might be unaware.
In this way, individuals play
a more active and centered role
in their own health, rather than
just passively submitting themselves
to information supplied by faceless,
mindless machines, and remedies
offered by institutionally-defined
u201Cexperts.u201D

At
this point, I would like my wife,
Jane, to tell you of a very personal
experience we had in our family
that ties in to the theme of this
conference.

Two
years ago I was present when
our youngest daughter gave birth
to our first grandchild. Our
granddaughter was born with
an abnormally long umbilical
cord, a true knot in the cord
and the cord wrapped around
her neck. None of this was known
prenatally, but there was some
concern with fetal distress
during delivery. She was, however,
delivered safely.

A
year later, our oldest daughter
in her 39th week
of her first pregnancy, saw
the doctor for her weekly visit
and was told that everything
was fine. Two days later, our
grandson's heart stopped beating.
When he was stillborn, it was
evident that this was an umbilical
cord accident. He also had an
abnormally long cord and it
was wrapped around his body
several times, at some point
compressing the cord and shutting
off his blood supply. An autopsy
confirmed there was no other
cause of death.

The
doctors insisted that this was
a very rare occurrence and highly
unlikely to happen again in
subsequent pregnancies. But
this baby's aunt, the mother
of our granddaughter, looking
forward to more children for
herself and her sisters, was
skeptical and went to the Internet
for more information. Her search
regarding umbilical cord accidents
kept coming back to a doctor
in Louisiana, Dr. Jason Collins
and his Pregnancy
Institute
. She immediately
called him from her sister's
Brooklyn apartment and he spent
an hour talking with our two
daughters and their husbands
about cord accidents and his
method of identifying and saving
at-risk babies.

Officially,
umbilical cord accidents account
for approximately 7,500 infant
deaths out of 30,000 stillbirths
per year in the United States.
And it is thought that some
of the unexplained stillbirths
might also be due to cord compression.
In addition to these deaths,
two to three per 1,000 of live
births are severely disabled
due to cord compression accidents.
There are a variety of cord
problems that can result in
difficulties for the fetus:
from problems within the cord
itself, to knots, torsion, wrapping
and looping, too long a cord,
too short a cord, the location
of the placenta in the uterus,
the location of the cord insertion
into the placenta, and more.

Because
of the possibility of problems,
Dr. Collins thinks that cord
assessment should be part of
every pregnancy's care package.
Besides his own OB/GYN practice
in Slidell, LA, he has spent
over 15 years researching cord
accidents and working with pregnant
women who have previously lost
a baby. Because fetal heart
rate monitoring reduces the
risk of death during labor,
he suggests that the application
of fetal heart rate monitoring
can be applied to prelabor high-risk
patients to reduce stillbirth
risk. With a high-risk mother,
he does an assessment at 28
weeks to identify potential
umbilical cord problems and
sends her home with a hospital-grade
fetal heart rate monitor and
instructions on how to monitor
her baby's heart rate for 30
minutes every night until delivery.
These heart rate recordings
are transmitted via the Internet
to the Pregnancy Institute where
Dr. Collins observes patterns
in the baby's heart rate and
thus can identify umbilical
cord compression patterns. If
the evidence shows that the
fetus is compromised, early
delivery is considered.

The
recordings are also e-mailed
to the woman's managing physician.
And therein lies a problem.
The majority of medical doctors
don't seem to believe that cord
problems can be predicted or
managed prenatally. Fortunately
there are a few who are willing
to work with their patient and
with Dr. Collins.

Butler's
talk is titled u201CAlternative
Medicine Is Libertarian Medicineu201D.
. . certainly Dr. Collins is
using an alternative approach
in his practice. Butler also
talks about owning ourselves,
being responsible for our lives.
In my example, the pregnant
woman is definitely taking control
of her own pregnancy and the
responsibility for her unborn
child, by monitoring that baby's
heart rate every night and finding
doctors who will work with her
and with Dr. Collins. . .and
as most libertarian-minded people
know, it's not easy to go against
accepted truths in any field.
Plus, my example supports Butler's
ideas about the world becoming
more decentralized. What is
more decentralized than one
woman searching the Internet
for help in delivering a healthy
baby, one woman dealing with
one doctor miles away who just
might be able to provide the
information that could save
her baby' life. And now, back
to Butler.

The
collapse of external authorities
is taking place in other ways
as well. On a broader scale, the
most dramatic example — thus far
— of the decline and fall of vertically-structured
systems has been the collapse
of the Soviet Union, and its breakup
into smaller states. The further
subdivision of Czechoslovakia
into the Czech Republic and Slovakia,
and of Yugoslavia into five smaller
states, provides additional examples
of the decentralization of systems.
Throughout the world, secession
and separatist movements are on
the rise while, at the same time,
people are climbing out of their
cannibal melting pots of u201Ce
pluribus unumu201D and identifying
themselves in terms of racial,
ethnic, nationalistic, religious,
lifestyle, and other smaller collective
subdivisions.

As
the French learned in Algeria
and Indo-China; and the Soviet
Union learned in Afghanistan;
and America learned in Vietnam;
and the entire world learned on
9/11; and Israel learned in Lebanon;
and America is having to re-learn
in Iraq, war itself has become
decentralized; and u201Call the king's
horses and all the king's men,
will be unable to put Humpty-Dumpty
back together again.u201D

These
and so many other examples illustrate
an emerging truth: u201Cbignessu201D is
dead! The last of the dinosaurs
are becoming extinct, and the
little mammals that once hovered
in fear at the feet of reptilian-brained
giants now scurry in pursuit of
their varied self-interests in
a multitude of alternative ways.
I don't even have the time to
discuss how the dynamics of chaos
and complexity are
providing explanations for this
transformation.

Our
vertically-structured world is
collapsing into horizontal networks
of alternative, autonomous, and
spontaneous systems of order.
It is, I believe, a desperate
effort on the part of the u201Cold
orderu201D to forcibly resist its
collapsing fate that is the underlying
purpose of the u201Cwar on terror.u201D
The political establishment —
well aware of the decentralist
trends confronting it — has been
busy trying to reinforce the crumbling
walls of its citadels: NATO and
the European Union are prominent
examples of this effort, although
when the EU has been subjected
to popular ratification in some
nations, it has been overwhelmingly
rejected.

It
is just such an awareness — and
the purpose of preventing the
collapse of the statist monolith
— that now leads George W. Bush
on a campaign — without the support
of the American people or even
any involvement by a supine Congress
— to create a North American super-state,
comprised of the United States,
Canada, and Mexico. So much for
the myth of u201CWe, the People.u201D
Being further aware of Randolph
Bourne's observation that u201Cwar
is the health of the state,u201D the
American state desperately seeks
to overcome its terminal condition
by attacking — and threatening
to attack — any harmless nations
it finds useful in its campaign
to restore the support of Americans.

The
state is like a chicken that has
just had its head chopped off:
it flaps and flails around in
a noisy and messy display, spreading
blood in its trail. But its fate
has already been determined.

Into
the void are arising new, informal,
and relatively unstructured systems
that serve the interests of those
who choose to associate with them
— rather than the dying practice
of conscripting people into the
service of institutions. The decentralized
nature of the emerging social
systems is well-reflected in the
words of the 2003 Nobel Peace
Prize recipient, Shirin Ebadi.
She described the organizational
model that has been successfully
used by Iranian feminist groups
in these words: u201CThey are very
strong. Their approach is unique
because they have no leaders.
They do not have a head or branch
offices. . . . The movement is
made even stronger by not having
leaders. If one or two people
lead it, the organization would
weaken if these leaders were arrested.
Because there is no leader, it
is very strong and not stoppable.u201D
Such is the emerging model in
which liberty and variability
will flourish in a decentralized
world.

Perhaps
the most encouraging consequence
of this movement toward more individually-centered,
alternative systems, is the emergence
of an increased willingness of
men and women to take the responsibility
for their lives. Liberty and responsibility
are obverse sides of the same
coin, inseparable from one another.
Each of us is responsible — in
a causal sense — for the consequences
of our actions because we
were in control of those actions.
In the same way that a tornado
can be said to have been responsible
for the destruction of Smith's
barn, being in control of our
energies makes us responsible.

Dividing
u201Clibertyu201D from u201Cresponsibilityu201D
is but a political trick that
leads only to personal and social
conflict. As long as people allow
themselves to believe that others
control their lives and, therefore,
bear the responsibility for what
happens to them, we shall continue
to witness the proliferation of
u201Cvictimhoodu201D in our culture. After
all, if I am not responsible
for what happens in my life, then
why would I not be inclined to
look upon myself as a victim of
other people's wrongdoings? This
mindset helps us explain not only
the adversities in our
lives, but our opportunities for
successful undertakings.
If I am not responsible for my
own life, then whatever good fortune
is likely to come my way must
be regarded as the product of
luck — a mindset that helps
to explain the increased popularity
of lotteries. Victimhood and the
opportunities for fortuitous wealth
combine to play a role in the
growth of personal injury lawsuits:
if I am not responsible for the
consequences of my lifetime of
smoking or alcoholism, then the
tobacco companies and distillers
must be to blame, and ought to
compensate me with millions of
dollars in damages. (It helps,
of course, to have the medical
profession define my behavior
as a u201Cdisease,u201D which helps reinforce
my sense of victimhood.)

There
are a number of factors contributing
to this decentralization in health
care. (1) The rapidly increasing
costs of traditional medicine,
much of that promoted by the rigid
control of entry (i.e., licensing)
and the accompanying regulation
of medical practices by the state.
(2) An awareness — fostered by
expanded sources of information
— that equally or even more effective
health alternatives and remedies
are available, and at significantly
lower costs. (3) An attraction
to the more individualized treatment
afforded by alternative methods,
and a movement away from tendencies,
in traditional medicine, to prescribe
collective and state-monopolized
remedies. Members of our family
go to a homeopathic physician.
Our dealings with her require
a much greater degree of personal
involvement in reporting symptoms
and other behaviors to her; of
being involved in a two-way relationship
in which we bear a greater degree
of responsibility for developing
our appropriate remedies than
is the case with traditional doctors.
(4) A growing awareness of the
role of self-healing and
individualized health maintenance
practices. A psychiatrist friend
once brought to my attention a
study showing that men and women
with psychological problems had
a slightly better chance of overcoming
their disorders by themselves
than with the help of a psychiatrist.
Since alcoholism, drug addiction,
and obesity are just a few examples
of other personal problems best
resolved through the willful efforts
of the person suffering from such
habits, it is not surprising that
more and more people are discovering
that good health — like other
beneficial behavior in society
— derives from within individuals,
rather than being imposed
from without by self-styled authorities.

But
beyond these — and other — pragmatic
explanations is to be found another
contributing factor in the rise
of alternative health practices,
one which underlies much of the
decentralizing dynamics occurring
elsewhere in society. Institutionalized
decision-making tends to be quite
dehumanizing, and at war
with the autonomous, spontaneous,
and spiritual nature of being
human.

Institutionalized
health-care has tended to deal
with people in a very mechanistic
fashion. Medical technologies
now permit life to be both engineered
and extended in ways that far
exceed the forms imagined by Mary
Shelley and Aldous Huxley. As
we come to regard ourselves as
extensions of machines; as the
substance of our medical care
is determined less by the judgments
of a personal physician and more
by faceless insurance company
clerks; as politicians, judges,
and governmental bureaucracies
insist upon their authority to
define when u201Clifeu201D both begins
and ends; and as the control over
one's life increasingly slips
away; there is a gnawing sense,
among many people, that the nonmaterial
qualities that give life its deeper,
spiritual meaning, have become
immaterial in an institutionalized
world.

These
sentiments were roused, I believe,
in the Terry Schiavo case that
drew so much attention last year.
Passing over the vulgar exploitation
of this sad affair by politicians
and the media, this case seems
to have struck a nerve that helps
explain the transformation in
thinking that is helping to dismantle
organizational structures in general,
and helping people seek out alternative
health-care practices in particular.
What is u201Clife,u201D and what is it
not? Those who prattle about the
u201Csanctity of lifeu201D often overlook
the fact that u201Clifeu201D is self-directed
activity; that all of politics
is premised upon forcing life
to go in directions it does not
choose to go; and, therefore,
that all of politics is anti-life.
Thus have we born witness to the
contradictory and confused babblings
of people who pretend to be u201Cpro-life,u201D
even as they whoop up campaigns
for war and capital punishment.
At the same time, men and women
who mount the soap-box as champions
of u201Cpro-choice,u201D have their grocery-lists
of favored government programs
that deny to others their choices
as to how to use their property,
spend their income, or conduct
their lives.

The
statists will, of course, continue
to resist the efforts of men,
woman, and children to liberate
their lives from the state power
structure. Let me offer just one
caveat, however: when Hillary
and her crowd make additional
proposals for governmental intervention
in health care, please do not
refer to such efforts as u201Csocialized
medicine.u201D u201CSocialismu201D has a pejorative
tone to it, and we should be wary
of overstating our objections
lest we be accused of hyperbole.
What we have in government-regulated
health-care is not socialism.
Under socialism, the state owns
all the facilities: the hospitals,
clinics, machinery, etc., and
the medical staff are paid employees.
Under our present system, most
hospitals are privately owned,
as are the clinics, medical offices,
and machinery. Private parties
— not the state — must pay for
medical malpractice claims and
insurance premiums. A system in
which property is privately owned
but regulated by the state is
not one of socialism, but
of fascism. So, please,
for the sake of accuracy, and
to avoid being charged with exaggeration,
let us refer to our existing system
— and its myriad proposed additions
— in more exact terms, as fascist
medicine!

In
life and death issues, as in other
areas of human endeavor, it is
essential for us to continue moving
to alternative ways of conducting
our lives. In an unpredictable
world of interconnected complexities
— wherein decisions are made and
communicated throughout the world
in a matter of seconds — the plodding
and reactive nature of the conflict-ridden
state has become irrelevant to
the realities of human action.
The state has no creative role
to play, but operates only as
a hindrance. As its emphasis on
u201Cderegulationu201D and u201Ctax cutsu201D
demonstrates, the state's only
claim to facilitating human well-being
is to get out of the way of self-directed
people!

Like
the headless chicken, the state
is brain-dead. Its power derives
from inertia (i.e., the unwillingness
of a well-conditioned populace
to consider alternative systems)
rather than from intelligent conviction.
There is nothing coming from within
its halls that would engage the
mind of any thoughtful human being.
It has become as meaningless to
the modern world as a slide-rule
in an age of pocket computers;
as out of place as an ice-truck
on a residential street; as irrelevant
as legs on a snake. As its actions
throughout the world — including
America — demonstrate, it is capable
of nothing more than the infliction
of violence, threats, torture,
and fear upon innocent and productive
men and women. It produces nothing
more than tools of death and destruction.
All of its actions place it in
a state of endless war with the
health of people.

In
all aspects of their daily lives,
more people are becoming aware
of the irrelevance of political
systems, other than as a danger
to be avoided. Rather than attacking
these state agencies of death
and destruction, men and women
are, in increasing numbers, walking
away from their hallowed halls,
in search of alternatives that
serve their interests. As this
progression continues, these liberated
souls will give real-world expression
to the prognosis offered by one
of the most thoughtful of all
libertarian thinkers, the late
F.A. Harper. In words that underlie
the sentiments of all who seek
those alternative ways of living
that best suit their individual
interests, Harper observed: u201Cthe
man who knows what freedom means,
will find a way to be free.u201D

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