Delusion's Last Refuge
Recent debate over "health care" (oh, how I hate that term) presumes to pit advocates of 100% government management of medical services against advocates of the status quo…which is only about 95% government-managed.
Some political cretin (this term is from the DRD, the Department of Redundancy Department) explains that, because current government management of hospitals compels treatment of indigent patients with the full spectrum of available, expensive procedures, resulting in innocent taxpayers getting stuck with the bill, the fix is to…what? Force all people to pay the government for insurance?
The underlying premise is that if there's any way that one man can unilaterally thrust an unasked for burden on another, a trespass if you will, then the only remedy is to treat us all like interchangeable worker bees in the hive.
The problem with this is that it is government intervention causing the trespass in the first place. Without government intervention, a business providing medical services at a profit would not treat someone who had no ability or intention to pay for those services. The indigent person could not burden his neighbors because he could not compel them to pay for his use of goods and services in the market.
Before collectivists scream "heartless conservative" at me, they are free to join like-minded friends and establish free or reduced-price "bare bones" clinics for people who are truly down on their luck. No, such collectivists are not happy to be charitable by themselves. Afraid others might "game" them, they insist that their standards for compassion be exported to all their neighbors at the point of a government gun. "Pay your ‘charity' to the IRS or we'll put you in jail, take your bank account, and if you resist, we might shoot you."
Now that's compassion we can all learn to love.
Instead of the senator's fallacious false dilemma, why not try different a path that lacks the threats, the force, the extortion…one that actually treats people like people?
First, get the government's "do this or we'll ruin your life" coercion out of medical care. Let all hospitals be owned by people expecting to sell their services at break even or better (even charities can't hemorrhage money indefinitely).
If a medical business wishes to provide some basic care for people who can't or won't pay, that's a choice the owners of that business have to make for themselves. It's their wealth (capital) at risk. Privately funded charities could open as many clinics as they want. Cut taxes and once people are no longer ripped off to the same extent by the IRS, natural compassion will fuel an explosion of true charity…you know, the old, traditional, voluntary kind.
Next, separate the government from the insurance industry and all forms of payment for medical services.
Sure, some people would still choose to under-insure. By doing so, they would risk the need for care that they could not afford, and they'd then have to rely on charity, if available. The one thing they would not be able to do is use the 800-lb gorilla called government to force others to pay for their care. They wouldn't be able to demand the most expensive care as their "right," that's for sure. And those "frequent fliers" who kept trying to suck at the teat of people's honest charity would be identified and left to suffer for their con artistry.
A voluntary system would evolve where people are free to commit as much of their wealth as they wish to insure against unforeseen risks in health (just like every other aspect of their lives). That's the responsibility that comes with freedom, not the insect-like sameness being crammed down our throats by the political con game.
We would have true voluntary charity instead of this extortionate "I gave at the office when they robbed my pay for tax withholding and FICA." We would have poor people still getting some care, but not suing those who donated to their well-being in good faith. We would exit a world where government managers tear down natural fences and invite people to trespass on our hard-earned wealth by promising those trespassers unlimited access to things we have to pay for.
Best of all, we should expect an entrepreneurial explosion in higher quality and lower cost as human ingenuity mixed with self-interest in an environment of voluntary interaction yield for medical care what they have for the production of personal computers, where we get better and better machines for lower and lower prices each year, and even poor people can afford a PC that outperforms the most expensive machines of a couple years ago.
Do I expect these proposals to carry the day any time soon?
No. Politicians know the magic word for shallow-thinking people: "Free."
I can, however, do simple arithmetic (unlike those who think they can consume before they produce, just because President Ignoramus tells them so). The collectivists clearly believe they can repeal natural laws like gravity and, above all, scarcity, just by yapping at a TV camera and printing some idiotic phrases and calling it law.
The rest of us know better.
We have just ended a period so collectively delusional that the most recent parallel was Britain's South Sea Bubble that burst in 1720. The euphoric delusions of the last 20 years must give way to recognition of an Everest-sized misallocation of resources, of ice castles built in the desert.
Reality, in the form of crushing unemployment and plunging asset values, began washing over Main Street two years ago. Elected officials and their camp follower constituencies, insulated from reality by opaque walls of self-delusion, Machiavellian scheming and hubris, obviously still cling to the notion that 2+ (—2) = 5 [or 10 or 20 or 200].
August 10, 2009
Copyright © 2009 by David C. Calderwood