THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 533, August 23, 2009
"Freeman Dyson once said that if we can make it to
the asteroids, the IRS will never be able to find us."
The Flaw of Many of the Arguments Against Nationalized Health Care
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
Many of the current opponents of nationalized health care are quick to point out how a single payer system will create rationing, decrease quality, encourage discrimination in care, and incentivize increased "illegal" immigration. They describe in almost fetishistic detail exactly how bureaucrats and "death panels" will decide exactly how much care your parents and children will get, and exactly when they will get cut off. They have graphs and charts that show how it will increase consumer costs, and taxation, and interference in your lives.
And of course, they're completely correct. All those things are true, and provable, and important. The evidence is overwhelming.
In countries with nationalized health care systems, those with power and influence either jump the line or flee the country. When the influence of price is removed from the marketplace, demand skyrockets while supply initially remains static, and then begins to constrict. This leads to shortages, and eventually to rationing through queues. Over time, those who would be drawn to that industry as a future career will choose other industries instead as the potential for profit and career advancement disappears, or simply emigrate to nations who are not engaging in fascism. In fact, just seriously discussing nationalized health care can have a diminishing effect on future supply as people entering college choose other educational paths.
And yes, as the money dries up, the state will begin to find people to refuse service to in order to cut costs. Fat people, old people, physical and mental tragedies. It's all very sad and very predictable. And yes, bureaucrats will deny care or approve care the same way bureaucrats do everything else. Mostly according to some arbitrary criteria with no care or feeling towards the individuals involved, and occasionally due to corruption, graft, bribery, or pettiness.
And there is a mountain of economic evidence that shows how it will cripple the economy. The increased taxation, the increased costs to the consumer and to the providers in order to comply with increased regulation. The inflation which will occur as a natural result of the government printing more and more of their play money in order to cover their shortfalls will further destroy the ability of the individual to plan and prepare for his future and the future of his family. They are robbing us of any hope of leaving something to our children.
It is really quite obvious. In fact, I have a handy analogy I use to try to explain it to progressives who still support nationalized health care in the face of the overwhelming evidence.
Let's take away the word "health care" and replace it with the word "pizza."
What if your government declared that everyone had a right to a pizza, and that those who could not afford a pizza would have their pizza paid for by those who could. Let's say that further, the government set the cost on pizza so that private pizza providers couldn't make unfair profits off of the sale of pizza, which is after all every man's right. Let's also add that the government set a limit on the amount of pizza that each man can have at any one time, so that we can make sure that there is enough pizza for everyone.
Now, at first, everyone is happy because they get their pizza. But some pizza companies were selling really expensive high end pizza and now they have to sell the same pizza as everyone else, so they move into different industries. And the government didn't set cost limitations on the cost of cheese and pepperoni at first, so pizza companies start paying more for the components necessary to make the pizza than they are legally allowed to charge for the end product. Soon, pizza companies are going out of business.
As fewer and fewer pizza companies survive, more and more people are unable to get their pizza, so some turn to the black market to get pizza. Unfortunately, by its very nature, the black market is unreliable and so some get bad pizza. But because they went outside the accepted infrastructure for their pizza, they have no legal recourse, and if they are caught doing so by the authorities, they will face strict criminal and civil penalties.
Eventually, there are so few pizza companies that pizza rationing has to be expanded, and now each person is only allowed a slice of pizza, and fat people don't get any pizza because they probably ate more than their fill already. Unfortunately, this rationing further reduces the profitability of the pizza manufacturer, and even more go out of business.
Soon there aren't any pizza places left, but the government still insists you have a right to pizza. Where do you go to get that right?
The problem with all these arguments, even though they are all of course correct, is that they fail to address the most important issue regarding government funded health care.
What, besides government fiat, gives you the right to the fruit of another man's labor in the first place? What gave you the right to demand that I give you something I've produced at great cost for a price you set? What gave you the right to decide that I can't sell my product to some people, but I have to sell it to others? What gave you the right to decide how much of my product anyone can buy at a time? What gave you the right to take money out of your neighbor's pocket to pay for your pizza?
When we talk about health care many people get emotional because we're all afraid to die. When we talk about pizza, the argument seems silly.
Because it is.
But it's worse than silly. It's evil. It's slavery, and it's theft. And we shouldn't focus all our attention on its unsustainability, and its impracticality, and its inefficacy. We should be focused on the fact that it's evil. That's the important part. It's slavery.
That should be our rallying cry. Because that's the most important part. It is nothing more than demanding, at sword point, that one man provide for another against his will.
"The man who produces, while others dispose of his product, is a slave." Ayn Rand said it. And it's true whether the slave is building pyramids, or rowing a war-galley, or picking cotton, or administering an MRI.
When some people argue that their mentally challenged child, or their elderly mother, or their obese uncle won't get health care, what they are really saying is, "Hey! Don't forget about me! I want to profit from slavery and violence too!" And many of those people would quit complaining as soon as they got their cut of the take.
When some people argue that their isn't enough money to cover everyone, or that there aren't enough doctors, or there aren't enough hospitals, all they're really saying is, "Hey! That's not enough theft, slavery, and predation. We need more!" And many of those people would quit complaining if the government simply increased interference and taxation to an even more oppressive extent in order to pay for all those additional doctors and hospitals.
That is why we shouldn't focus on arguments about efficacy or cost. Those arguments are important, and legitimate, and valid, but they are not principled.
Instead, we should be focused on principles. That slavery is evil, and evil is wrong. That we should not use violence to accomplish our aims. That we should not rape and steal in our own self interest. That regardless of the legitimate needs and suffering of some, violence against the innocent is never justified.
And hopefully, they can't buy off our principles.
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