I wrote this post a while back as a Facebook note. And now it looks like for Christmas, we’ll be getting a big ol’ health care spending bill from Uncle Sam. Thanks so much, benevolent government! I’m far too stupid and short-sighted to take care of myself. (Ahem, sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice.) Anyway, I thought it worthy of re-posting here.
So, I’m bored at work. It’s Friday afternoon, and there are but three of us remaining at my office. To keep myself from devouring the entire contents of the candy jar (it’s full of bite-sized Butterfinger bars, which is ironic because I’m writing about the government, which is apt to clumsily drop or muddle anything it touches), I’m reading about ObamaCare. And I really liked this bit of a column posted on the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights’ Web site, composed in 1993, during the height of the conflict over HillaryCare. It was written by Leonard Peikoff, who founded the Ayn Rand Institute.
I’m probably going to step on some toes with this one, but that’s OK. I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I don’t believe health insurance is a right. Most Libertarians don’t think so.
Already, people who can’t afford to pay for health insurance have a means to receive care because no hospital will deny care to someone who desperately needs it. It’s written into the code of ethics doctors take when they begin practicing medicine. Taxpayers and charities foot the bill already for those who have no insurance. If you can’t afford insurance, you should rely on charity, simple as that. Interestingly, this article points out that the supporters of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s did not claim that the poor or the aged received poor care, only that it was an affront on anyone to have to depend on charity.
When you read the Constitution, it grants the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. It does not grant the right to food or a visit to the dentist or, as this resolution points out, a trip to Disneyland. The Constitution states that Americans have the right to pursue those things and not have anyone infringe upon that pursuit. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Health insurance is a valuable commodity and a desirable service, but when we begin to treat it as anything else, things just get out of hand.
Anyway, here’s the take from the guy at the ARC. Pay special attention to the last two paragraphs, which explain how most everyone CAN afford health insurance…because we’d all be paying for it anyway once the government levied taxes on citizens to foot the bill.
“You are entitled to something, the politicians say, simply because it exists and you want or need it—period. You are entitled to be given it by the government. Where does the government get it from? What does the government have to do to private citizens—to their individual rights—to their real rights—in order to carry out the promise of showering free services on the people?
“The answers are obvious. The newfangled rights wipe out real rights—and turn the people who actually create the goods and services involved into servants of the state. The Russians tried this exact system for many decades. Unfortunately, we have not learned from their experience. Yet the meaning of socialism is clearly evident in any field at all—you don’t need to think of health care as a special case; it is just as apparent if the government were to proclaim a universal right to food, or to a vacation, or to a haircut. I mean: a right in the new sense: not that you are free to earn these things by your own effort and trade, but that you have a moral claim to be given these things free of charge, with no action on your part, simply as handouts from a benevolent government.
“How would these alleged new rights be fulfilled? Take the simplest case: you are born with a moral right to hair care, let us say, provided by a loving government free of charge to all who want or need it. What would happen under such a moral theory?
“Haircuts are free, like the air we breathe, so some people show up every day for an expensive new styling, the government pays out more and more, barbers revel in their huge new incomes, and the profession starts to grow ravenously, bald men start to come in droves for free hair implantations, a school of fancy, specialized eyebrow pluckers develops—it’s all free, the government pays. The dishonest barbers are having a field day, of course—but so are the honest ones; they are working and spending like mad, trying to give every customer his heart’s desire, which is a millionaire’s worth of special hair care and services—the government starts to scream, the budget is out of control. Suddenly directives erupt: we must limit the number of barbers, we must limit the time spent on haircuts, we must limit the permissible type of hair styles; bureaucrats begin to split hairs about how many hairs a barber should be allowed to split. A new computerized office of records filled with inspectors and red tape shoots up; some barbers, it seems, are still getting too rich, they must be getting more than their fair share of the national hair, so barbers have to start applying for Certificates of Need in order to buy razors, while peer review boards are established to assess every stylist’s work, both the dishonest and the overly honest alike, to make sure that no one is too bad or too good or too busy or too unbusy. Etc. In the end, there are lines of wretched customers waiting for their chance to be routinely scalped by bored, hog-tied haircutters, some of whom remember dreamily the old days when somehow everything was so much better.
“Do you think the situation would be improved by having hair-care cooperatives organized by the government?—having them engage in managed competition, managed by the government, in order to buy haircut insurance from companies controlled by the government?
“If this is what would happen under government-managed hair care, what else can possibly happen—it is already starting to happen—under the idea of health care as a right? Health care in the modern world is a complex, scientific, technological service. How can anybody be born with a right to such a thing?
“Under the American system you have a right to health care if you can pay for it, i.e., if you can earn it by your own action and effort. But nobody has the right to the services of any professional individual or group simply because he wants them and desperately needs them. The very fact that he needs these services so desperately is the proof that he had better respect the freedom, the integrity, and the rights of the people who provide them.
“You have a right to work, not to rob others of the fruits of their work, not to turn others into sacrificial, rightless animals laboring to fulfill your needs.
“Some of you may ask here: But can people afford health care on their own? Even leaving aside the present government-inflated medical prices, the answer is: Certainly people can afford it. Where do you think the money is coming from right now to pay for it all—where does the government get its fabled unlimited money? Government is not a productive organization; it has no source of wealth other than confiscation of the citizens’ wealth, through taxation, deficit financing or the like.
“But, you may say, isn’t it the “rich” who are really paying the costs of medical care now—the rich, not the broad bulk of the people? As has been proved time and again, there are not enough rich anywhere to make a dent in the government’s costs; it is the vast middle class in the U.S. that is the only source of the kind of money that national programs like government health care require. A simple example of this is the fact that all of these new programs rest squarely on the backs not of Big Business, but of small businessmen who are struggling in today’s economy merely to stay alive and in existence. Under any socialized regime, it is the “little people” who do most of the paying for it—under the senseless pretext that “the people” can’t afford such and such, so the government must take over. If the people of a country truly couldn’t afford a certain service—as e.g. in Somalia—neither, for that very reason, could any government in that country afford it, either.”