Harris's piece, in fact, is not about American health care. It is a statistical study about the health and mortality of Americans in general, compared to other countries. Big difference.
Harris cites a shorter American life expectancy, for which he blames high rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, baby deaths, smaller babies, heart and lung disease, obesity, diabetes (which is linked to obesity), homicides, gun-related deaths, traffic fatalities, lack of exercise, unhealthy diets. Harris goes on:
The [National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine] report’s authors struggle to find a common thread running through the fabric of American life that might be responsible. Beyond the usual suspects — lack of adequate health insurance and an inefficient health care delivery system — they point to social and economic factors that are seemingly disconnected from health, including the large number of children who grow up in poverty, our nation’s growing income disparity, our lack of social mobility and a fraying social safety net.
So, the litany grows; the uninsured, "inefficiency"--i.e., residual freedom--poverty, income disparity [?], lack of social mobility [??], and a fraying social safety net (despite trillion-dollar deficits).
Notice how Harris smuggles in the collectivist premise. This sets the stage for his conclusion: "But we aren’t powerless. Collectively, we can and will do something about it. Otherwise, the cost of inaction will surely bankrupt us."
I left the following comments:
Here's an alternate conclusion: "But we are not powerless. Individually, we can take responsibility for ourselves. We can each resolve to exercise regularly, eat healthy, drive safely, be good parents."
But, taking care of yourself contradicts Harris's desired "solution"--to "do something" "collectively"; which means, more government control over our lives. What does doing something "collectively" mean in practice? Government-mandated exercise, or diet "guidelines," or more wealth redistribution, or more gun control, or whatever other kinds of intrusions we "collectively" choose to pile on. How to justify collective action? Collectivize the problems using statistics (which, even assuming their accuracy, tell you nothing of individuals, only of an average relative to other averages).
The problems cited above are not collective problems. They are individual problems. People who make good choices generally lead healthier lives, along with their families, and vice-versa. But personal responsibility is the hallmark of a free market, which entails the moral right and responsibility to make our own choices and pay our own way, which leads to progressively less government control of our wealth and our lives, which in turn removes the artificial disincentives to take better care of ourselves.
Personal responsibility means being in control not only of your personal health habits but your health care. As long as we have a system in which each of us is responsible for everyone else's healthcare expenses, but not his own--through government programs or government controlled health insurance--we will have neither. As long as we maintain the entitlement regulatory welfare state, national bankruptcy is unavoidable.
The headline is misleading. This article is not about U.S. health care. It's not even essentially about health. Otherwise, why throw in homicide and traffic deaths? It is a call for "collective" action; about stealthily advancing a political agenda of more government control and less individual liberty.
Another correspondent made some insightful comments contrasting the current system of political cronyism with a free market. My reply to MarkM's comment:
"If doctors and other health care providers thought like businessmen in a free market environment..."
Yes, because the natural incentives inherent in a free market--consumers seeking the best quality at the best price and providers seeking expanded sales through voluntary trade--leads to progressively better quality at progressively more affordable prices, over time. Then CEO salaries would be aligned with consumer satisfaction rather than successful political connections. For that to happen, we need to get rid of today's corrupt mixed system of government controls and private enterprise, and institute a separation of healthcare and state.
MarkM's full comment is:
If doctors and other health care providers thought like businessmen in a free market environment, they would understand concepts like what price the market can bear, and would strategize accordingly to make sure their products could be sold for a reasonable price to the maximum number of people. Judging by the hefty compensation levels of CEOs at major HMOs, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, somehow I do not believe that they are thinking this way.
The drumbeat of more government control continues. Statists have a myriad of ways to facility statism's advance. Drew Harris has presented us with one.
Collectivism vs. Individualism in Letters
To Defeat Collectivism, Deny Collectivist Premises
Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice, by Craig Biddle