I love E.J. Dionne Jr., for he is quite open about the ultimate goals and methods of the enemies of the American Revolution…totalitarian socialism. He doesn’t explicitly advocate that, of course. But he does explain and uphold the process by which we will end up there. As he points out, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act was made possible by the gradual “creative compromise” of the fundamental principles of a free society to the opposite…the idea of the citizens of a country as subjects with a duty to serve the state. It is logically consistent for Mr. Dionne to tie that concept into the fight for government-run medicine. In a Washington Post piece entitled Not Yesterday's Health Fight, Mr. Dionne writes:
Over time, certain ideas become irresistible. They start out as problematic. Later, no one can remember why.
Consider Tuesday's bipartisan ceremony at which President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Thirteen years ago, Republicans in Congress tried to kill Bill Clinton's AmeriCorps program. This year, Republicans and Democrats joined together to pass the largest expansion of service opportunities in decades. Tomorrow isn't always defined by yesterday.
Bear that in mind as you hear reports about this or that snag, controversy or disagreement over the effort to pass comprehensive health-care reform.
“Yesterday”, a country was founded on the principle that each individual has an unalienable right to his own life, with the freedom to pursue his own happiness through his own effort and only in voluntary cooperation and association with others.
Today, we are told to “Serve America”, a concept consistent with a Soviet Russia or a Nazi Germany or with any of the dictators currently enjoying the moral sanction of our president.
“Yesterday”, a country was founded on the principle that a government is the servant of its people whose proper function is to protect their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property.
Today we are told that government’s role is of an armed extortionist whose power of legalized force is to be used to command insurance industry obedience to its dictates, or it will put them out of business. He writes:
The "public plan" idea is a good one, and the issue is important: If the government makes it possible for everyone to buy health coverage, one option among many should be a government-run health insurance plan akin to Medicare.
If the private insurers are right that the government would actually provide health coverage more cheaply than the private companies, why shouldn't that option be available?
But a “competition” between a “public” (i.e., government-run) plan and a private one misses a crucial distinction. Government has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. No private citizen, no matter how rich, can forcibly compel another…otherwise, that person is a criminal. A private company must depend only on voluntary agreement with its customers, who are free to refuse to buy its product. A “public” company (or GSE—government-sponsored enterprise), on the other hand, is backed by the legal force of government, which can subsidize it through taxes, while setting legal restrictions on its private “competitors” through its tax and regulate authority…etc. To pretend that there is no difference between a government-run “insurer” and a private one is to say there is no difference between an armed mugger and his victims. Since the “public” plan is specifically designed to offer “affordable” coverage, it will necessarily require the force of government in some capacity to keep rates below market. (For a comprehensive discussion on the dangers of equivocating between economic and political power, I urge you to read Harry Binswanger’s essay, The Dollar and the Gun.)
Mr. Dionne believes this is fair, and brushes off private insurers’ who “think the public plan would undercut them in the marketplace.” But despite assurances to the contrary, that is exactly what happened with Medicare, which killed off the over-65 private health insurance market in short order (except for some fringe services not covered by the government-run plan). As openly acknowledged by Obamacare booster the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the purpose of any “public” (i.e., government) plan is to destroy private insurance.
The concept of people as sacrificial servants is fundamental to the drive to finalize government’s takeover of medicine. It is the implicit principle that has allowed the government to cripple the healthcare industry under a steadily growing mountain of controls, regulations, tax code distortions, insurance mandates, social welfare schemes masquerading as insurance, and attacks on the sanctity of contracts. The result is the current state of American healthcare… soaring costs and administrative expenses, an unsustainable and unjust burden on employers, $trillions in unfunded government healthcare liabilities, etc.
Human beings are not valueless specks in a collective whole, to be sacrificed at the whim of any state, king, warlord, chief, priest, ayatollah, or modern politician…as was the case throughout history prior to the United States of America. Each person is a morally independent being possessing unalienable rights. Those rights are guarantees to the freedom to take the actions necessary for the furtherance of his life, not an automatic claim on the earnings, products and services, or property produced by others. There is no right to healthcare or to any particular type of insurance product.
Today, America spends on healthcare nearly $8000 per capita per year ($32,000 per family of four)…nearly 90% of that amount represents people spending other people’s money! There is an alternative. Rather than his money being spent by government or employers, everyone should be free to use his own money for direct purchase of healthcare through some vehicle such as an HSA (Health Savings Account). A free market, which is the only economic system based upon individual rights, should be established as an alternative to the current semi-socialized system.
Under American principles, no one…neither private criminals nor government acting as criminal…has the right to force any individual to pay the healthcare expenses of another. Such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP should all be phased out and abolished, leaving individuals free to decide how they will provide for their own old age; when, who and how they will help others; and to raise and provide for their own children’s healthcare.
The third-party-payer system should be abolished, as should all insurance mandates (community rating, guaranteed issue, and benefits, which are really redistribution schemes masquerading as insurance). In addition, all state trade barriers should be abolished, creating a national market for health insurance.
The choice we face is not between the current system and a government-run healthcare dictatorship (by whatever name one wants to ascribe to it). The choice is between socialized medicine and a free market. Rather than establish a coercive state monopoly, we should leave healthcare providers and insurers free to compete for the consumer’s business. The unalienable rights of consumers, providers, patients, and insurers to contract freely with each other to mutual advantage should be the foundation of any reform plan. The government’s role should be limited to protecting those rights, such as through laws against fraud and breech of contract.
The individual freedom and personal responsibility inherent in a free market is the best and only moral path to widely accessible, affordable healthcare.
The history of American healthcare over the past 60+ years is a microcosm of the world depicted in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged…the saga of a society and an economy collapsing under the weight of ever-growing government controls and ever-shrinking individual freedom.
Mr. Dionne concludes with the following:
The biggest difference between now and the last time around [1994s Hillarycare] is the emphasis on creative compromise in place of creative obstruction. Public-plan advocates should stay at the table to keep things moving.
They should also remember the lessons of Tuesday's Serve America event, which, by the way, received scant media attention. That was sad, except for the fact that the media's indifference was a sign of how a once controversial idea has now won such wide acceptance. That acceptance, in turn, allowed for the big improvements in the program that Obama signed into law.
No, it is the lessons of Atlas Shrugged that should be remembered…and heeded.