Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Link Between "Control, Power, or Socialism" and "What's Morally Right"

In a letter-to-the-editor of the New Jersey Star-Ledger (Doing what’s right, 12/1/09), Dennis Drake of Lopatcong has exposed, with unusual and refreshing clarity, the essence of the national health care debate:

“National health insurance isn’t about control, power, or socialism; it’s about what’s morally right.”

Doing “what’s morally right.” Keep those words firmly in mind, because morality is most definitely at the center of the fork in the road at which America’s destiny is now poised. Down one road lies tyranny, and down the other lies freedom. He continues:

When a person without insurance goes to a hospital, the hospital is morally obligated to treat that person regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.”

Why? There are a million variants of that statement, and no rational answer has ever been given in support of the underlying principle, which is of course altruism. If a hospital is morally obligated – that is to say, the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel - then need is a moral license to steal. And this is the naked fact about altruism – the enthronement of the unearned as a moral absolute. If medical professionals are “morally obligated” to give treatment, then the person who visits a hospital with no intention to pay has a moral claim on the property, skills, and lives of the hospital personnel. They have no right to act on their own judgement in their own self-interest.

But of course, there is more than an alleged moral obligation involved here. Hospitals are legally obligated, i.e., forced, to treat everyone regardless of ability to pay, through government power (legalized physical compulsion). To compensate, hospitals do indeed compound the injustice by inflating fees charged to others. But as a means of making up the lost revenue, this practice is wildly overblown, as witness the wave of hospital bankruptcies, closures, and consolidations resulting from EMTALA (the 1986 law that mandates hospital “charity”). That is why the revenue shortfall resulting from forced hospital “charity” must be made up by tax-funded state “charitable” aid to hospitals, another way in which the rest of us are forced to pay for the health care of those unable or unwilling to pay their own way. Again, government power.

Mr. Drake is correct that American health care is already semi-socialist. It is forced upon us through government power and control. His solution to the resulting problems is to increase government power and control:

“The only remedy is to require every person [to] get health insurance; everyone pays in, there are no free rides, and insurance costs are lowered.”

In other words, private insurance should be made the fascist tool of wealth redistribution in order to “do what’s right”. In fact, we’re a long way down that road already.

Mr. Drake advocates smothering whatever remnants of freedom still exist in health care, in the name of “free markets”. We can do “just that by creating a national health care exchange.” This would place the already heavily regulated and controlled private insurance industry under total government control. The state will dictate the content of insurance policies, which companies can belong to it, and force everyone to buy his insurance through the government-run exchange. Health insurers will be private only superficially, with every aspect controlled by government. This is called fascism, or socialism through the back door.

Through the exchange, the government will dictate who gets what health care and when, under the guise of such things as “cost control” and “comparative effectiveness research”. Through such provisions as the “Health Data Network”, government officials will mine the personal medical files of every citizen and use its powers to dictate and ration care. The mechanisms for the establishment of the massive power base needed for total control is contained in the bills now working their way through congress.

For a hint of what is coming down the pike, Duke University Associate Professor John David Lewis has gleaned some of the ramifications from the House of Representative’s recently passed HR 3962 in a detailed, albeit partial, analysis of that bill (WHAT THE ‘‘AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICA ACT,” HR 3962, ACTUALLY SAYS). In introductory comments, he writes:

“This legislation empowers the executive branch, namely the Secretary of Health and Human Services and a ‘Health Choices Commissioner,’ to write thousands of pages of regulations, and to force Americans to comply with them. For every line in this bill, many pages of regulations will be written. As a result, the bureaucracy will expand, the final cost will be many times more than the original estimates—and the impact on American medicine will be devastating.

“The overall result of this bill, if enacted, will be a complete government takeover of the health-care industry.”

Just what do Mr. Drake or anyone else think might fill a 2000 page bill to “remake” American healthcare? Mr. Lewis gives us some scary examples, and he only covers a part of it. Dennis Drake thinks it will “expand the free market” to make the HHS secretary a veritable dictator, as long as you can buy your federally mandated insurance from another state. Slavery is Freedom to Mr. Drake.

In fact, the meager remnants of freedom will be crushed.

The government noose has been tightening around American medicine for decades, resulting in the current semi-socialist, semi-fascist system under which everyone is responsible for everyone else’s health care, but not their own. Directly through taxation and indirectly through insurance mandates and the third-party-payer privately run health insurance system, the government robs some to pay for others, while slowly enslaving the medical professionals who are coming increasingly under bureaucratic control.

The moral justification for the gradual loss of individual freedom in health care (and in America generally) – the fundamental root of universal healthcare - is altruism. (Altruism should not be confused with private, voluntary good-will charity). The doctrine that we are our brother’s keepers applied to the political realm translates into a government that controls all aspects of life, eventually. As the bloodthirsty collectivist dictatorships of the 20th century have demonstrated, there is no other way to implement altruistic doctrines, and tyranny exists in direct correlation to the degree that it is applied to government’s law-making powers. To guarantee everyone health care, the state must possess totalitarian powers to loot and enslave its citizens. As noted above, the “reform” bills in congress do just that.

To fully understand this point, it is important to uncover the real meaning of the viscious doctrine that masquerades as the good.

Altruism is an intellectual package deal (I am indebted to Ayn Rand for her great insight on this point.) That is to say, it presents a double meaning. It equates self-sacrifice with good will and compassion toward others … i.e., it equates pain and loss with being moral. Thus, any charitable help is automatically seen as selfless, contrary to the facts. True charity or any kind of assistance toward others is properly - and most of the time in actual practice - motivated solely by selfish concerns, whether one admits it or not. When people extend a helping hand, it usually is (and should be) based upon one’s judgement as to the worthiness of the recipient (whether a person or a cause), whether one can afford it (in time or money), and whether it is consistent with one’s values. Altruism, on the other hand, means no concern for oneself. Which means: promote the well-being of others unconditionally and in direct contradiction to one’s own self-interest. Every other type of action, according to altruism, is considered selfish and thus evil or at least morally suspect.

Since one’s views regarding proper behavior necessarily and perhaps unconsciously extend beyond oneself to all human beings, the widespread acceptance of altruism must extend to the political realm. Philosophically, politics derives from ethics. Politics is the legal implementation of moral principles – that is to say, what individual human actions are allowed, required, or forbidden as they relate to other individuals. Under the principle of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, legally forcing hospitals to treat patients whether they choose to or not is doing “what’s morally right”.

Never mind the view that altruism is good but must not be forced upon anyone. There is a glaring contradiction here. The declaration that the individual has a right to determine for himself when to be altruistic is itself inherently selfish and a refutation of altruism. “I have a right to be altruistic” is self-contradictory and self-refuting. A right is an unequivocally egoistic moral principle. Rights belong only to the individual, the only entity that exists in the human realm. When one upholds his rights – including the right to voluntarily self-sacrifice - he is upholding my right to life, my right to liberty, my right to the pursuit of happiness, my right to dispose of my property – including my right to give it away according to my choices. The conviction that altruism is good in the personal realm but not in the social (or political) realm is a result of inconsistent premises. The consistent altruist will always win in the long run, politically. That is why we are on the verge of socialized medicine in this country, despite the fact that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to socialism.

Attempting to defend free market capitalism on altruistic grounds, and failing to defend capitalism’s egoistic moral foundation, has and will continue to pave the way toward totalitarian socialism. Capitalism is the system of rational self-interest. Socialism is the system of self-sacrificial altruism. Capitalism’s defenders have long been whipped by the Left as phonies, with ample justification. The current health care debate is the latest glaring example, which has Republican opponents of ObamaCare offering “free market” solutions for government’s alleged responsibility to provide health care for all. Meanwhile, ObamaCare’s proponents carry the banner of morality. The American Right is helpless, evasive, and weak in the face of Leftist proclamations such as David Drake’s simple letter, because they will not challenge the underlying moral principle involved.

National health insurance is all about control, power, and socialism, Mr. Drake’s monumental mental evasions notwithstanding. The amoral doctrine of altruism is the indispensable corollary. When human sacrifice to need is seen as a virtue, it translates inexorably into government policy, because politics is a reflection of the dominant cultural moral ideas. Altruism and tyranny are inextricably linked.

Mr. Drake’s letter is no accident. There is a direct causal link between his assertion that medical providers have an (open-ended) moral obligation to treat all comers “regardless of the patient’s ability to pay” and his support for socialized medicine. The Objective Standard’s Craig Biddle describes in depth the nature of this link in his article The Creed of Sacrifice vs. The Land of Liberty. He shows how altruism and individual freedom are incompatible. He writes:

The correlation between the morality of sacrifice and the violation of rights is no accident. It is a causal relationship. To see why, we must zero in on the little-understood essence of altruism.

Altruism is not about moral obligation as such; it is about a specific kind of moral obligation. Altruism does not call for a person to serve others if he has made an agreement or a commitment to do so—as in the case of a doctor who contracts to provide a patient with medical care in exchange for payment, or an employer who contracts to pay an employee in exchange for his work. Such obligations are chosen obligations, obligations stemming from mutually beneficial agreements, agreements in which both parties gain a life-serving value. Altruism is not about chosen obligations. It is about “unchosen” obligations or “duties.”

Thus, writes Mr. Biddle, “The morality of altruism is incompatible with the principle of rights, and the theoreticians of altruism are clear on this point.”

To back this argument up, his article contains many references to “the theoreticians of altruism”, including this:

The French philosopher Auguste Comte (who coined the term “altruism”) puts this clearly: Because “to live for others” is “for all of us a constant duty” and “the definitive formula of human morality,” it follows that “[a]ll honest and sensible men, of whatever party, should agree, by a common consent, to eliminate the doctrine of rights.” Altruism, explained Comte, “cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism.” On the premise of altruism, “[rights] are as absurd as they are immoral. . . . The whole notion, then, must be completely put away.” (quoted from Comte’s The Catechism of Positive Religion, pp. 309, 313, 332–33.)

The “whole notion” of “the doctrine of rights” is indeed “completely put away” by the healthcare bill Mr. Drake supports. This is the definitive formula for tyranny. The formula for freedom is individual rights, capitalism, and egoism.

The only alternative is to recognize each individual’s ownership of his own life, through the moral doctrine of the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. The commonly accepted idea of what constitutes “what’s morally right” must be opposed as the predatory anti-morality that it actually is. David Drake has laid bare the moral nature of the battle. And that battle will turn when we can say, in answer to him, that no one is morally obligated to satisfy the needs of another human being, beyond the obligations voluntarily taken on as one’s own personal, selfish values.

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