Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Deny the Consequences of ObamaCare, Deny the Principles

The rebellion against ObamaCare has taken the form of ballot initiatives in three states
that, if passed, would approve state constitutional amendments against the mandatory health insurance provision of the Federal health care law. One such initiative is the “Right to Health Care Choice
”, or Amendment 63, in Colorado. It would free all state residents from any legal requirement to purchase any private or public health plan, and protect their right to contract directly with healthcare providers for the purchase of their services.

One would think that, in America, this individual freedom would be self-evident. One would be wrong, of course. Those freedoms we take for granted have been eroding for a long time, including under ObamaCare, making Amendment 63 necessary. The argument against the Amendment, and thus in favor of mandatory insurance, is presented in a Denver Post guest op-ed entitled What's wrong with Amendment 63?
by Steven R. Lowenstein and Mark Earnest. This article presents a good illumination of why the Right can not win against the advance of socialized medicine, and statism generally, without a radical philosophical recasting of the terms of the debate. The authors attempt to frame the healthcare issue around certain principles – the only ones that can justify their position - altruism and collectivism.

Lowenstein and Earnest begin with a broadside against Amendment 63 proponent Paul Hsieh:

In one position paper, Paul Hsieh calls the insurance mandate a "thinly veiled system of welfare;" Hsieh then asks if the federal government will now mandate insurance coverage for shoes. Another posting, predictably, warns against the "slippery slope to national health care." A third position paper likens the insurance requirement to "mandating that everyone who buys an iPhone also buy the extended warranty."

Rather than attempting to refute Hsieh’s analysis, they brush it off as “political sloganeering”. It’s clear why: To refute Hsieh’s argument, one would have to challenge the abstract premises behind it. To attempt it would prove the “slippery slope” point because, as Ayn Rand has observed, “principles, like laws of nature, continue to operate, whether men choose to recognize them or not” ("The National Interest, c'est moi", June, 1962). The authors refuse to recognize the principles behind Hsieh’s contentions or, more precisely, do not want the reader to recognize them. This is the Leftist game plan I wrote about on 10/6/10.

The authors’ utter disingenuousness aside, no objective and honest person can now deny the “slippery slope to national health care.” The history of the past 75 years of increasing government control of medicine is proof of that. ObamaCare is the clincher, and is being grafted onto a system that’s already semi-socialist. Compulsory health insurance, and ObamaCare in general, is another logical extension of government control.

Principles and precedents drive human events, and we ignore them at our peril. The broad principle driving the slippery slope of ever-expanding government control of healthcare is contained in FDR’s "second", or "economic bill of rights"
, reaffirmed in the Democratic Party platform of 1960
, which established the idea of a “right” to material benefits that must be compulsively provided by others. One of those was “a right to healthcare”. Understanding the underlying premises, Hsieh is correct to point out that ObamaCare has much wider implications for and beyond healthcare. A government that can force you to buy something can on principle force you to buy anything. He is in good company.

The Founders who created this country understood the power of principles and precedents. James Madison fought against compulsory government funding of religion, based on an abstract argument much wider than the specific issue. In his 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, Madison succeeded in turning America away from another slippery slope, one that would have ended religious liberty. He reminded his countrymen of why they had so recently fought for independence, with this basic argument:

The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.

Identifying the long-term consequences of specific government policies demands a level of abstract analysis. Holding the focus locked only onto the immediate concrete issue of the moment is a self-blinding method of mental functioning, rendering one unable to notice where the path one is on is leading. But, a string of concrete steps linked by unifying principles is exactly what slippery slopes are made of. We have now reached the point on the slope that, by sidestepping the principles, Lowenstein and Earnest can make this outlandish claim:

The mandate that every American obtain adequate health insurance is no slippery slope toward government-run health care. In fact, the insurance mandate is only included in the Affordable Care Act because the private health insurance market cannot function without it.

How did we get to the point where “the private health insurance market cannot function without” government compulsion? The markets for life, personal umbrella liability, automobile collision, and homeowners insurance operate just fine without compulsory government mandates, and so would health insurance. My life insurance policy affords financial security for my wife in the event of my untimely death. That protection is not diminished by the fact that my neighbor doesn’t carry life insurance. What doesn’t work without government compulsion is socialization through private companies, which is what the superficially “private health insurance market” had largely become and which ObamaCare is designed to fully implement. The insurance mandate, like all mandates already on the books, is backdoor wealth redistribution, not any attempt to “preserve” what does not now exist – “the health care free market”. The use of private companies as conduits for socialization does not constitute any semblance of capitalism. It is the economic premise of fascism.

The next sentence should serve as a warning to the Right:

When Congress began debating health care reform in the spring of 2009, liberals and conservatives agreed that insurance companies should no longer be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing health conditions nor drop this coverage when illness strikes.

Without challenging the root cause of this government-created scourge, the third-party-payer system that severs the consumer of healthcare from ownership of his policy, the mandate becomes the logical next step. The GOP’s Pledge to America apparently supports this mandate on insurers, vowing to “ensure access for those with pre-existing conditions”, once again concurring with the basic statist premises of the Left. Once you’ve granted to government the power to impose a single insurance provision, you’ve granted it the power to impose any number of provisions on insurers and their customers alike. There is no slippery slope? Read on:

That mandate — to offer insurance coverage to the healthy and the sick alike — is included in the health care reform act. But no one believes that private health insurance companies can survive unless there is a second mandate — one that says that healthy people have to buy in too.

This is very true. If people can save wads of money on premiums by simply waiting to buy a policy after they become sick, who would carry insurance? The insurance companies would be plundered into bankruptcy in no time. The Republicans attempt to straddle the fence between the two mandates is logically indefensible, and only serves to strengthen the statists’ credibility. This is what philosophical agnosticism engenders. The GOP conservative defenders of the free market, by supporting the first mandate, have paved the way for the second. As to the authors’ denial of the slippery slope: Well, they’ve just refuted their own argument. There it is, in action: the third-party-payer system, leading to the plague of pre-existing conditions, leading to those two mandates.

“The insurance mandate is not a radical assault on capitalism or the free market. The mandate is necessary to preserve the health care free market”, write the authors. This sounds a lot like Bush, who justified TARP with the statement, “I had to abandon free market principles, in order to save the free market”. “Slavery is Freedom” is the unstated rallying cry of the collectivists– novelist George Orwell did not exaggerate. The assault on freedom has long been waged under the guise of preserving it, in this case by equating “private ownership” or “the private market” with capitalism. But, those also exist under the system of backdoor socialism, known as fascism. Capitalism means one thing and one thing only – the separation of economics and state embodied within the recognition of individual rights. The Left is winning, often helped along by the Right, because the proponents of freedom do not clearly articulate (or even understand) those principles. Slavery is not freedom, and neither is the individual mandate that Amendment 63 seeks to overturn.

Next comes the altruistic argument: “Admittedly, none of this matters if you do not believe that every Coloradan and every American should have access to health care. But Coloradans do get sick.” A litany of needs follows, which takes precedence over your property, your freedom, and your life, which must be sacrificed. Altruism holds that the needs of some is an automatic moral claim on the unearned, and is the basic rationalization for government programs like ObamaCare. It assaults our freedom in the name of the uninsured.

On a free market, everyone has access to not only healthcare but also to all of the goods and services of all producers, based upon the trader principle. Everyone is free to pursue healthcare, but not to rob his neighbor or enslave the providers to attain it, nor to elect politicians to do it for them. Justice reigns on a free market. It is just this - freedom from the human predator seeking to fulfill his needs by plunder - that enables widespread prosperity. As history has shown, the natural incentives and workings of a free market leads to ever increasing quality and affordability. To cite just one of thousands of examples, multi-million dollar mainframe computer power once available only to large corporations and governments is now dwarfed by the power of laptops affordable to virtually every income class. Every unmet human need or desire represents a market opportunity for any industrious mind willing to rise to fill it. Only a free market can liberate the mind to innovate.

But, a free market is not listed as one of the “few alternatives to the health care insurance mandate”. We get only single payer or the status quo. “But”, declare the authors with a straight face, “the status-quo means relentlessly rising insurance premiums and health care costs; and it means you may not be able to find insurance coverage if you are poor, unemployed or sick.” The status quo is the product of decades of rising government interference into American medicine. If greater affordability and access to healthcare and health insurance is truly the goal, the first place to look to begin the reform effort is government. But, previous government policies are ignored because fixing the problem is not the Left’s goal. The Left’s goal is precisely what Lowenstein and Earnest begin the article by brushing aside: the "slippery slope to national health care."

Guilt, the corollary of altruism, finds its way in.

Then there is the matter of fairness. The uninsured pay taxes too. The uninsured have invested in physicians' and nurses' training. They have helped pay for hospital construction. They have supported research and the discovery of the drugs, medical devices and surgical techniques that all of us need. "Health care for all" is no welfare handout to the uninsured; they have a right to health care because they paid for it.

Here, they are right, but not in the way they mean. It is unfair for anyone to be forced to pay, through their taxes, for any of those things. But, it is particularly grotesque that those who can’t afford the government-induced sky-high cost of insurance must be forced to pay for the government-funded healthcare of others. This is a good example of how the violations of rights in one area leads to rights violations in others. Principles are inexorable – they continue to work. The uninsured do indeed pay. But, that doesn’t give them a right to healthcare. They do, however, have a right to their monetary property. At the very least, they should be given tax credits to purchase insurance, to offset what they pay toward government funding. This is a good short-term reform to advocate, and of course it is not what the authors want. They want to pile one injustice on top of another. They love that slippery slope.

There is only one political principle that can justify Lowenstein’s and Earnest’s argument – collectivism, or the subordination of the individual to the group. And there is only one ethical standard that can justify collectivism – altruism, or the doctrine that holds service and sacrifice for others as the standard of the good. To defeat the advance of statism, it is collectivism/altruism that must be challenged. As long as they are not, the statists will always occupy the moral high ground that rightfully belongs to the advocates of freedom and capitalism. There will always be someone with a need to justify a moral, and ultimately a political, claim on the lives of all. The Left’s whole ideological edifice is laced through with the essential premises relied upon by the authors of this piece. You hear it every time the proponents of government-run healthcare speak up, from Obama on down.

In their concluding paragraph, Lowenstein and Earnest drop the pretense of compassion and openly call for the initiation of US government force against its own private citizens, in the form of “subsidization and [legal] compulsion”. This is the naked essence of socialism: the convergence of altruism and force. Force is the antipode of freedom – i.e., of individual rights. Those who resort to it, forfeit all claim to compassion. Force is the antipode of Capitalism, of free markets, and of a truly “private market in health care”. Legalized force is the only means of implementing “universal coverage” based upon the principle of a “right” to healthcare.

The precedents have long been established for the end of freedom, and usurped power is everywhere entangled in American healthcare, as is amply demonstrated throughout this piece. The Left fully understands the principles and precedents driving healthcare down the “slippery slope toward government-run health care”: They initiated them. To reverse the trend, it’s time to see the consequences of their principles, and deny those principles: There is no right to healthcare, and government has no business imposing universal coverage and usurping the peoples’ right to make their own healthcare choices.

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