Friday, October 19, 2007

The Tragedy of Medical Commons

Tibor R. Machan

Perhaps you think that all that stuff about abuse of medical services is just bunk, an attempt to discredit Hilary and the other advocates of socialized medicine for Americans. Well, you can never be sure about the motivation of people you hardly know but I bet there are good reasons for doubting the viability, let alone the morality, of socialized medicine.

I have a good friend in Birmingham, Alabama, who is a medical doctor who does emergency room service on a regular basis and his stories confirm the fear of the tragedy of the medical commons. When people believe they are getting something for nothing, when they draw on the common pool of resources to finance their medical maladies, a great many of them will give very little thought to prudence, thrift, and cost. As my friend tells me, the emergency ward is being visited by people, many of them taking advantage of free ambulance service as well, for the slightest of problems. They come in and take up the time of doctors and nurses even though all they have wrong with them is something like a bloody nose or a sore throat. When the doctor tells them that theirs simply doesn't qualify as an emergency but for a measly $3 they could be looked at, most of them refuse to pay and leave, all the time chugging on a can of beer and smoking them good old smokes, which costs them far more than the $3 that would get them to a doctor. Week after week these kind of scene replay in the emergency ward and there is nothing that can be done about it since America's government supervised medical system, which is as near to a socialist one as one can be without actually being fully socialized, makes it all possible.

All the while these kinds of episodes are multiplying around the country, the English and Canadian systems of socialized medicine are coming under scrutiny and severe criticism for driving competent doctors away and creating fatal shortages. The trivial use of hospitals, nurses and doctors will, of course, have deadly consequences on the few but serious emergencies that do show up. The lines of patients get longer and longer by the week. The entitlement mentality has no restraint--if a service is deemed to be due someone as a matter of his or her basic right, why worry about the fact that making use of it will bankrupt the system?

I remember a good friend of mine--actually, an ex wife--once joined a commune in Oregon since some friends of hers were already there and she liked their company. Maybe she thought all those in the commune would be agreeable folks. To her dismay, however, a great many of the people turned out to be leeches, ones who simply want to get a free ride off the few who actually tried to make the experiment work. Instead of pitching in with their fair share of work, they waited for the few diligent, conscientious members of the commune to get things cleaned up, restock the pantry and so forth, while they sat about doing nothing to pitch in.

The Clinton ideology, derived as it is from Karl Marx's Utopian vision of a future communist society (via her mentor the Marxist Rabbi, Michael Lerner), fails to accept that there really are people who lack good will and commitment to flourishing in their lives. Instead, if they are given a chance by kind and gentle and gullible politicians and bureaucrats, they will sit on their butts and let others take care of them not because they are in great need or suffering impediments but because they are plain lazy and shiftless. Such a "judgmental" outlook on human life is cast to the side by the Clinton crowd, who knows why except perhaps to make sure that no one's vote is lost at election time. The price of it is a disastrous health case system that will produce fatalities for which of course no one will take the blame.

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