Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Insurance and Collectivism

Tibor R. Machan

Anyone who grasps the political big picture must have figured out that President Obama and his team of so called liberal--but really, social--democrats are collectivists of the first order. For them society is a large bee hive or ant colony, and they are convinced that they have landed the job of the managers of this collective entity. It is a bit ironic, actually, since it is usually liberal democrats who, in America at least, champion "the right of privacy." That is the case when it comes to, say, abortion or sodomy which, of course, are arguably matters of private concern. (The difficulty with abortion is that there is no consensus in the country about when a human being comes into existence--whether, for example, a zygote or embryo or fetus is a human individual and thus has human rights.) Apart, though, from the right to privacy--say, a woman's right to choose whether to continue with her pregnancy or a couple's right to engage in any kind of peaceful sexual escapades--liberal democrats do not acknowledge the existence of individual rights. Most of all they are now nearly unanimous about denying that there are private property rights. (The exception is when it comes to publishing houses and the press. With reference to these they are willing to invoke property rights since that is the best way to ward off censorship!)

So when it comes to providing people with health insurance, liberal democrats dogmatically assume that "the wealth of the country" is for them to use and dispose of as they see proper. Individuals have no rights to their resources, income, or wealth, especially not those individuals who have plenty of these. Once you make more than $250K, say Obama & Co., the wealth is not yours but belongs to us all so society's managers may spend it as they see fit. Sure, there needs to be some decision process in Washington about how the spending will proceed. But the individual citizens who came by the resources, income or wealth--by hard work, good luck, or some other honest means--have no say. As the ailing Senator Teddy Kennedy put it in a recent communique from his sickbed, "Health care is a basic human right!"

Yet this only goes if health care were like liberty--all others need to do to respect one's right to liberty is, well, nothing. Their work would not need to be conscripted so as to ensure that others are not killed, assaulted, or robbed. Just leave them all be and make sure when you interact with them they give their consent. But this isn't how a right to health care or health insurance--and many similar so called entitlements of the welfare state--are secured. To provide people with health care doctors, nurses, hospital personnel, medical researchers, and drug manufacturers, among others, need to be at work and if they are to be compensated for this, the compensation must come from yet some other people's resources. Or, as the liberal democrats see it, from the common pool of the country's wealth. No one's wealth then is really confiscated because they don't own any wealth, only produce it for the commonwealth. Like a family or club or some other collective which is, however, usually held together by the voluntary agreement of all the members.

So for liberal democrats individuals have no property rights--not even rights to their liberty the exercise of which normally creates one's income, small or large. (This is why it is such an obscenity that liberal democrats have hijacked the term "liberal" which used to refer to individual freedom!) While they appear at times to care about rights--as noted above, the right to privacy is one they roll out in certain limited cases--this is by no means their general political stance. Instead, they seem to believe that we ourselves are the property of the country, even the government, which they may lay claim to whatever comes from us, be it work, thought, time, skills, or material resources. And if one insists that there is something awfully wrong with all this, they will insist that one is just being greedy!

When the novelist philosopher Ayn Rand was asked about whether it would be possible to form a political movement in support of a genuine free society her answer was, "It's earlier than you think." What she meant is that the people in this culture--not to mention others around the globe--aren't yet willing to embrace liberty. Too many people embrace, instead, the reactionary idea--not at all progressive, as the Left would like to have everyone believe--that we are all members of a tribe for which we owe unconditional allegiance. This despite the fact that America, of course, is just the country that was founded on the rejection of that outlook and built on the view that individuals are sovereign and everyone must accept this in a civilized country.

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