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Can the Moral ‘Narrative’ of ObamaCare Be Defeated?

The government should not rob men to pay their neighbors' medical bills.
Related: "Hopenchange 2010: It’s Come To This."

by
Paul Hsieh

Bio

March 4, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Liberals would be outraged. They would correctly argue that such a system of “universal security” would essentially enslave Americans, thus destroying what’s essential about America in the name of allegedly protecting it.

Thoughtful liberals would also correctly observe that ultimately, there is no conflict between freedom and security. Instead, the only way for a government to guarantee long-term security is by scrupulously respecting and protecting essential American freedoms. Only a free society will possess the robustness and vitality necessary to defend itself against threats to that freedom. And more importantly, only such a free society would be worth defending.

The same argument applies to the health care debate. The only way Americans can protect their long-term access to quality medical care is by demanding that the government respect their freedom and individual rights. Any system of “universal” health care necessarily requires a bureaucracy to control who can receive what services and when — if only to control costs. The medical rationing in Canada and the UK are typical results. In these countries, far from being a “right,” health care becomes just another privilege to be dispensed at the discretion of the bureaucrats.

ObamaCare would also stifle medical innovation, as Glenn Reynolds and others have observed. The medical advances we currently take for granted may not be there in 10-15 years, resulting in thousands of needless “deaths by regulation.” In contrast, in the least regulated sectors of health care (such as LASIK and cosmetic surgery), we see the typical pattern over time of falling prices and rising quality that we take for granted with cell phones and computers. This can and should be the norm in all of health care.

But what if someone needs care but can’t afford it? In a free society, who would pay for his care?

The answer: anyone who wished to.

Americans have always been magnificently generous in helping those in dire straits through no fault of their own. But anyone in such need must rely on voluntary charity, not government coercion.

If someone needed $10,000 for an operation, he is free to ask his neighbors for voluntary assistance, and they are free to offer it (or not). But it would be immoral for him steal that money from his neighbor’s college fund — or to steal $100 from 100 of his neighbors. His need does not give him an automatic “right” to his neighbors’ wealth. Using the government as his agent in such theft does not somehow make it morally right.

The government should not rob men to pay their neighbors’ medical bills. Instead, it should protect each man’s right to his hard-earned wealth, including respecting his right to decide whether and how he should save it, spend it, or give to others as charity. That’s “the right thing to do.”

And as with domestic security, in the end there is no fundamental conflict between freedom and health care. The only way we preserve our ability to receive quality affordable medical care is by respecting core principles of freedom and individual rights.

If we violate those principles in a vain attempt to guarantee “universal health care,” we will violate the moral principle that each man is entitled to the fruits of his labor, instead enslaving each man to pay for his neighbor’s medical care. We will destroy the prosperity and innovation that make modern medicine possible. We will give the government control over how doctors may practice, and which treatments patients may or may not receive. Our lives will no longer be ours, but rather the government’s. The end result will be, in Leonard Peikoff’s words, “the very opposite of noble.”

Benjamin Franklin once said, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” Let us not ignobly enslave ourselves for an illusion of “guaranteed health care.” We’ll have neither freedom nor health care — and we’ll deserve neither.

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Paul Hsieh, MD, is a member of the Colorado chapter of Docs4PatientCare (www.Docs4PatientCare.org) and co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (www.WeStandFIRM.org).
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