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Dude, Where’s My Freedom?

The government tightens the noose on guns, health, travel, and more.

by
Paul Hsieh

Bio

June 11, 2011 - 12:00 am

Benjamin Franklin once warned Americans that “they who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” Yet in the seemingly unrelated areas of health care and physical security, our political leaders are embracing this folly with predictably bad results.

In the realm of health care, the Obama administration is forging ahead to implement its “universal health care” plan, despite consistent popular opposition and numerous legal challenges. They claim they must restrict patients’ freedoms by forcing them to purchase insurance on government terms and restrict doctors’ freedoms by herding them into Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in order to guarantee everyone the supposed “security” of guaranteed health care.

Yet, as we’ve already seen in Massachusetts (which has a health plan similar to the national ObamaCare program), this results in patients having theoretical “coverage” — but less of an ability to get actual medical care.

In the related realm of pharmaceuticals, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims it must restrict patients’ freedom to purchase (and manufacturers’ freedom to sell) drugs in order to protect our safety. However, pharmaceutical industry experts fault onerous FDA regulations for contributing to the current dangerous shortage of many injectable drugs by artificially raising the costs of drug creation and production. Hence, many seriously ill patients are now unable to get the medications they need.

Even worse, as Mark McCarty of Medical Device Daily recently described, FDA advisors have sought to deny terminally patients access to potentially life-extending treatments on the grounds that “the risk-benefit ratio was not up to par.” Similarly, medical device makers are now finding Europe a more hospitable environment for innovation than the U.S. due to FDA regulations. Rather than protecting Americans, the FDA is endangering them.

In the realm of transportation security, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is already a national joke for groping grandmothers and babies. Yet when tested with fake bombs and real guns, they’ve failed miserably. Indeed, it was the passengers who stopped the would-be bomber in Detroit of Northwest Airlines flight 253, not the TSA — a classic example of what blogger Glenn Reynolds calls “An Army of Davids.”

Americans have surrendered their freedoms (and their dignity) to the TSA for a sham “security theater” rather than genuine security. Yet politicians like Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) want to extend such controls from air travel to train travel.

Finally, Obama administration officials recently let slip that they are working on new gun control measures “under the radar.” Gun control is the classic example of foolishly exchanging an essential liberty for an illusion of security. The U.S. states that respect the honest citizen’s right to carry firearms in self-defense have consistently lower rates of violent crimes than states with strict gun control laws.

These examples illustrate the problems that arise when government oversteps its proper bounds. The proper function of government is to protect individual rights, such as our rights to free speech, property, and contract. Only those who initiate physical force or fraud can violate our rights. A properly limited government thus protects our rights by protecting us from criminals who steal, murder, rape, and so on, as well as from foreign aggressors. But it should otherwise leave honest people alone to live peacefully.

Whenever government exceeds those proper bounds, it violates honest citizens’ rights, rather than protecting them. Rather than the guilty, the innocent thus bear the costs.

Innocent patients in Massachusetts suffer by having to wait nearly twice as long for primary care appointments than patients in the other 49 states. Innocent patients around the country suffer from FDA barriers restricting their access to life-saving drugs and medical devices. TSA gropings punish innocent travelers, not the bad guys. Gun control punishes honest gun owners while rewarding violent criminals by delivering to them a populace of disarmed victims.

Fortunately, we can rectify these injustices by insisting that the government adhere to its legitimate function of protecting individual rights.

In health care, a proper government would allow patients, doctors, and insurers to enter into insurance contracts according to their own best judgment. The government’s job would be to enforce those contracts against any attempts by patients, providers, or insurers to cheat. It should not punish insurance companies for selling products that customers want, as recently occurred in Massachusetts. Note that in such a free market, the freedom to contract protects insurability (including for patients with pre-existing conditions), rather than destroying it.

With pharmaceuticals, the government should protect us against fraudulent claims. But otherwise drugmakers should be left free to decide what drugs to manufacture. Likewise, doctors and patients should decide what medications they should prescribe/take. The resultant free market would make safe, effective drugs much more affordable and available to all.

With respect to terrorism, the government should adopt a proactive foreign policy that actually tackles the threat of Islamic totalitarianism, rather than harassing law-abiding travelers.

With respect to violent crime, the government should go after actual criminals rather than penalizing law-abiding gun owners.

All forms of “gun control,” “travel control,” or “health control” are just examples of a broader “freedom control.” And they are all doomed to fail because at root they are just different ways of government violating our individual rights rather than protecting them.

In Memorial Day and D-Day commemorations around the country, America recently honored the many brave men and women who fought abroad for our liberty. Let us not ignobly surrender that hard-won liberty for politicians’ sham promises of “security” here at home. Otherwise, we may all wake up one day soon wondering, “Dude, where’s my freedom?”

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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