In Part I of this three-part reply to Lance Armstrong’s petition-signing request, was a personal anecdote making the point that individuals across this country face challenges with health related issues all the time, including cancer. And, with all due respect to Armstrong, he isn’t unique. Moreover, how we deal with those challenges, and how we view the world around us, makes all the difference. Furthermore, that life can be profoundly short, but that our vision for life cannot: an individual must not, no matter how tempting the reason, give sanction to those who would claim his life (and his progeny’s) as a means to the ends of others. Part I concluded that it was the founding fathers of this country who declared their independence in a document that reflected an idea that the rights of an individual are fundamentally not subordinated to any government; yet, a supposed right to health care implicit in Armstrong’s plea for signatures would usher in a paradigm implementing just that.
Part II was a stroll down memory lane and fact avenue for those of you who do not know why it is that medical services and the insurance to pay for it are so incredibly expensive, and why they continue to be ever-more costly. The reason is clear: government intervention heaped upon government intervention creating a relatively unlimited demand while simultaneously restricting those who provide health care goods and services. Thus, artificially and relative to demand, limiting supply. All of this in an environment of fiat currency inflated at the behest of politicians who operate through appointed government bureaucrats. The solution is clear: unleash the free market, and leash the government.
“Rights” wrote Ayn Rand,
are a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.”
What this means, in the context of this debate, is that an individual cannot have a capricious claim to health insurance, or health care, and call it a right; with the implicit obligation for their claims to be filled by the coercion of others. But rather, a real right-to health care or anything else-is the freedom of an individual to engage in those acts necessary in order to further his life. It is a moral principle that provides sacred ground for an individual to act for his own benefit requiring all other parties not to interfere and violate this freedom. The only mechanism by which rights can be violated, if rights are properly understood, is if someone or some entity uses physical force to prevent him from acting (trading) freely. So it is that individual rights are the fundamental mechanism underlying a free society. Indeed, they are that to which our founders implicitly referred when stating we are “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”
A bona fide right to health care actually means that one has the right not to be physically prevented from obtaining or providing health care or health insurance through voluntary trade. It sustains ones liberty to exchange with others voluntarily, thereby not violating either ones right to the same. Both parties exchange something they value less, for something they value more, and neither party is coerced in the process. This is known as free market capitalism, and it is the only social system capable of matching the philosophical premise and the ideals of our founding. It is the only social system capable of being moral, of allowing men and women to act in morally significant ways. Government has a role, but it is profoundly limited to protecting the individual’s true rights from being violated by the initiation of physical force. And since it is government which has a monopoly on the use of physical force, their role of non-intervention is profound.
What Lance Armstrong is suggesting, in incredible contrast, is that health care insurance appears as though by magic, and that he and those who would physically coerce the rest of us to pay for it have a claim to it by the mere fact of having a need (real or perceived), or merely a want for it. Such a conceptualization of a right is the complete antithesis of a bona fide right because it clearly implies, in fact requires, the use of physical force by a third party (in this case the federal government) to coerce individuals to sacrifice for the unearned benefits of others. It is the “I’m entitled to take it by virtue of the fact I exist” mentality. And they justify this abomination of the concept of rights by calling it a duty, or a hallmark, of a civilized society! Again, at this point, it is instructive to once again refer to Ms Rand:
Since there is no such entity as ‘society,’ since society is only a number of individual men, this meant, in practice, that the rulers of society were exempt from moral law; subject only to traditional rituals, they held total power and exacted blind obedience—on the implicit principle of: “The good is that which is good for society (or for the tribe, the race, the nation), and the ruler’s edicts are its voice on earth.” “This was true of all statist systems, under all variants of the altruist-collectivist ethics, mystical or social. “The Divine Right of Kings” summarizes the political theory of the first—”Vox populi, vox dei” of the second. As witness: the theocracy of Egypt, with the Pharaoh as an embodied god—the unlimited majority rule or democracy of Athens—the welfare state run by the Emperors of Rome—the Inquisition of the !ate Middle Ages—the absolute monarchy of France—the welfare state of Bismarck’s Prussia—the gas chambers of Nazi Germany—the slaughterhouse of the Soviet Union.
When I posed the rhetorical question in Part II asking “What, exactly, would entail from an enforcement end in all of this, and what sort of country would we have around us as a result?”, I was clearly referring to the philosophical vacant lot where the notions of national socialism, Marxism, and communism are now junk-heaped. It is no small move from nationalized health care to controls on your and my behavior, and to a whole host of limitations and restrictions on your and my freedom and liberty. I think you, the reader, get the point.
I submit that it is crystal clear that the mere idea of a right to anything that requires coercion or physical force to implement is simply not a right, but rather more similar to slavery. Moreover, we do have a right to health care – but it is a right to freely obtain it and to not be prohibited from freely trading for it by anyone, including, and especially, the government. They ought not have any role in this matter except to protect ones individual right to obtain it without force or coercion. Stated differently, their unique role is limited to the protection of our right to trade, as recipient or as provider, from the threat of violence-especially from the government itself!
In closing I would like to state that I very much admire Lance Armstrong. I admire him for his virtues of productiveness and the obvious pride he has in his marvelous athletic ability, his ability to deal with pain, his will to win, and his dedication to personal fitness. He is a motivation to me and thousands of other cyclists and athletes. His dedication to the idea of finding a cure for cancer is laudable and righteous. But my message to Lance is this: if you are truly interested in finding a way to make health care services, including cancer treatments, less costly, more effective, and more accessible do not appeal the the federal government to get it done – they are intrinsically incapable-never designed, intended, or fundamentally equipped to do it. Rather, it is free market capitalism, coupled with sound money, that sets the stage for a stable price structure for all goods and services-including health care and the insurance to pay for it. The fact that in just 25 short years, computers and computer related goods have become ubiquitous and inexpensive, and have progressively become of higher quality and lower cost simultaneously, is precisely due to this economic reality. If government interventions were eliminated from the realm of medical care and the insurance to pay for it, the results would be precisely the same: more choice, higher quality, and lower real costs over time.
So, and with all due respect to Lance, let me restate his petition-paraphrasing somewhat from the great economist George Reisman-in a way that would truly make rational sense and solve this problem once and for all!
“The government of the United States, members of both major political parties, Republican Presidents and Democrat Presidents, have purposefully intervened in the provisioning of and payment mechanism for medical care for over 50 years. The result is clear: the costs for both medical care and the insurance used to pay for it have spiraled out of the financial reach of the vast majority of citizens. The effect of this cause has resulted in many cancer sufferers finding it financially impossible to directly pay for the care they need, and it is now to the point that the insurance companies are similarly stressed by these costs threatening their ability to remain viable concerns.
This is inexcusable and must change-immediately. We demand that any so-called “health care reform” bill passed by Congress address the overriding and fundamental causes by recognizing that it is government intervention coupled with unsound money which is to blame for this health care cost problem. In recognition of this reality, legislation must be written specifically to eliminate government intervention that violates a free market in medical care.
To effect this goal Congress must set in motion enabling law that will systematically deregulate medical-licensing, remove all provisions in current law that promote the collectivization of private medical insurance, begin the process of abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, and rid our country of all government intervention that impedes the freedom to trade between patients and physicians. If there are any regulations that increase the cost of medical care, they too must be abolished.”