Much of the United States focuses yet again on the controversy surrounding “Obamacare.” For the moment, pundits and cable news channels have moved away from the government’s dismal economic record, the war in Afghanistan, or the American intelligence community’s pervasive global spying. But throughout the discussion of “Obamacare,” there persists one point that must be addressed: the argument that placing healthcare in the hands of the government is an unwise action because of the inefficiencies that government always brings with it.
This is not to suggest that government intervention in the healthcare market, or any market, will usher into existence anything but greater inefficiency and corruption. This is merely a fact, exemplified in government’s economic interventions causing market depressions. By its definition as an entity with monopolies on violence and territory, government is “meant” for these unjust tasks, and is not meant to intervene in the healthcare system.
We see these concerns about efficiency appear everywhere in the healthcare debates. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Rand Paul makes just this kind of pragmatic argument. If even the reassuring voice of the rising, libertarian-sympathetic right seems to make this point, what is wrong with it? Isn’t this results-oriented concern legitimate?
The problem confronting the American people is that of healthcare. More precisely, the problem is massive government intervention in the healthcare market combined with the “individual mandate” controversy. But let us cut to the core what these things represent: government intervention in a market, along with the individual mandate’s compelling a form of activity within this market. Basically, the problem is government applying its monopoly on force and violence to a market for the purposes of “justice” and “efficiency.”
In the media, proponents of healthcare reform argue that they will achieve many just ends and increase the healthcare system’s efficiency. Opponents reply that these reforms will only bring about greater problems in the markets, including waste and reduced quality. The latter groups points to the multitude of failed government healthcare schemes throughout the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and others. Both sides, however, share one tactic in common: they argue that healthcare reform appears valid or invalid based on results, not principles.
While the factual benefits of a completely free market are the subject of another discussion, the current question of facts versus morals still stands. This is a question for those claiming to support liberty, as their making a factual argument rather than a moral one carries more implications than those supporting the state. Some lovers of liberty, in response to my argument, may decry my commitment to reality and irrational thought with my indictment of the facts-based argument. But with further evaluation, we will see why any person who supposedly supports liberty and stands in opposition to government’s unabashed aggression should prefer making the philosophical and moral argument.
Facts, though useful if one can be certain of their accuracy, are fickle things. View any news station, and one will find that each pundit has his or her own set of facts backing his viewpoint. Behind these facts and statistics lies an entire industry of think tanks, polling entities, and institutes. One cannot be surprised, then, when he finds that for almost each of his facts stands an opposing fact. I am not advocating for some sort of factual nihilism, but merely demonstrating the issues that arise from arguing purely based on factual findings. These facts could easily be true, but they might easily be ineffective against an opposition that views its facts as equally legitimate.
There is something to be said about relating facts and results to the “average person.” Nearly every American will find the healthcare laws impacting him or her in some manner. Here again, though, we find the ease of “spinning” this experience with the healthcare laws.
What is left, then, is the philosophical argument.
Let us take this same task–relating the problem to the “average person”–to a philosophical level and consider it in this same manner. Say that one owns some sort of business: a lemonade stand, for simplicity’s sake. In one’s neighborhood and city there exist a vibrant lemonade trade, with the stand owners as a vital part. Then, based on the platitudes of “fairness” and “justice,” a group of armed men declare the implementing of their orders regarding lemonade on penalty of some force (whether it be fines, imprisonment, etc.). This is government intervention. What makes such an action right?
If anything relates to the individual’s experience, it seems that this analogous thought experiment does a better job than relating the issue back to experiences of losing one’s insurance or paying exponentially more for healthcare. For, while factual examples can bear great truth, statists may still use “facts” to refuting them. While one could disagree as to the basic or foundational principles behind the philosophical example, there is little there that one could actually refute.
In the next stages of the healthcare debate, the media’s attention will likely turn to government officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This is directly tied to her testimony before the House. During this hearing, Sebelius “personally apologized for those failures [of the Obamacare website]” and continued arguing that the critics of the government were incorrect, especially in the promises of individuals keeping their insurance plans. Additionally, President Obama has clearly contradicted his earlier statements about healthcare reforms.
These are valid elements of the healthcare debate that any person claiming to support liberty must point out. But, at the same time, he cannot forget that Sebelius and Obama are not the heart of the problem. Government looms as a greater evil in this debate. Lovers of liberty must identify government as the core of the problem, not merely politicians from the opposing side. For, without such knowledge, government might continue destroying and pillaging its way through human history.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac