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A term that has gained widespread currency online, particularly in political discussions, is “virtue-signaling.” In this essay, I would like to share some thoughts regarding the philosophic origin of this phenomenon, particularly its roots in the moral theory of altruism. To begin, let’s consider what the concept “virtue-signaling” designates.
Virtue-signaling is the attempt to gain the approval of others by visibly supporting a cause in which one does not actually believe. Even more succinctly, it is the conspicuous support of a value that one does not hold. Those who virtue-signal are trying to gain unearned moral approval from their friends and colleagues. Let’s consider some concrete examples comparing “true believers” with virtue-signallers.
A shopper that routinely patronizes more expensive “mom and pop” stores to save them from Target and Wal-Mart is not virtue-signaling. A Park Slope resident that signs an e-petition to ban “big box stores” from their neighborhood between Amazon shopping sprees, on the other hand, is.
The environmentalist that actively lobbies the state legislature to ban straws and puts out propaganda pamphlets decrying plastic is not virtue-signaling, but the soccer mom that helps circulate a video of a tortoise with a straw in its nose on Facebook while relying on plastic products for her kids’ school lunches is.
A Christian that goes to church every Sunday, observes Old Testament dietary practices, and reads the Bible regularly is not a virtue-signaller. The “Christian” that never goes to church and has never read the Bible, though he brags about being godly and wears a golden crucifix on his neck, is virtue-signaling six ways from Sunday (and especially on Sunday).
American millennials that advocate for socialism in online polls via their iPhone web browser, otherwise apolitical people that denounce Donald Trump because they want their co-workers to like them, and people who superimpose flags on their Facebook profile pictures after some national disaster are also cases of virtue-signaling. None of these people think about the causes that they “support” when nobody is watching. Without a crowd to please, these people would be lost at sea like a ship without a functioning compass.
Now that we have a feel for what virtue-signaling is, the next question to ask is: what does this phenomenon have to do with altruism? Altruism is the ethical theory that mandates self-sacrifice as a moral ideal. The good, for the altruist, is what is good for other people, and the essence of immorality is selfishness. Altruism has two implications which are crucial to our analysis of virtue-signaling.
The first is that nobody can be a consistent altruist, because a person that is entirely unconcerned for their own welfare would be dead faster than a fish in a volcano. Human beings, as living things, have specific requirements that must be met for them to remain alive, such as food, shelter, love, purpose, etc. People working in soup kitchens don’t have the energy to carry out more trays if they do not eat on occasion. A man who donates his penicillin to the first afflicted soul he meets on the road will not be well long enough to continue the practice. Perhaps the most eloquent example is that of Francis of Assisi, who famously despaired that he could not cease eating entirely and made sure to sprinkle his food with ashes to destroy its flavor when he did permit himself a meal. We can call this difficulty the “consistency problem.”
The second result of altruism is that its practitioners require someone who is not an altruist to serve. To see this, imagine the following scenario. An altruist, Adam, is urged to sacrifice for the good of his neighbor, Bob. Eager to do good, Adam goes to Bob’s home and knocks on the door. Bob answers the door, and Adam asks, “What can I do for you, Bob?”
What happens next in our story depends on whether Bob is an altruist or not. If he is, then he might say: “I don’t know, my idea of the good is helping other people. My neighbor Carol might need our help, let’s go over to her place and see what she needs.” Should that contingency obtain, then Carol will have the same dilemma on her hands. If the neighborhood is sufficiently populated with altruists, this may go on for quite some time, with the posse having to visit Dan, Eleanor, Fred, and many more before they reach someone who is happy to accept the sacrifice. Of course, if Bob is not an altruist, he would gleefully have asked Adam to trim his hedges or mow his lawn.
The difficulty inherent in this story is that the altruist defers the question of what is good to the person for whom he is supposed to sacrifice. Altruism turns people into do-gooders with no real idea of what “good” even means. Another way of putting the same point is that where there is a person offering sacrifices, there is an entity (whether real or imagined) that is reaping sacrifices. We can call this issue the “infinite regress problem.”
Now for the payout. Virtue-signaling allows people who have adopted altruism as their ethics to cope with both the problems discussed above. It provides an answer to the “consistency problem” in that it gives people an ability to save face as altruists even though they do not wish to make sacrifices. It provides an answer to the “infinite regress problem” by serving as an example to others who want to showcase their altruist bona fides and have no idea how to do so. Virtue-signaling thus appears to be an adaptation made by people who are wary of the onerous demands of altruism, yet are unable to challenge its ethical premise. It is not surprising that a practice such as virtue-signaling would evolve in a culture which mixes Christian, Kantian, and Aristotelian premises the way that ours does.
A frequent question I hear in Meetups and other forums dedicated to ideas is: why do people assume that the actions of leftists are noble and motivated by morality, while those of conservatives and libertarians are viewed as cynical and immoral?
The answer is that ethics is more fundamental than politics because all political positions presuppose some ethical framework that its advocates seek to realize. Governments institute policies to achieve particular ends, according to what the prevailing ethics espouses.
The fact is that the dominant ethical theory across the entire political spectrum is altruism. Altruism, meaning “other-ism,” is a coin termed by French philosopher Auguste Comte which describes the view that ethical actions preclude selfishness. On the altruist premise, ethics consists in sacrificing your interests to the interests of the group, the community, the nation, the occasional neighbor, or an entity in another dimension. The beneficiary of any action, for an altruist, must not be the person acting. More consistent altruists, such as Immanuel Kant, even go so far as to say that actions cease to have “moral import” to the extent that they are self-interested.
It is important not to confuse altruism with benevolence. Opening a door for someone with full hands or giving up your seat on the train for an old lady are not instances of altruism. Nor it is altruism if you treat your friends to dinner, or cancel and stay home with your sick child if she needs your help. These are not sacrifices but trades, motivated by the fact that one’s resources and time are finite.
The essential difference is that while self-interested people trade lesser values for higher values, altruism demands that people exchange lesser values (or even non-values) for actual values. Such an act is not a trade, but a sacrifice. If you enter a burning building to save your wife because you love and her and would not want to live without her, then it is not a sacrifice to brave the flames to try and pull her out. If, on the other hand, you go in and risk your neck to save your neighbor’s wife, only to let yours burn to ashes, then you have committed a heinous crime against your own life.
Democrats today advocate a mixture of fascism and socialism in their politics, both of which rest on the moral framework of altruism. A politics based on altruism elevates need above all else and cashes in on the fact that people will go to great lengths to help the “have-nots,” as mandated by their morality. When this happens, objectivity and context go out the window, and all that remains is emotionalism based on helping those who are in need.
When leftists advocate taxing the rich, it is altruism that conjures the image of Oliver Twist asking for just a little more porridge, rather than the faceless businessmen who expended their effort to create the wealth in the first place. When leftists hurl invective at police officers for allegedly targeting innocent blacks, it is altruism that sparks the memory of Bull Connor and his hounds, rather than the paranoid cop who is afraid to draw his gun when threatened for fear of being called a racist. When leftists push for a ban on fracking or DDT to stop corporations from despoiling the land, it is altruism that brings to mind Bambi’s mother rather than the millions of people who will die of malaria and insufficient heating oil.
The social justice warriors have moved the needle in this country, and they have done so in a relatively short span of time. It was not too long ago that movies made fun of men dressed as women, and today people who think it odd when full-grown men elect to use the lady’s restroom are made to feel like bigots. It used to be the case that Martin Luther King’s famous quote about the content of one’s character being more important than the color of one’s skin was the essence of anti-racism. Today, Black Lives Matter tells whites that they have privilege because they are white. Then there are the women clad in “pussy hats” who march through New York City, a metropolitan hub for the freest country in history, demanding an end to “patriarchy” while simultaneously calling people “Islamophobic” for criticizing theocratic regimes in the Middle East when they treat women like Sharia Barbie.
Today’s society is a microcosm of what has gone on historically. Institutions dominated by the left assume that socialism is not immoral but impractical and that those who advocate it are idealists who get carried away. According to this view, Ho Chi Minh was not a Marxist zealot seeking to enslave Vietnam under totalitarianism but was a freedom fighter trying to prevent his country from turning into another banana republic. According to this view, Castro may have gone too far in some respects, but he brought health care to Cuba. According to this view, Stalin screwed up what Lenin started, and if only Trotsky or Bukharin were in charge, then we would have had “true socialism” and paradise on earth. I used to know a fellow software developer who told me that he thought communism was ideal, but that people are too greedy and lazy to make it work.
The explanation for all of this is that altruism has provided the left with the moral currency that they need to get their agenda passed. Even those traditionally opposed to the left cannot help but look at the lunatic, vacant face of a former barista advocating for socialism and think: “she is young and naïve and we have the same goals, even though her methods differ from mine.”
This brings me to the conservatives. Many are religious and accept altruism, except that they make allowances for the free market often on pragmatic grounds. Even when they argue that capitalism works better than socialism, they cling to the altruist ethics that lead to a socialist conclusion. A famous example is Adam Smith, who claimed that while individual selfish actions are not moral, they give rise to something that is, in aggregate, moral. One cannot defend capitalism by moral alchemy; nobody but a Machiavellian pragmatist believes that two wrongs make a right.
The conservatives are incessantly put on the defensive because the fundamental debate is moral, not economic and they support the altruist ethics. It was Herbert Hoover, a conservative, who initiated the policies that would later develop into Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” It was Eisenhower, a conservative, that gave rise to the lie that big business was corrupting America’s angelic legislators via something called the “military-industrial complex.” It was Richard Nixon, a conservative, who gave us the EPA and finished off the gold standard. It was Ronald Reagan, a conservative, who introduced the term “social safety net” to the political lexicon. It was George W. Bush, a conservative, who argued that America’s proper foreign policy was to serve other nations and bring them “democracy,” without noticing that democracy is not the American political philosophy. Conservatives had one job: oppose the left, and they failed miserably.
If one wants to oppose the leftist cultural hegemony, one must challenge the ethical framework on which it depends.
Now one might reasonably ask: What does this entail, exactly? Does it mean that we advocate for lying, cheating, and stealing if we reject altruism? Do we promote Nietzsche’s ubermensch doctrine, and cull the weak like the Nazis? Do we laud people like Bernie Madoff, who was able to work the system and get away with it for a long time? No.
The proper ethical position today for those concerned with our political trend is to point out that the current moral debate is a false alternative. The choice is not between sacrificing oneself to others nor sacrificing others to oneself, but whether you are for or against sacrifice at all. Rather than grant that the left is doing the right thing the wrong way, one must assert that they are doing the wrong thing the wrong way.
Since conservatives (and non-leftists generally) have not embraced this, they have failed to gain significant political ground because of it. While leftists are consistent altruists, conservatives are hypocritical altruists, and this is why they always seem to glide along while the leftist agenda continues, unopposed. For those religious conservatives, in particular, Anita Dunn, one of Obama’s communications directors, offered a stark concretization for the left’s dependence on altruism when she remarked that Mao Zedong and Mother Teresa were her favorite philosophers. If you accept Mother Teresa, don’t be surprised when your opponent turns into Mao.
This is a slightly modified version of a speech I gave in a debate on Net Neutrality that I did with my partner, Louis Saintvil on January 18, 2018. The event was sponsored by MicGoat and was an Oxford-style debate. My partner and I won by swaying more of the undecided vote: our side began with four votes and ended with nine, while the opposition started with nine votes and finished with eleven.
You can see the debate on Youtube here.
I want to begin with an ethical explanation for why Net Neutrality is not valid legislation. As with any ethical discussion, a proper context is required. To that end, we need to define and understand three fundamental concepts: the nature of man, the nature of government, and the nature of individual rights.
Let’s look at the first of these: the nature of man. In the words of Aristotle, man is the rational animal. He survives by the free exercise of his reasoning mind. A man may feel hunger on instinct, but only his reason will tell him how to distinguish food from poison. A man’s body may suffer from infection without his thinking about it, but only his thinking about it can produce medicines to counteract the disease.
What is it that prevents a man from exercising his reason? Physical force. Coercion. You can’t think if someone else brandishes a gun your way or threatens to break your legs should you come to the wrong conclusion. Force is anti-mind and anti-reason.
To summarize this point: man uses reason to survive, and force is opposed to reason.
The next concept to examine is the nature of government. What is government? Government is an organization with a monopoly on physical force in a given geographic area; coercion is the essence of government. If you think otherwise, try ignoring a call from the IRS or disobeying a traffic cop sometime to see just how voluntary government mandates are.
To summarize this point: the essence of government is force, and a moral government seeks to prohibit the exercise of force in civilian life.
What is the government’s proper relationship with man? To answer this, we must discuss our third key concept: individual rights.
Rights are principles that define an individual’s freedom to act in a given social context; they are a bridge between ethics and politics. The theory of individual rights recognizes that an individual’s life is his own and that the individual is not to be expropriated by those who would sacrifice him to the ends of the group, the tribe, the race, the class, “God” or “society.”
Legitimate rights are concerned with freedom of action and are not guarantees for free goodies. This is worth repeating: rights do not entitle a person access to the products or services created by others on the grounds of need or whim. Rather, rights secure what a person creates by his own effort and allows him the freedom to trade with others.
There is no right to a “fair” wage, only a right to hire someone by agreed employment terms.
There is no right to a “competitive” price, only a right to produce and negotiate the terms of sale.
There is no right to happiness, only a right to the pursuit of your own happiness by your own effort.
Rights provide us with an objective means of rating a government. If the government protects citizens from those that initiate force, it secures their rights and is a critical ally of man. If government initiates force against man so to exploit what he creates, it becomes even worse than the two-bit thugs that hold him at gunpoint.
History is littered with governments that used force to oppress the people in its borders. Examples include the absolutist monarchies in Europe, the current theocratic states in the Middle East, and the totalitarian states of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the late 18th century when the American founding fathers discovered the proper role of government and gave birth to the United States, the first government that was limited by design.
To summarize this point: rights are principles that delineate individual action in a social context, and the government is at its best when it protects man’s rights.
So how does this viewpoint apply to the issue of Net Neutrality? Whenever we examine a government policy, what we need to ask is: is this a proper place to use a gun instead of a comment card, a boycott, or a rational argument?
In the case of Net Neutrality, the answers to these questions is a resounding “no!”
Net Neutrality legislation is based on the idea that cheap internet access is a right. In the words of the Orwellian “media watchdog” Free Press:
“What we want to have in the US and in every society, is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility. We want an Internet where you don’t have to have a password and that you don’t pay a penny for. It is your right to use the Internet.”
Like all phony rights, Net Neutrality is an attempt to guarantee people access to something that they didn’t produce without first asking: at whose expense?
Internet service is not something that simply exists in nature, ripe for redistribution and smarmy government guarantees. Net Neutrality legislation treats this expensive infrastructure as a given. It evades and invalidates the rights of the internet service providers (ISPs) who make the internet possible.
Advocates for Net Neutrality will counter that Net Neutrality protects free speech. If you want to post controversial blog posts or Facebook comments, proponents of the law argue, then what stops Verizon or Comcast from preventing that from occurring on their networks? Or even worse, what if your ISP decides to block access to certain websites on the grounds that it objects to the content there? As stated by the ACLU, ” freedom of expression isn’t worth much if the forums where people actually make use of it are not themselves free.”
This argument is based on a flawed conception of free speech. All rights are contextual; that is, there is a context in which one’s freedom to act can be limited by the rights of others involved, and this includes property rights. One person’s right to free speech does not mean that others must provide them with the means to express their ideas. Rather, free speech ensures that you are free to spread your views by whatever means you have earned in trade with others.
Free speech allows you to publish content in your own newspaper; it does not entitle you to publish content in someone else’s newspaper. Free speech holds that you can freely rent a lecture hall to speak, not that you are entitled to the microphone at an event that someone else has paid for. Content providers today such as Google or Facebook reserve the right to remove posts from their media at their discretion, and that is their right. By the same token, your right to free speech does not impose any obligations on those that deliver such content to you in the first place.
Even so, say Net Neutrality spokespeople, what about corporate influence in America? It is a long-accepted bromide among the political left (and some on the political “right”) that corporations collectively benefit from screwing over their customers and monopolizing whole industries for the sake of “greed.”
This attitude is generally misguided, but in the case of the internet it is totally out of touch with reality. To bring the internet to your home requires myriad cables, satellites, wireless transmitters, servers and other expensive, electronic equipment. ISPs have labored for decades to innovate and produce quality service to their customers, moving us from dial-up to DSL to fiber optics and beyond. From 2011 to 2013, the top 3 providers alone spent over $100 billion on improving their service. From 2005 to 2015, average broadband increased by a whopping 1150%. All this, without government mandates to enforce Net Neutrality. So much for the mustache-twirling businessman.
The fact is that Net Neutrality is not only unnecessary, but it is unjust and immoral. The internet is an important part of life in today’s world; I do not deny this. Precisely because it is so vital, however, the least we can do for those who make it possible, rather than try to regulate them out of existence, is to say if only once and as a whisper: thank you.
This is an essay based on a motion debate that I performed at in June 2017. My friend Chuck Braman and I defended the con side of the debate and argued that it is NOT proper for the government to provide healthcare for its citizens. This was another victory for the two of us as a team, but it was a lot closer than the previous debate on education. This time around, the same number of people shifted their vote on both sides, but because we came in with a far smaller percentage of the total, we were declared the winners.
The division of labor was the same as before: Chuck established the ethical context for our position and I supplemented it with economic and practical arguments. This essay has been lengthened to include some of Chuck’s arguments for the benefit of those that were not present.
America is obsessed with healthcare, and has been for nearly a century. In particular, activists and ideologues have led the charge with demands for government health guarantees, especially for those that are unable to afford it. The alternative, these people hold, is to simply allow children and elderly people to die in the street while well-fed elites enjoy the latest technology and treatments. It has been said that the free market has failed to provide Americans with adequate healthcare and that the government must now step in to correct the issue.
This view is entirely mistaken.
I’d like to disabuse the reader of a common misconception that is popular with both political parties: the idea that we have tried the free market in medicine and that it has failed to deliver results. The truth is that we currently do not have a free market in medicine in the United States today and have not for much of the 20th century. The US is a mixed economy with some freedom and some controls in the healthcare industry. Over time, the controls have continued to grow at the expense of Americans’ freedom.
Government intrusion into healthcare began with occupational licensing laws passed in the late 19th century. These regulations determine who can practice medicine by making it illegal to do so without a license. Medicine is already a demanding profession, as it requires considerable training and skill to become a doctor, yet these laws make that harder still. In the name of “high standards,” the state requires doctors to jump over regulatory hurdles in order to gain regulators’ permission to practice. Licensing laws overrule the independent judgement of dedicated doctors and savvy consumers and leave the market subject to the whims of the bureaucrats. The result is an artificially restricted supply of doctors, and therefore a higher cost for their services.
Licensing laws are only the beginning. The next step in the march towards more government in healthcare was the Stabilization Act of 1942, which froze wages nationwide during World War II. Employee benefits, such as health insurance, were not considered wages under the law and were therefore exempt from the freeze. Employers who sought to attract better talent were incentivized to offer health insurance during this period as part of their compensation packages. The practice was made permanent with the passage of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, which enshrined the tax benefits for these compensation packages.
The Stabilization Act brought us the modern link between health insurance coverage and employment that is bemoaned by many of today’s unemployed millennials.
The beat goes on, as Medicare and Medicaid were passed in 1965. These two programs taken together implemented full-on socialized medicine for the elderly and low-income populations in the United States. Years later, President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” with the passage of the National Cancer Act. Bill Clinton later took the baton from Tricky Dick in the 90’s when he earmarked more federal funds to cure cancer. The spent dollars are gone, but cancer remains a potent cause of death in America.
In 1986, under the supervision of the allegedly capitalistic Reagan administration, Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, also known as EMTALA. EMTALA mandated that hospitals could not reject emergency room care to any patient in need, and made doctors required by law to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. In the 1990’s, attempts by the Clinton administration to further increase government involvement in healthcare were narrowly defeated by the Republican majority in Congress.
This victory was short-lived, though, as the later Obama administration succeeded in passing the Affordable Care Act. Known colloquially as Obamacare, this bill has made health insurance mandatory for American citizens. In one of the most shameful Supreme Court decisions in history, the bill was upheld based on the government’s power to tax. Despite promises to repeal Obamacare, President Trump has no intention of slowing the growth of government in this sector of our economy.
This gallop through healthcare history explains how we got what we have today: a bloated, chimeric, monstrosity bred by a mixture of cronyism and big government. Today’s health care industry was not birthed by the free market, but by the enemies of freedom. What are the consequences of such a system?
One is the creation of an enormous, unnecessary bureaucracy that would make even the protagonist of Brazil recoil in horror. In the healthcare industry, red tape is the norm as clerks that are responsible for processing payments and dealing with insurance forms outnumber nurses two to one. The same clerks outnumber the physicians by an outrageous nine to one! In case these figures make you think there may be too many nurses on staff, note that it is estimated that nurses spend nearly 35% of their time on documentation alone.
A typical hospital spends over 38,000 man-hours a year to deal with the billing requirements for Medicare. It is easy to see why: Medicare has over 130,000 pages of rules and restrictions that need to be applied whenever a patient uses it. Studies have found that for every 1 hour spent caring for a Medicare patient, ½ an hour must be spent on paperwork. Many doctors no longer accept Medicare and those that do are stuck with the high overhead cost it imposes. Meanwhile, the FDA prohibits the manufacture and sale of new medical devices and prescription drugs in order to perform tests that take an average of 16 years. In the interim, many who would otherwise have had early access to life-saving technology perish while awaiting the seal of approval from some Washington bureaucrat. Such facts are enough to warrant changing the meaning of the acronym “FDA” from the “Food and Drug Administration” to the “Federal Death Administration.”
American lives are not the only thing spent on the healthcare industry. In 2014, Medicare and Medicaid together cost the country nearly $1 trillion; that is nearly 20% of the annual federal budget. Medicaid alone is often the single most expensive budget item in most states. The trend indicates that this will only continue to get worse. It is estimated that in 2029, 20% of federal dollars will be spent on Medicare. The same statistic in 2041 is expected to be closer to 25%. Obamacare, the most recent legislation on healthcare, on its own cost taxpayers $3 billion in 2016. Was this due to a new advance in technology or perhaps a new line of miracle drugs? No, the costs were due to penalties for not having purchased health insurance.
Is so-called “single-payer” (read: full socialized medicine) any cheaper than the hybrid system that we have today? Let’s look at some example cases to find out.
California recently sought to enact a single payer healthcare system, with an estimated cost of $400 billion. The only problem was that the entire state budget was $183 billion at the time. Vermont also tried to implement a single payer healthcare system in 2014, but it also failed due to the high cost. Taxpayers would have been on the hook to fund a $4.3 billion program in that state. How did the government of Vermont propose they pay? An 11.5% payroll tax on all businesses, and an income tax as high as 9.5% for individual taxpayers on top of it. In Colorado, voters rejected plans for a single payer system in 2016 when it was revealed that a 10% payroll tax increase would be needed to meet the $25 billion price tag.
The facts speak for themselves. Is single-payer cheaper? Hell, no!
What makes it so expensive? People are misled to believe that healthcare which is allegedly provided by the government is free when it isn’t. Nothing that requires human effort and the use of man’s reason is “free,” someone has to produce it. Yet in America, customers are insulated from the true costs of healthcare and health insurance due to a looming, third party payer environment that is in cahoots with the government. If and when this colossus fails to deliver, left-wing activists say, what we need is a complete government takeover to eliminate the contemptuous “middleman.”
The truth is that even in single-payer government systems, government does not produce anything. All it can do is redistribute by force what has been created by successful, productive citizens. The healthcare industry in the United States is inspired not by socialism on the Bolshevik model (communism), but socialism on the German model (fascism). The former is a system wherein the government completely owns the means of production outright, and the latter is a system wherein the government forces people with nominal “property rights” to do its bidding. Both systems are opposed to laissez-faire capitalism and both systems obliterate private property rights.
The advantage of the fascist model is that by preserving the trappings of a capitalist system, it is more difficult to see its totalitarian nature. It also makes it that much more difficult to see the true costs, since government’s ability to borrow and print unlimited money serves to obscure what is really happening. People tend to spend more when they are not given the bill at the end to settle. Before Medicare, nearly 55% of healthcare spending was out of pocket, and by 2010 that figure dropped to just over 10%. For every 1 dollar of care that a patient receives today, on average he only personally pays 14 cents. Who covers the rest? The benevolent government, a.k.a “the public,” a.k.a the cash-strapped taxpayer.
The final and arguably most morally devastating sin I will attribute here to government meddling in the healthcare industry is the massive wedge that it drives between doctors and their patients. Under the free market, the focus is on individuals — individual patients treated by individual doctors. The standard is individualized care. Under socialized medicine, the focus is on collectives – a collective of patients that is owed the services of a collective of doctors. The standard is collectivized care.
Collectivized care holds that what matters is what the FDA thinks is good for all patients, not what an individual doctor thinks is good for his patient.
Collectivized care holds that what matters is overall spending, not what an individual consumer should spend to satisfy her healthcare needs.
Collectivized care holds that what matters is what people need, not what they have earned.
The activists will argue that healthcare is a right, and that the state has a responsibility to provide affordable healthcare to its citizens. But there can be no right to the products or services produced by others. Such “rights” only enslave the producers to the consumers. To see the absurdity of such an argument, apply the principle that doctors owe care to whoever claims a need to other industries that serve a vital need, say restaurants. What if restaurant owners were required to serve free meals to anyone that came in claiming to be hungry, regardless of their ability to pay? What about clothing stores being required to let anyone who has a need for a new pair of high heels or the latest swimsuit to come in and take it without compensation? Such a principle leads necessarily to the virtual enslavement of the doctors on the grounds that the products of their minds are owed to the first person who demands them.
But the doctors are not the only ones that are enslaved by government control of medicine; so too are the consumers who buy it. Once the premise that government ought to pay your medical bills is accepted, it follows logically that government has a stake in lowering the costs by whatever means it deems appropriate. This is done by controlling behavior, either by limiting “unhealthy” activities or “encouraging” healthy ones.
As an example of the former, consider the onerous taxes on smoking and soda. People genuinely get pleasure from these products and they are available at a price that even poor people can afford. In the name of public health costs, the government thinks is fitting that it make these things harder to buy. California has a “zero tolerance” policy on after school bake sales at schools on the grounds that the children are too obese. Such a message is clear: “you do not own your life, and the state has the authority to tell you what is good for you.”
Other countries in the world are further along the authoritarian road than the United States. They impose even more humiliating restrictions on their people and annihilate even a pretense of privacy. In Japan, the government checks the length of your waistline when you are over 40. If you are deemed too fat, the government dictates that you undergo “reeducation” and lose weight; otherwise, you pay stiff fines. Germany publishes an annual list of people with high health care costs and labels them “antisocial.” New Zealand has turned people away from its borders if they are obese, on the grounds that their healthcare bills would be too high. How is that for fat-shaming?
We do not need this nonsense in the United States; what we need is a free market in medicine.
There is ample evidence that markets lower costs and raise quality, even in the healthcare industry. While healthcare on the whole has risen in price, elective procedures like LASIK and cosmetic surgery have gone down in price and up in quality year after year, even though they are not covered by insurance. In 1998 LASIK cost $2,200 per eye and in 2014 it cost a mere $300 per eye. In the case of cosmetic surgery, the top three most popular procedures (botox, laser hair removal and chemical peel), have fallen in price since 1998 by double digits. For those procedures not covered by insurance which have seen increased spending, the increase averages 32% compared to the industry-wide 47.2%.
Advocates for government-run healthcare seem to believe that no matter how many regulations and controls they place on the healthcare industry, medical care will be readily available to all those that want or need it without regard to cost or the rights of the providers, but this is not true. Health care is not exempt from the laws of economics. It is not manna from heaven.
If you want everyone in society to have bread, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the bakers who toil in kitchens to bake it.
If you want everyone in society to have clothing, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the dressmakers who sit at looms to weave them.
If you want everyone in society to have iPhones, your first priority would be to respect the rights of the programmers who manufacture them.
The same reasoning applies to those that provide healthcare. Leave doctors free; it’s the healthy thing to do.