The Debate Republicans and Democrats are Not Having Over Health Care

No government can or ever will be able to create the kinds of technological and medical advances that Americans increasingly take for granted. Governments can only effectively fulfill the role of the jailers, the police officers and the upholders of private contracts. Force, not creativity and ingenuity, is the only arena in which government can excel. Unfortunately, in mixed welfare-market economies such as ours, governments have been given the power to seize, ‘manage’ or redistribute the products of man’s efforts—but only after the products or technologies are discovered and mass-produced by willing, productive individuals.

Most ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ politicians understand this fact, which is why so few of them are ideologically committed to full-scale socialism. They realize that productive individuals must be left free enough to produce a sizable tax base so that the enterprise of government may continue at the involuntary expense of those who provide the wealth in the first place.

These same cynical, often shamelessly hypocritical politicians are the inevitable outcome of an economy based on a perverse mixture of freedom and socialistic redistribution, all in the so-called public interest, of course.

Whether or not the government ultimately succeeds in its never-ending efforts to  completely nationalize the private practice of medicine, one fact can never be wished away: Only uncoerced individuals, working in the spirit of voluntary and rational cooperation, can create the products and knowledge required for human survival and the luxuries required for the good life. This explains why the protection of individual rights is of paramount importance, and why a free society needs strictly limited government. A free society requires a government to protect the right of individuals to create, keep and dispose of the fruits of their efforts as they see fit. A right is violated only through the initiation of force, the threat of force, or objectively provable fraud or deceit.

A police force, a voluntary military, and a civil and criminal court system are all necessary to avoid the chaos that would result in the absence of a government monopoly on force. At the same time, strict limits must be placed on the government itself to prevent envious or other opportunistic individuals from seizing the reins of power and imposing force on peaceful citizens, as politicians of the last century (in America) have routinely accomplished in varying degrees. The breakdown in social harmony brought about by too much or too little government is exactly what the (original) American concept of limited government was designed to prevent.

Altruistic arguments about compassion, fairness and equality do not work here. One individual’s need is not a mortgage on another individual’s life. I am not morally guilty if I earn a million dollars and my neighbor does not. Nor do I have a right to even one penny of his million dollars if he earns it and I do not. The free individual decides who is worthy of his charity. The government has no right to seize part of his income by force and redistribute it to another who allegedly needs it more. Nor does the government have a moral right to take over an entire profession, outlaw private and voluntary contracts between doctors and patients and then determine, by some incomprehensible bureaucratic formula, what constitutes ‘reasonable’ prices.

Whenever there is a so-called ‘debate’ on the role of government in medical care, both sides (liberal and conservative) take it for granted that the physical and mental efforts of health care providers are a national resource to be divided up as any government agent (or ‘community organizer’) who manages to seize power may see fit. These debates are strictly limited to the ‘rights’ of the uninsured, the ‘rights’ of employers, and the ‘rights’ of patients. It is a rationalization of unthinkable proportions to presume that a health care provider’s creative energies and rights can be placed on the auction block of Congress and sold to the highest bidder. It is a still greater travesty when health care providers, the very victims whose lives and energies are being negotiated away by frantic and confused politicians, endorse such efforts in the name of professional self-interest.

What could they possibly be thinking?

Health care providers often do not understand that the government regulation they welcome as the supposed savior of their professional integrity and financial livelihoods is the very monster that created medical inflation and physician-patient alienation in the first place. The evidence of the past seventy-five years suggests that the real causes of medical inflation include: (1) unfair and irrational tax codes (instituted in 1942) which effectively prevent individuals from purchasing health insurance on their own and without relying on their employers, (2) a fifty year spending spree by both doctors and patients under Medicare and Medicaid programs that pick up the tab for many hospitalizations (or, when the government deficit explodes, force private hospitals to cover the losses) and, (3) senseless and outdated licensing laws that grant physicians a monopoly on certain medical treatments that could just as competently, and far less expensively, be performed by other medical professionals such as nurses and physician’s assistants.

These factors are further complicated by the fact that the few remaining ‘private’ insurance companies, operating with full government encouragement and (in some cases) actual subsidies, have adopted the policies of government agencies by managing and, some would argue, actually rationing medical and mental health care. Insurance companies, in my opinion, should not be condemned for merely trying to survive and make a profit in today’s over-regulated medical marketplace, so long as they’re honest and do not demand government subsidies to keep them in business. At the same time, the creation of such a system by government policies obscures the fact that a genuinely free market has not existed in the field of medicine and mental health for nearly a century.

The argument against total nationalization of health insurance is not a ‘conservative’ one. As any health care provider knows, there is precious little that’s worth conserving in today’s government-mandated, government-regulated third-party reimbursement system. Detailed and practical information on free market approaches designed to gradually phase-in a free market in the fields of medicine and mental health are increasingly available to any individual who practices introspection instead of anxiety-driven, range-of-the-moment thinking.

At the same time, one should not consider practical free market solutions until first understanding the morality of freedom and individual rights, as opposed to rule by government force. Only then will one see that the establishment of a free market in medicine is consistent with both the national interest and the ‘narrow’ interest, as politicians so off handedly refer to the private practices and hard-earned skills of health professionals.

The above is an excerpt from Dr. Michael Hurd’s Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference). Purchasing details are available at or on this website.