Does Stephen Hawking Owe His Life to the British NHS?

A reader in Great Britain defends national health care as follows:

‘The free market [under Obamacare] will still exist. We have private healthcare here as well as the National Health Service ‘ The National Health Service does have its flaws but we probably wouldn’t have Stephen Hawking without it. And if anyone who works for the NHS isn’t happy with the pay, they can move into private sector.’

This reader doesn’t understand the definition of a free market. Where there is government intervention, there is no free market. Where money is forcibly taken from people to pay for a government-administered service, the free market is not left to function as it otherwise would.

Consider public schools. Everyone has access to a public school. This motivates most to attend the ‘free’ public school rather than choose from innovative, competing schools in a private marketplace. There’s no way of telling how many more schools would exist if the government had not essentially monopolized the field of education in the first place.

There is no ‘free’ market co-existing side-by-side with a field nationalized by the government. While it’s true that some governments allow private competition with the government program, it doesn’t follow that the choices available are anything like they would be if government had stayed out of the field altogether.

For one thing, far fewer people have money to spend because of the taxation required for the public programs. For another, people who pay taxes justifiably feel like they want a return on their investment, even it it’s a mediocre one. Who wants to pay taxes for a service and then pay a second time for a private sector version of the service? Most will not, even though a few will.

Unfortunately, private services are few are far between because of the government monopoly, and this leads prices in the private sector to be higher than most can afford. Anti-private sector types will say, ‘See? The private market is greedy and expensive!’ But if it were a truly private market you’d have a wide range of products and services to appeal to a wide market.  Competition tends to drive prices down, but competition presupposes freedom of the marketplace. We’ll never know what that looks like, because the governments in nearly all countries (America included now) will not permit it.

As for Stephen Hawking (the famous theoretical physicist from Great Britain), he most certainly does not owe any advances in treatment to socialized medicine. Socialized medicine begs, borrows and steals from the private sector. Government, by definition, cannot and does not create anything. A proper government makes a very important—indeed, crucial—contribution. It keeps individuals from harming each other, physically or indirectly (via fraud). But government did not create the medical technology from which Hawking or anyone else benefits.

If the free market for medical technology and for-profit medicine had not been so dominant in America and elsewhere in the Western world, the British NHS would have nothing to redistribute. If anything, Hawking received his care (assuming it was under the NHS) in a much more inefficient and lackluster fashion than he would have, had he been born into a vibrant free market for medicine in Great Britain. Somebody with significant illnesses desperately requires the incentive and self-motivating excellence of a private market, not only for technology and drugs but also the services of doctors. Put bluntly, a Stephen Hawking needs the services of a self-interested, for-profit, private sector doctor—not someone working 9-5 for the government and burdened by an endless pile of bureaucratic edicts.

The reader also wrote:

‘I look at it this way. I was a waster, I contributed nothing. For years I leeched off the state or just operated off the radar. I had no money and no job or very few. I got medical treatment. That medical treatment eventually diagnosed me with post traumatic stress disorder I had been suffering with since 6 years old. I now am working hard and my life is turned around. I contribute, I am a consumer.’

I find this a really interesting statement. The reader relies on the principle of individualism (as opposed to mooching) in order to refute that very same principle.

Although I doubt he realizes it, he’s essentially saying: ‘Being a moocher and living off of others is a bad thing. Therefore, the system of socialized medicine based on mooching and everyone living off everyone else, is a good thing—to keep me from becoming a moocher.’

It’s self-refuting absurdity.

And let’s be real here: Socialized medicine is a system that can only benefit one type of person: The one who will not or cannot purchase such services for him- or herself. The restaurant bill analogy is a good one. Imagine you’re eating out with a group of friends, ten total. Four always get alcohol and the most expensive steak on the menu. The other six get salads/light dinners and no alcohol. Yet the bill is divided evenly every time—not by voluntary choice, but because the government is forcing it. This is what socialized medicine amounts to, in both theory and practice.

This poor man who thinks he has been made independent and moral by a system based on coercion, mooching and immorality is guilty of self-refuting illogic. He’ll never even know it, and nobody will question him for it, most likely.

Get a load of this statement, by the same person:

‘Incidentally, as I had a pre existing condition, I wouldn’t have got medical insurance, and two years of intensive therapy and medication I could not have afforded. I would still be a waster leeching, or maybe I would have killed myself, or kidnapped and killed someone else. Either way, it would have cost the tax payer dearly.’

So let me get this straight. We must give people national health insurance or face the risk of kidnapping, murder or torture. In a word: Blackmail. ‘Give me your money, sacrifice the competent practice of medicine, or I’ll take your life.’

All I can say is: Wow. And not in a good way.

Just remember that this is what all collectivism and socialism boils down to: Threats, intimidation, force and blackmail. Those who seek to coerce do so, at first, with a smiling and humanitarian face. But ultimately it will only lead to death and despair, for everyone.

If private medicine and medical technology, now under the control of a National Health Board in the USA, dies out—then the lights will go out on Western medicine and progress as well.