The Generalist

The Basics: The Problem with Socialized Medicine

You do not have a RIGHT to medical treatment. That’s right, you heard me. You do not have a RIGHT to medical treatment, PERIOD.  Let that sink in a bit.  We’ll come back to it.

Now, there is a whole lot wrong with socialized medicine. Economically, of course it is a disaster. However, the economics of it can be somewhat difficult for the average person to understand, so I’m going to start with the more fundamental reason why socialized medicine is in the words of my old biology teacher “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!”.

Unfortunately, public education teaches us next to nothing about those subjects that are the most important for our survival in a civilized society. Philosophy (ethics, politics) are taboo in school (and also at work), economics is not taught at all (not even how to balance a checkbook), history is not taught or is made so boring as to torture the students.  The problems with socialized medicine (really socialized anything-at-all) are related to two of these taboo areas – philosophy (politics) and economics. History would also teach us that socialized anything-at-all is a complete failure, but that would be a statistical analysis and we can do better than that. Philosophy and economics will provide the answer a priori, i.e., solely through logic.

Politics is the study of the best way to live with other people. If you want to live only by yourself, you do not need to study politics (but you would need to study ethics.) Some great thinkers have done a lot of the work for us with regard to how best to live with other people. They have discovered a concept called “rights.” Rights are a negative concept. That means that you have a right to be left alonenot a right to be taken care of. (One way to remember this is to realize that everyone has the same rights. If we all had a right to be taken care of, who would provide the care? If it turned out to be you, what about your right to be taken care of?) Rights are not granted by Washington. They are not granted by anyone, period. Rights are an idea, a concept, that one must follow if one wishes to live in a civilized society.  They are not someone’s opinion. They are not granted by majority rule and they cannot be taken away by majority rule or any other rule. They are absolute. I know, this sounds crazy. Bear with me.

If you wanted to fly from here to California you would have to obey the laws of physics. You don’t have any choice about it. If you don’t obey the laws of physics you wind up crashing into the ground. Period. It’s absolute. There’s no opinion about it. For the same reason the concept of rights is absolute. If you want to live in a civilized society you must understand and respect the concept of rights. If you don’t, the society you live in will NOT be civilized. It will be a society of criminals or as they say, a society where the law of the jungle presides. If you would rather live in a non-civilized society, i.e., a society of criminals, you can do whatever you want.

Most people would prefer to live in a civilized society where people respect each other, if only because they want to know that the fruits of their own labor will be respected. For this reason criminals are generally removed from society as soon as they are discovered. Today, however, many people engage in criminal behavior and get away with it. They do not realize that such behavior is in fact criminal and will eventually result in the destruction of everything they hold dear. They do not realize this mainly because they are part of a crowd of people who are all demanding the same thing. They can hide among the crowd. But they are disobeying the laws of physics and will eventually crash into the ground.  Socialized medicine is an example of one of these things that people demand without realizing what they are doing. If you were to walk into a doctors office wielding a gun and demanding medical care, you yourself would expect to be hauled off to jail. And I suspect you would not want to live in a society where that didn’t happen. But when a crowd of people, namely some large percentage of the population, does the same thing, suddenly no one sees it as criminal. But it still is. Now, I know some of you are thinking that those who provide medical care are often getting paid, even in a socialized system. Well, yes, often they are paid. But who is paying them? Follow this chain to it’s end and there you will find someone who has no choice in the matter. He is being forced to pay for something against his will. He is being forced to provide his labor for the benefit of someone else. His rights are being violated. The gunman’s gun is at his head. (If you think I’m overstating this, just ask yourself what will happen to you if you decide to stop paying your taxes.)

So, if after work today, after you get your paycheck and you’re on your way home, a gunman comes up to you, points his gun at your head and demands that you turn over your paycheck, how will you feel? Will you feel any different if he points the gun at your head and demands your paycheck but this time tells you he doesn’t want the money for himself, but to give to someone else? I can guarantee you, you will be angry either way. It’s YOUR money, and if YOU want to give it to charity, you will do so of your own accord. You do not need a gunman to do it for you.

A socialized system of anything simply substitutes the lone gunman with one made up of 51% of the population.

The economic reasons why socialized-anything doesn’t work are closely related to the political reasons. Once people realize they will not have to pay for something, suddenly no one wants to pay for it and everyone wants to use as much of it as possible. This quickly results in a shortage (hence, the long waiting periods often associated with socialized systems). Shortages result in rationing. The lack of a price system for new technologies means a delay in adoption and a general degradation in the quality of services. You should be able to see that this system is unsustainable in the long run, and in the short run requires the initation of force which is exactly what we want to eliminate from society. The initiation of force is what we call criminal.

So, to recap:

Rights are a negative concept. You cannot have a right to anything that someone else has to provide. 

Rights are absolute. They are not granted by anyone and cannot be taken away by anyone. They can only be violated or respected. If rights are violated, society ceases to be civilized and instead becomes a society of criminals, or a society of people seeking to use force against others to obtain things they are unwilling to produce for themselves. History has many examples of societies that have degraded to a point where the criminality becomes obvious. Soviet Russia was only one such example.

There is no in-between. You are either a criminal or you’re not. We do not punish stealing, enslaving, or murdering any less because an individual engages in such behavior only sometimes. Once a group of people begin to believe that criminal behavior is okay sometimes, they are on a very slippery slope. The society quickly degrades. Eventually that society becomes ruled by the law of the jungle, i.e., it ceases to be civilization.

So if it looks good to you not to have to pay for medical care, just remember this. There is no such thing as a free lunch. You WILL pay for it, one way or the other.

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