Who Is the Hypocrite Here?

The Left is having a field day over New Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm’s statement on health care for members of Congress.  Much as I hate to admit it, they have a point, albeit probably not the one they think they have.

I object to government involvement in health care for two reasons.  First, I do not believe that anyone has the right to another’s labor.  In my view, medicine, like any other economic activity, should be free of coercion.  Likewise for insurance, shoe repair, and taxidermy.

The aforementioned principle usually sparks a visceral reaction from advocates of health care.  The fear seems to be that large insurance companies and hospitals will steamroll over us poor citizens while they make out like bandits. In truth, the reason insurance companies run rampant over us now is that they are regulated by an entity that can distribute favors.

Absent regulatory favoritism and faced with the prospects of competing freely, it would be near-impossible for any company, insurance or otherwise, to get that big and powerful.  Free to compete, newcomers would constantly challenge established businesses for customers.  Like cell phones and computers, relatively unregulated industries, the fields of medicine and insurance would see unbelievable advances in affordable care were the companies within forced to compete honestly.

Which brings me to my second reason for objecting to government involvement in health care.  It cannot work, unless by “work” one means reducing all of us to the level of the least well-served in our present system.  Our country is headed toward a complete financial meltdown, primarily because we are loathe to look past tomorrow afternoon, preferring instead to pat ourselves on the back for our generosity in the fleeting present.

This is not speculation–anyone with a paper and pencil can figure out what will happen as our unfunded obligations come due.  Our current health care policy is likely to accelerate our decline until the question will be not what is the most just system, but where the hell to find a doctor at all.

Grimm’s remarks are in one way foolish–why should he have health care while objecting to health care for all?  Of course, the same argument can be applied to his salary and other benefits.  I personally am not sure politicians should be paid at all–it just encourages them.

This avoids the real issue, however.  Who “deserves” health care?  Everyone?  If that is one’s position, then he/she carries the burden of explaining how that is to occur without bringing down the whole system.  In my view, no one “deserves” health care any more than one “deserves” a house or a pair of shoes.  They are goods provided by others and cannot rightly be taken from their creators.

Those who are poking fun at Grimm today are getting a cheap laugh.  We could strip Congress of its health benefits and make not one whit of difference, except to stick it to the Tea Party.  Big whoop.  Better to ask the deeper questions that beg to be answered.

I too long for affordable health care for everyone.  That is why I despise the current health care law.  It will achieve precisely the opposite of what its supporters want.  A better approach is to start the long journey toward true free markets in health care and everywhere else.  Let’s start with an idea I have advocated before.  Let everyone set up a tax-free Health Savings Account.  Further, let the money be used for the owner or anyone else the owner chooses.  If people want to supplement with insurance or private cooperatives, let them.  If they want to have no insurance or savings at all, let them do so at their own risk.  Then, when the time comes for true benevolence, we will see who walks the talk.

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About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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