EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 26, 2009
By Rich Trzupek
There’s a couple of words that have been hovering around the debate over health care that I find particularly interesting. We’re not talking about “socialism” or “fiasco”, though those words do have some pertinence. No, the words that I find fascinating are “angry” and “mobs”.
Those are strong words, words designed to imply irrational thought, raw – and dangerous – emotion, fed by some external, sinister force. They are words that have been carefully chosen by the ruling party. Indeed the chair of the Democrat National Committee used them in a famous (or perhaps infamous) e-mail that made the rounds on the internet, denouncing opponents of the President’s health care plan as angry mobs, financed, encouraged and scripted by the health care industry.
That point of view is inevitable, I suppose. Having spent the better part of eight years in angry, often irrational dissent, of course the Dems are going to figure that anyone opposed to their policies share the same red-faced indignation. If you don’t agree, you must be raving mad. That’s what “opposition” means to them.
And, to be sure, there are some angry folks among my conservative brethren. It’s a knife that cuts both ways. For every Keith Olbermann, you have a Bill O’Reilly. C’est la gere.
However, the fact that some people let their mouths get ahead of their brains is beside the point. There is also thoughtful, reasoned and entirely credible opposition out there. There are many of us who are profoundly disturbed by this attempt to turn our health care system into Canada’s health care system. Attempting to shout us down, or dismiss us as “angry mobs” does this Administration no credit. It is also worth noting that the previous inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest never did as much, although the label would have fit much better in many cases, at least in this reporter’s opinion.
There is a basic question here, one that is much more important than the details of the plan, details that nobody seems to fully grasp. Details that, for people like Barbara Boxer, don’t actually matter anyway.
Let us assume that the health care system in the United States is not perfect. That’s a reasonable assumption, since it involves imperfect human beings. We should, and we will, try to make it better. We should, and we will, try to provide better care to more people. We should – and I don’t know if this is actually possible – attempt to make it more affordable.
Health care reform is necessary, we are told, because the benefits of modern health care are not affordable for a significant percentage of the population. Let’s take that to be true. Yet, the following is equally true: the average life expectancy of the average citizen of the United States of America is longer than it has ever been in the history of our nation. Whatever we are doing, surely the net effect is better than it has ever been.
Today, health care is largely – though not entirely – in the hands of private interests. Those private interests are primarily concerned with their own well being, or to use a phrase that the Founding Fathers routinely used, with their “self interest.” And that is a bad thing, in the view of the ruling party. Self interest is shorthand for the pursuit of profit, which is decidedly unhealthy, they tell us, when it comes to health care.
Washington, Jefferson, Adams and the rest did not see it that way. For them, self-interest was the ultimate check and balance. As long as everyone was pursuing self-interest, those interests would be balanced – secured, of course, by a benevolent and wise government that ensured the playing field was level – and the resultant atmosphere would be as beneficial as possible for its citizens.
The problem here is that some of us, those of us who try so hard to defend the administration’s health care proposals, pretend that the government doesn’t have self-interest at stake in this debate. Of course it does. The self-interest of the government is plain: if they can create a system that is wholly dependent on a government-directed bureaucracy for its continued existence, then they – the elected representatives who created such a system – will secure their power, prestige and position for a long, long time.
That’s the crux of the issue. Who would you rather have running your health care system? Do you prefer a bunch of profit-hungry private corporations, each trying to undercut each other in hopes of getting your business, or an all-encompassing national power, trying to make you dependant on it, so that you will be too afraid to vote for any candidate that might threaten its power?
The administration assures us that their plan will give us more choices in health care. That may be true. But those choices, whatever they are, will not be determined by the free market that Adam Smith and his spiritual progeny envisioned. Those choices will be decided by middling-level bureaucrats laboring over spreadsheets in some dark hovel in the District of Columbia. History tells us, quite clearly, that such choices rarely work out for the better. Government run enterprises rarely turn out well, and – when it comes to something as important as our medical care – it’s hard to imagine how this could be any different.