On Tyranny and Health Care: A Libertarian’s Plea for Government Interference

by Luna Flesher

If liberty is one of my chief values, and tyranny is its opposite, then tyranny is my adversary.

By liberty, I mean individual freedom from oppression by another; the ability to move about, act as I choose, and reap the consequences.  In order to fairly protect liberty, freedom must be limited when it begins to infringe on the freedom of others.  I was raised with the phrase, “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

To be clear, I do not mean freedom from want.  Being handed unearned resources may increase choice, but this is not the kind of freedom a government can easily grant without violating the rights of someone else.  Nor do I mean the freedom to escape rightful consequences, both positive and negative.  You may act on your rights, but it is not freedom if you unfairly avoid what’s coming to you.  That usually indicates someone else’s rights are being violated, someone else is being cheated.

Tyranny, the antithesis of liberty, can come from any source.  Most libertarians and conservatives are rightfully wary of the tyranny of government.  Typically only a government has police power, military might, power of imprisonment, and the backing of society.

However, tyranny can come from many other sources — any individual or organization who wishes to impinge upon your rights.  They do this through the use or threat of physical force, breaking of contracts, and gaining consent through misinformation.  They avoid the negative consequences of harmful actions, reaping only rewards through unfair advantage, force, and fraud.

Besides governments, large-scale tyranny can come from corporations, outside governments, unions, organized religion, organized crime, academia, political groups, etc.

On a smaller social level, it can come from independent criminals, bullies, abusive families, cults, small businesses, private security organizations, friends and associates, or random people on the street.

We spend so much time thinking of government as the bad guy.  However we forget that its most legitimate purpose is to protect individual liberties from other powers that would exert force or fraud.  That’s why we have allowed the government military and police power in the first place.

We need to look around and ask what other large-scale tyrannies exist in America today.  A good measuring stick to judge this by is, “Does it initiate force or fraud?”  Since it is the topic du jour, let’s look at the health care industry.  Here are three ways it has initiated both.

1. When you or your employer pays for health insurance, you have a contract with the insurance provider to cover certain costs if you become sick.  Your contract is too probably long to read, too confusing for you to understand, and full of loopholes.  This is a form of fraud or uninformed consent.

Even if your contact in fact covers your expensive illness, as soon as you are diagnosed the insurer is likely to drop your coverage.  You will be stuck with prohibitive bills and likely bankruptcy.

You may think this is a rare occurrence, but it is not.  The leading cause of bankruptcy is due to medical bills of people who were already covered by health insurance.

If it happens even once, it is the government’s job to protect all individuals from fraud.

2. Various factors have driven up costs so that access to health care is barred to anyone except those with insurance or those who are very rich.  It is no longer possible for a middle class person to save a percentage of their income and pay directly for health services.

Insurance has created a non-level playing field.  It is a form of privatized socialism.  Doctor’s charges go up to subsidize insurance discounts.  Hospital bills are increased to cover those without health insurance who show up on the hospital steps.

The least advantaged are the employed middle class without employer-provided insurance, small business owners, and the temporarily unemployed.  The system basically forces you to choose between being insured or not having any health care.  The latter choice leads to bodily harm or even death.

If you decide to buy insurance on your own, the costs are prohibitive.  And if you have a “pre-existing condition” like a past treatment for a yeast infection or acne, you will be denied insurance.

It boils down to this:  If you choose to run your own business or freelance, or if you choose a small employer which does not provide health care, or if you are involuntarily laid off, you risk bodily harm.  Contrary to popular belief, “hard work” is not a factor for successful health in this system.

3. In most states, employees cannot choose their insurance provider.  They cannot choose their coverage.  In this sense, they are forced into a contract made between their employer and insurance company.  This limits consumer choice when it comes to doctors, level of care, customer service, price, level of bureaucracy, and reputation.  If my insurance drops my doctor from the network, I must find a new doctor.  If my insurance company raises rates or lowers coverage, I can’t walk away.  I’m trapped.

Conclusion

There are numerous valid sources that show how insurance companies extort, defraud, cheat, and oppress.  The evidence is overwhelming.  There are examples of corruption at every level of the health care industry.  The industry as a whole is the very socialist dictatorship we so fear.

The government seems to be the only entity powerful enough to reinstate the balance and protect the people.  This is the proper role of government.  Health care reform should be embraced by everyone who cares about individual liberty.

This is one time when it is proper to plea for government interference.

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Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Absolutely!

    Interference is not always a bad thing. In this country we have a particular skepticism about our democracy where most other countries don’t. In other places the government is seen as having a relationship with its people, an obligation to help provide for its people in order to maximize individual freedoms, not hamper them.

    Another oft forgotten point that you mention here is that the government is paying. But it’s paying at the end of the process, where costs are steepest. For those fiscal responsibility enthusiasts, paying on the front end is far less wasteful. It could be argued it is even beneficial for the economy, for the working population would be receiving care earlier and maximizing their contributions with minimal sick leave.

    But what do I know; I’m a raving liberal, and so everything I say must be wrong.

  2. Absolute power over someone is hardly rare, unfortunately. As you say, one of government’s rolls is to protect citizens from others who have shown a willingness to oppress through exertion of power. In fact, since government restricts my options to redress oppression, it is their primary duty to protect me from such abuse.

    Government is of course a collection of citizens, some elected but most not. While laws exist to protect us from the tyranny of government, it’s not always possible when the enforcer is the oppressor. Also, only government has a legal right to restrict my freedom with threat of force and violence. Too often, the attraction of government work is the chance to legally oppress and otherwise control other citizens. In my mind, government is the absolute biggest potential threat to liberty.

    Regarding your observations on health care reform:

    1. Serious illness usually results in the loss of employment, loss of income, and loss of health insurance due to inability to pay premiums. I don’t see that an insurer should continue to provide coverage on an unpaid policy. Perhaps there’s a potential market for “loss of income” riders which will pay premiums during extended illness.

    2. Medicare and large health insurers exercise monopsonistic power to control costs, but the affect is to shift cost to other types of patients. Someone has to pay for the goods and services rendered, and this variable price practice can lead to some astounding price differences depending on the payer. The exclusion of those who want to obtain insurance is a difficult problem. Exclusions are understandable from a business point of view, but the affect is troublesome. The elimination of absurd state coverage requirements and the creation of a national risk pool of insurers for coverage of high-cost medical conditions is one solution.

    3. The elimination of artificial state boundaries on health insurance policies and health care providers would enhance consumer choice and open the market to greater competition. There’s actually a number of free-market solutions that would be available if some of the bureaucracy and inane regulations are eliminated.

    I know you think HR3200 is better than doing nothing, but I believe its enactment would result in one step forward and five steps back. Given the tens of trillions of government spending and unfunded liabilities (Democrats, Republicans, conservatives and liberals: hang your head in shame for stealing from future generations), I doubt that another entitlement is what’s needed.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks again for your comments. This is exactly the kind of thinking and discussion I wish our whole country were having right now instead of debates of birth certificates and shouting matches at town halls.

      I am not enough of an expert to know the best solution. Realistically, I know that even if I knew the magical perfect solution, it wouldn’t have a chance of being implemented, especially given the irrational fervor that’s going on. There is also the enormous power of the special interests — specifically big pharma, the insurance lobby, and others. HR3200 is the way it is because of various deals and power struggles, not because it’s the best way.

      Thanks, Bill. I hope you keep reading the blog. I’d like to see more of your comments.

  3. […] become clear to me based on the feedback from my previous posts on healthcare that many people in America don’t realize there are any problems with our […]

  4. […] reached this conclusion a number of years ago for different reasons.  I briefly made this claim elsewhere in this blog, when I argued for government intervention, but did not have room to make my […]

  5. I can understand your support for government interference and agree with it. However, I agree with government interference based upon your views. We are in dire need of health care reform. The government must insure that:

    Insurance companies uphold their part of the contract in covering the care of each individual without finding an “out” – undiagnosed condition, chronic illness, bankruptcy, etc. Insurance companies should not be able to drop clients because of current condition, “questionable answers” in an applications after years of paying monthly fees, or forgetting to divulge every past pimple and scratch to the insurance company.

    Malpractice insurance for doctors should be decreased from the $200,000 per year that many doctors are currently paying. Obviously these costs are being paid for by patients.

    Insurance companies must reduce the amount of time and paperwork required for doctors and hospitals to receive payments.

    The elimination of state boundaries is definitely something that must go. If you search for the best rated health care plans within the United States most are from some insurance companies located in the northeast that I have not heard of before. People should be allowed to select these plans if they so choose.

    I can not agree with the idea of government run insurance because I see it as nothing more than a backdoor universal health insurance plan. Eventually most people will select or be forced to pay for this plan even while paying for private insurance. Yet, I can agree with Co-ops as long as the government does not try to exercise complete authority over them.

    Still I am in agreement with health care reform. I think it is best said that I would rather see health care reform even if the government run health insurance plan must be dropped.

    By the way I agree with the people shouting at town hall meetings. They have the right to express their opinion on such a heated debate. If the shouting doesn’t work they can always take a page out of American history and dump boxes of tongue suppressors in the Boston Harbor.

  6. Aesop (or his ilk) had it right. We trade one of our feathers at a time to the fox for a little nibble of grain… until one day we discover we are on the ground and can no longer fly.

    Age has a blessing in that we can see the progress of history throughout our life. Age has a curse in that we can see the progress of history throughout our life.

    I re-watched the movie October Sky the other evening, and recalled how I felt as I lived during that period of international fear and amazing progress in our history. I was a few years older than the ‘rocket boys’ of the film, and I had my brushes with school laboratory and garage explosions trying to duplicate what they were doing.

    In the ninth grade (1952) I was in an after-school Science club, led by an adventurous teacher. With chemicals purchased at a local drug store I helped a classmate generate hydrogen gas and fill a balloon inside a cardboard tube. We launched the rocket out the second floor window of the school… it went nowhere.

    Today, as an adult, I cannot buy the chemicals needed to repeat that act without a “license” from some federal or state agency.

    I am safer, my grandchildren are safer, yet something seems to be missing… OH, YES. Now I remember what is missing! No one has gone to the Moon in the last 37 years. And we are using space technology, like the Shuttle, that was an outdated design in 1960 when Boeing already had the AeroSpacePlane on the Drawing boards.

    Fear has replaced leadership. Taxes approaching 50% have replaced freedom. We are bound by cords of our own weaving. And most of us haven’t even noticed. Our game-boy and IPod have replaced thinking.

    “That’s OK, its just another half percent levy, a few pennies a month…” The problem is that there is only 100% of anything. A partner in a large business was once asked what it felt like to own 49% of a multimillion dollar operation. His response was, “My partner, with 51% owns the business. I own 49% of nothing.

    Another 1, 2, 3% and we are done as a FREE people. So shut up and pick up your shovel, there is work to be done… FOR SOMEONE ELSE !

    • You have a lot of good points, but they’re so lost in the hyperbole (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole) that I’m not sure where to start. Both comments (the other one to Health Care in America) wander all over the place, using examples that seem irrelevant.

      You’re also using slippery slope (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope), which, unless it can be proven true, is a fallacy. Yes, sometimes we start at the top of the hill with a small compromise and end up at the bottom having lost everything we hold dear, but usually, in reality, we stop somewhere in the middle, roll back to the top, then down a little, and so on. That’s what makes America so great, and why it’s lasted so long. We have a self-correcting process that usually ends most people being better off than before. :)

      I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again even if no one believes me, I am ALL FOR smaller government, I am ALL FOR lower taxes. I’m also ALL FOR correcting corporations and industries that have consistently ramrodded the rights of individuals. And mostly, I am ALL FOR using reason and logic and data to solve problems in the way that works the best for each specific problem.

      In studying all the ways to do health care the world over, I’ve not found that capitalism consistently delivers the best care for the cheapest price, nor have I found that socialism does the same. Both systems, in all their permutations and combinations, inconsistently deliver good, bad, cheap, and expensive healthcare. We have something to learn from all of those systems, because here in the USA, we are definitely doing a worse and worse job over time, currently spending more than any other country for a lot less quality.

    • P.S. The story about rockets was cool. :) Thanks.

  7. I speak in ‘parable’ or hyperbole on purpose. Those that wish to understand, will understand. Those that don’t, will never understand, no matter how clear you make it.

    The point is very simple. (Except for taking our money at gunpoint…) the government does everything very poorly. Then they bill us for it. And the Gov. is now trying to do everything, trying to live our lives for us, stepping completely out of the Constitution they swore to uphold.

    This is a bone-chilling statement… his own words:

    On review of this 2008 campaign rhetoric I realize that this is just a Freudian slip on his part. But even if the entire intent was just for Peace-Corps type force, the very concept that such a force should “equal” our military in numbers and expenditure is just as chilling.

    It is sort of like reading “Das Capital” or “Mein Kamph”. These were the plans of the /dreamers/ of their day, those who provided the rest of us with decades of nightmares.

    He is methodically introducing all of the other controls he promised his supporters during these speeches, will this one be far behind.

    Now to letting the Government Help us. Settling conflicts or solving injustices is the purpose of the courts, not the executive branch. We need to hold the courts’ feet to the fire on these issues, not seek more laws from the legislature or more “help” from the executive. I have long said that the courts are failing us by not upholding their part of the Constitution, and is the worst of the three in such failures.

    Help? From personal experience: When a government contractor pays its employees $20 per hour, it bills the government almost $100 for that hour. Then the government frets over all the work done (by someone else) and bills us $200 in taxes for that one hour of productivity.

    In the 1950’s when the FREEways were going in, a study was done to see what it cost to put in a piece of roadway. A few square feet of road (like a driveway) cost $1,000 in material, labor, and paving company profit. Write XYZ Paving a check and the road was yours in a few weeks.

    The cities and counties used $2,000 in local tax money to get the exact same roadway in place. The States could do it for a mere $5,000. And the Feds gave us a real bargain at $10,000. And it would take years.

    It is the exact same roadway, put in by the very same workers.

    But when we are too lazy to do it ourselves, or to participate in local community efforts, we pay the ‘piper’, entertaining drunks like Ted Kennedy, to “help” us. Yet they “DO” nothing except what typical “lawyers” do, they start and (ostensibly) settle arguments.

    Hard example from today: When I go in to pick up a prescription (supposedly paid for by 50 years of my tax moneys, ‘saved’ for me in Social Security Trust Funds) I have to make a “Co-Payment”. When a drug is ‘new’ that co-payment is either $40.00 or $25.00. When the patents have expired, the drugs become generic and co-pay drops to $7.00. But if you compare the prices of Rx drugs and roughly equivalent OTC medications, you will discover that I AM currently paying, out of pocket, approximately the full ‘real’ price for the drugs.

    So if I am paying for the meds, where are my/your SS tax moneys going? Half goes to the pharmaceuticals companies (who now compete/lobby for Social Security dollars rather than for customer money) and half to the gov. agencies that we hire to “control” them. It is just another one of the typical government SCAMS.

    So now it gets better: two weeks ago I get a letter in the mail. The Imperial ‘they’ are going to ‘save’ me $28 per year by sending my Rx meds in the mail. And in a mere 60 days, if I don’t agree to using one of these ‘centralized’ pharmacies, the Social Security help with my prescriptions will disappear and I will pay FULL PRICE (their fully inflated scam price).

    If you could take the government out of this whole Rx scene, there would be a short term ripple while everyone adjusted. Within a few months my ‘copays’ would cover the entire costs of the drugs, going directly to the competing manufacturers. The attorneys and lobbyists, and Government agency clerks would have to find a new group of victims.

    And you want the Government’s help?????

    “I’m with the IRS, and we are here to HELP!!!???”

    With each step of government “Help”, they take another fraction of a percent of the finite 100% of the GNP. It is now at ~50%, and today, right now, THEY VIRTUALLY OWN US!

    They recognize this. Their movements of the last six months have been swift and their goals undeniable. All they want is: complete control of health care, control of auto manufacture (can you say “volkswagen” (no capital ‘V’), gun control, a national ‘security’ force (can you spell “S..S”), and emergency powers over the internet.

    But, it is all being done for us, to assure our well being, to ‘help’ us, to keep us from hurting each other….

    … there are none so blind….

    When I cross from one State into another, I cannot tell where the borderline is unless the State(s) has put up a sign (or I have a top quality GPS). Thus it is with the 50% line, or the line where the politicians will say “now, we own you!”

    Like the sign, they will let me know when that happens. However, if I put down my iPod and look up, I can see the sign in the distance,… then getting closer. “You are now leaving Freedom, forget about declaring your fruit, just leave your guns and your pen at the checkpoint.”

    • If you will not abide by the rules of rational debate, then why should I continue to participate? If you choose to encrypt your message in “parables” which are understandable only to those who have the magic blessing of understanding, then why should I waste my time? What you mean by that is, if I already agree with you, I will understand. If I don’t, it’s not worth your bother to convince me on the basis of reality.

      I’ve laid out the terms of what it takes to convince me. They are very simple. Use real data, confirmed facts, relevant information, and sound logic. This is no mystery school of debate. These are rules well known to the world.

      I am perfectly capable of having good discussions with people I disagree with. Mark and I spent most of last Sunday discussing medical care and health reform. We disagreed. We made points. We asked each other questions. We respected each other’s intelligence.

      Mark used solid rules of reason. I left that feeling like I had learned something new. My perspectives were broadened. While we didn’t manage to convince one another of everything, I think we both came away enriched — having been swayed on certain things, and feeling stronger about the positions in which we had been unswayed.

      A good argument can stand up to the light of reality. It can withstand the results of research. It comes away refined after encountering opposition.

      So in this comment you persist in making alarmist claims without a shred of credible data to back them up. You continue to use your logical fallacies. So I have skimmed over your words to get the “gist of the parable”. But since it is merely a parable, I simply have to take it as a story that has some kind of underlying message that I guess I will never get, nor ever have the hope of refuting. I choose not to be convinced by such “evidence”, because it is not evidence. I choose not to reply to it in detail, because you refuse to recognize the validity of reality. For you, being right is more important than learning the truth, whatever that truth may be.

      You are so blinded by your myths that you cannot even see where we agree! To the point that you persist trying to convince me of things I am already convinced of.

      As someone once told me (you actually), you can’t teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and frustrates the pig. In this case, I cannot teach an irrationalist to be reasonable. It wastes my time, and the irrationalist will continue to live their fable.

      (Actually, I did read with close attention your story of buying drugs. Because that is a LOT closer to my standards, i.e. it is a real event that actually happened to you, so it is factual, and you use that information to make a relatively sound conclusion. I also have huge frustrations with the costs of pills, as I am now paying out of pocket $380/month for Stephan’s one prescription, which happens to be generic.

      I agree that government does play a component in driving up health care costs. Government sucks in a lot of ways. (See, here where I’m agreeing with you, see that, SEE? Because it’s not the first time I’ve said that to you!) But I do not believe it is the only, or even the largest, factor in increasing medical costs. I have researched this in depth, thinking and talking about almost nothing else for the past several weeks. I’ve used many, many sources, from all sides of the fence, all perspectives of the industry (doctors, manufacturers, insurance companies, the government, right wing, left wing, ad naseum). I have concluded after all that rigorous study that there are many, many causes for a rise in health care. But you have already stated that you refuse to recognize reason as a sound means of debate, so there is no point in trying to make my case.)


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