Steyn on the correct argument against nationalized health

Ben W. writes:

Steyn might be a buffoon but he does state the problem about health care in concise terms. It cannot be from the conservative standpoint a utilitarian argument.

He writes:

It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way that hands all the advantages to statists—to those who believe government has a legitimate right to regulate human affairs in every particular.

It’s floundering because Obama sold it initially on the basis of “controlling costs,” and then the Congressional Budget Office let the cat out of the bag and pointed out that, au contraire, it would cost $1.6 trillion, and therefore either add to an unsustainable deficit, or require massive tax increases, or (more likely) both.

But to object to the governmentalization of health care on that basis implicitly concedes the argument that, if we could figure out a way to bring the price down, it would be fine and dandy.

Americans opposed the plan on practical grounds, but not against the underlying principle. And, if we win on utilitarian grounds today, we’ll have to fight it again in ten years, five years, maybe less—until something passes, and then everything changes, forever.

LA replies:

Of course. For once Steyn says something both true and important.

The attitude he is criticizing was displayed by Bob Dole back in 1993 in a comment I will never forget. After the Clinton health care bill was introduced, Dole, then the Senate Republican leader, said in his tart, Allen Drury-esque manner, “Sounds like a good idea. But how do we pay for it.?” Dole had no objection to the socialization of medical care in this country, just to the costs of such a step.

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Lydia McGrew writes:

That’s an interesting question that you raise when you comment on Mark Steyn’s column. Is it unprincipled in conservatives to oppose socialized medicine on the grounds that it is an economic disaster? Well, okay, I admit to putting the question in stronger terms than “we can’t afford it.” But I think there may be something rather profound lurking here. Think of socialism or Communism generally. Is it possible to separate the fact that Communism and socialism are economically crazy and have bad results from the fact that they give the state too much power? I don’t think so. The consequential aspect and the ideological aspect are bound up together intimately. I could interpret Bob Dole’s remark in something like this way: “A guaranteed chicken in every pot sounds nice, but it isn’t the kind of thing the government can do in the nature of the case, because there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Probably Dole didn’t mean anything quite that subtle, but maybe something vaguely like it was in the back of his mind. Socialized medicine is like socialized anything else: it’s a grand scheme to guarantee a certain good for everyone, and ideologues believe they can make such things possible by waving a magic wand. Such schemes ignore human nature and basic economic law (which is a matter of human nature), and therefore their grand schemes never pan out as they promise. This is very much worth pointing out, in my opinion, because it arises from the essence of their program—trying to get something for nothing by means of government-managed redistribution—rather than being a mere accident that might be fixed with better design of the socialized scheme.

Which is not to say anything negative about Steyn’s column, I might add.

Jonathan W. writes:

This debate is similar to one that occurs frequently within anti-gun control circles. Some Second Amendment supporters refuse to debate the merits and policy of gun control. They claim that by doing so, they are tacitly conceding that if gun control was effective social policy, then it would be proper for the government to pass even more stringent gun laws. This would have the effect of delegating an important Constitutional right to the whims of crime statisticians and other so called “experts.”

I don’t necessarily agree. I think that both the policy AND the Constitutional aspects of gun control are important, and should be stated as such. When someone argues that a gun ban would automatically save lives, I respond with something like, “Even if you could prove to me that a total handgun ban for civilians would drastically reduce our murder rate, I would still not be in favor of it. The right to keep and bear arms is Constitutionally protected, and the right contains no exceptions for crime reduction. However, your argument is way off base on policy grounds. Every state that has implemented shall-issue concealed carry has seen a drastic decrease in crime, and some of the most dangerous cities in the United States have the strictest gun laws.”

A similar argument can be made with regard to health care. We can say, “The costs of the socialized medicine proposals are very underestimated, and we cannot afford them as a society. The only way any of the proposals could ever work would be by sharply rationing care or by allowing our health care costs to consume an unsustainable portion of our GDP. However, even if socialized medicine were practical, I would still oppose it, as providing medical care is simply not a proper function of government.”

James N. writes:

People who object to nationalized health care because it “doesn’t work” are missing the point.

They don’t care AT ALL whether or not their system “works.” Their objectives have NOTHING TO DO with delivery of medical services. Nothing at all.

They want power and control. They want compliance and obedience.

They hate it that doctors, or in fact any independent businessmen, command respect and that people listen to them.

They want to be the sole source of power, and the sole recipients of respect, and if not respect at least its counterfeit, slavish deference will do fine.

Stop arguing about what the bill will do to our health services. They already know it can’t “work.”

The fight is over what it will do to our liberty. To strangle liberty here, in its cradle—that’s the purpose of nationalized health care.

LA replies:

While I agree with all of Jonathan’s points, I think James gets closer to the heart of the issue. National health in its essence is not about instituting certain practical plans of paying for people’s healthcare that are not really practical; and it’s not about taking away people’s Constitutional rights. It’s about the elemental will to submit more and more of human life under inhuman bureaucratic control in order to assure the equality of all humans.

Jack S. writes:

Well said by James N., I couldn’t have expressed it any better. This guy is damned brilliant. You have a lot of very bright people reading and commenting on your blog.

Ben W. writes:

I’m curious why Ken Hechtman hasn’t posted anything at VFR defending Canada’s health care system. Especially given Ilana Mercer’s article that you posted. Surely universal health care is a major aspect of liberalism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 01, 2009 12:25 PM | Send

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