One of the greatest dreams of American liberals is a nationalized healthcare system similar to the one in Canada. They argue in favor of such a system because they believe healthcare is a basic “right,” and because they believe the current system is flawed beyond repair. As with most problems, they advocate government solutions, not private enterprise solutions. Unfortunately, the government has an abysmal record of correcting problems, and American healthcare would be no exception.
First, let’s examine the “right to healthcare” claim. Obviously, there is no right to healthcare established in the U.S. Constitution. However, we do have a moral right to healthcare, some will argue. Unfortunately, those who make this argument do not understand what a “right” is.
A “right” is the ability and autonomy to perform a sovereign action. In a free society founded on the ideal of liberty, an individual has an absolute ability to perform such an action – so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of another individual. Healthcare is not speech: in order for you to exercise a theoretical “right” to healthcare, you must infringe on someone else’s rights. If you have a “right” to healthcare, then it means you must also have the right to coerce doctors into treating you, to coerce drug companies into producing medicine, and to coerce other citizens into footing your medical bill. This is Orwellian. “Freedom” for you cannot result in slavery for others. Thus the concept of a “right” to healthcare is an oxymoron: it involves taking away the rights of other individuals.
Surely, though, we can agree that doctors, the pharmaceutical industry, and insurance companies earn excessive profits, you say. Well, that depend on what your definition of “excessive” is. Doctors literally hold the lives of their patients in their hands. How much is someone who saves lives everyday worth? The same is true of pharmaceutical companies. While it has become fashionable to condemn their profits, the fact is that these profits fund medical research, which leads to more medicines being produced, and, consequently, more lives saved. Insurance companies spread the cost of healthcare among many people who might not otherwise be able to afford it, and thus make healthcare readily available for many.
While on the topic of profits, we should examine them. The word “profit” is considered to be a dirty word by many on the political left, but why? What makes a profit bad? Nothing. On the contrary, profits are very positive. When you come to class in the morning, there is a good chance you either drive a car or ride a bus. Do you think the bus driver and the workers who built your car or the bus did so that you could get to school on time? Of course not, they did because they wanted to make money. Yet their pursuit of a profit benefited them as well as you.
Adam Smith once said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” As we have seen, profits and self-interest are not bad things.
Let’s pretend, for a moment, that the left gets its way, and the United States adopts a universal healthcare system. This profit motive will effectively be removed. Doctors will then be government employees, and, as such, have far less accountability, as well as lower pay. Could we still expect the best and brightest to strive to be doctors? Probably not. More than likely, they will pursue other careers where they can make more money.
Some love to bemoan the fact that the United States is one of the few industrialized nations without a government healthcare system. Yet they rarely note that the U.S. produces disproportional amounts of the new, life-saving drugs, largely because of the profits drug companies make. Will we continue to produce these drugs if we abolish the profit motive? Not likely. Chances are, they will not be produced at all, and more people will needlessly suffer and die as a result.
When we examine countries that have embraced socialized medicine, we find long waiting lists, expansive red tape, and little concern for the individual. Do you really want to be told which doctor to go to? Do you want to wait years to have necessary medical procedures performed? If so, then socialized medicine is for you.
But if you believe in individual rights, competent healthcare, and sound economic policies, we must get the government out of the doctor’s office.