Coercion vs A Little Less Coercion: The political choice set

I was watching CNBC’s Meet the Press from this past weekend and I couldn’t help feeling a sense of utter disappointment and dread watching four senators debate the US healthcare bill

It made me realise again just how deprived of choice the American voter actually is.  The liberals Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein were as illogical and economically incoherent as always, but the folks supposedly standing up for freedom, Joe Lieberman and Kay Bailey Hutchison, instead stood up for, well, a little less illogic and a little less incoherence. 

As is only fair there were two Dems and two Republicans (ok Lieberman is an “Independent” but he was batting for the GOP team on this occasion) scrapping it out in the usual pedestrian passive-aggressive our-‘friends’-on-the-other-side-of-the-aisle kind of way. 

It struck me that among the mainstream Dem and GOP leaders, there isn’t really any debate at all about nationalising healthcare in America.  Instead there is a petty scrap about who’s lying about the “real” cost of socialised healthcare, how best to “fix” a broken system, and how best to amend the current bill so that it “works”. 

This is such a dead-end political argument and is actually symbolic of the worst aspects of government oversight in the economy.  Both sides in reality cannot see government getting out of healthcare; it’s just that the Dems want a lot more government and the GOP not so much. 

But when the GOP argues it in these terms no-one really benefits. 

Most Republicans talk about smaller government but not so much about freedom.  On the political-economic spectrum many of them are not so much advocates of freedom but rather just a little less coercion than the guy on the other side of the aisle advocates.  Its this approach that explains why the GOP is languishing so badly right now.  The party can make a comeback, but not with the current dull crop. 

The republicans need to become, outright, the party of genuine freedom again.  Right now Ron Paul is one of the few standing up for genuine freedom and railing against the coercive state in the US.  This 7-8 minute video is worth watching for some sensible insights into the real healthcare debate, not the pseudo-debate happening on Capitol Hill.


So, how should the GOP be attacking this Democrat bill?  Right at it’s fundamental core. 

1) Firstly, on principal the bill should be rejected due to its sheer Orwellian complexity.  Below is just 1 small paragraph from the now nearly 2,000 page healthcare bill (yes, it’s that large) tabled before the Senate.  As a good friend says, “If you accept that some firms are “too big to fail”, then you have to accept that some bills are too large to pass.” 

“The requirements of sections 2711 (other than subsections (c) and (e)) and 2712 (other than paragraphs (3), and (6) of subsection (b) and subsection (e)) of the Public Health Service Act, relating to guaranteed availability and renewability of health insurance coverage, shall apply to individuals and employers in all individual and group health insurance coverage, whether offered to individuals or employers through the Health Insurance Exchange, through any employment-based health plan, or otherwise, in the same manner as such sections apply to employers and health insurance coverage offered in the small group market, except that such section 2712(b)(1) shall apply only if, before nonrenewal or discontinuation of coverage, the issuer has provided the enrollee with notice of non-payment of premiums and there is a grace period during which the enrollee has an opportunity to correct such nonpayment.”

Even with their hefty tax-funded staff compliments, Senators couldn’t hope in their wildest dreams to make sense of a bill this large and convoluted.  If you ever needed an example of government largesse, this is a cracker.  The entire US Constitution + the 27 amendments fits (in fairly large font) on to about 20 pages.  The US political and economic system seemed to hold up ok for the following 230 years after its ratification.  Healthcare’s got to be simpler than the constitutional framework governing an entire nation.  Can’t we adopt Occam’s razor to legislation? 

2) Secondly, the problems with US healthcare are so obviously a failure of government not of the market.  The sector is one of the most regulated in the US.  Practitioners require licences by state and are barred from working in any geographical area of their choice, while procedures are regulated and legislation has made the industry less not more competitive.  No-one should have to have medical cover, and insurance should really be for the major risks that cannot easily be paid for out of current income and savings.

3) Thirdly, more government intervention can never reduce costs.  Firstly, and most fundamentally, because government is not above the laws of economics.  Secondly because government always does things less efficiently than the market, and finally because more government intervention in healthcare will reduce competition not increase it. 

4) Lastly, and most importantly, government run healthcare is an attack on freedom.  It is economic coercion of the highest order.  As Mark Steyn likes to say, it is effectively the nationalisation of your body.  Perhaps an even more fundamental aspect of this however is that healthcare is a good, not a right.  It cannot be a human right because it requires work from another (the healthcare practitioner) and so to make it a right would be to adopt coercive forced labour.  You can see how the creation of false rights has thrust our systems into such a coercive pattern of governance.  As an economic good, an indeed a luxury, healthcare in the hands of government is in essence pure tyranny.

The political momentum is behind the healthcare reform bill and its passage looks likely at this stage.  Let’s hope by some miracle it fails and the American public shouts it down.  

If the bill passes it will start the US on the inexorable and irreversable path toward a sclerotic and ultimately failed healthcare system, much like exists in Canada and the UK.   It would, sadly, make Americans less free and less prosperous.

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