On “Free Market Solutions” for Healthcare

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most exotically-named American political hoax since Barack Hussein Obama, is out there talking again — never a wise choice for her — this time about healthcare. Invoking the “death panel” imagery made famous by Sarah Palin, Ocasio-Cortez tries to turn the concept around on critics of her socialist fantasies:

“Maybe if the GOP stopped hiding behind this ‘socialist’ rock they love to throw…”

Imagine you could throw a rock that was so big you could also hide behind it! Superman!! And I guess you’d have to be Superman, if you could hide behind a rock you’d thrown.

The woman is eloquent.

In response to this high-school-discussion-class sophist, however, Soopermexican, writing at Right Scoop, concedes that conservatives have to be more “sensitive” to the problems of the uninsured, which sensitivity he explicates this way: “There are no healthcare panaceas, but we need to listen to Americans who are hurting and reach out with free market solutions.”

I cannot say whether or not there is a “healthcare panacea,” because I do not know what a healthcare panacea would look like, anymore than I know what an automobile panacea, a pencil case panacea, a dog food panacea, or an education panacea, would look like. Are panaceas even desirable in any area of practical life, let alone in the arena of seeking goods and services? By lamenting the lack of any healthcare panacea, the writer is conceding a large portion of the “healthcare debate” to the socialists, saying, in effect, “Yes, it would be great if there were a panacea on healthcare, but alas….”

Healthcare is not a single, static thing. It is, in principle, anything people do that is in any way intended to foster or restore physical health. Most of it is self-directed, and free of charge. Sometimes, however, people feel that their healthcare problems are of a sort to require extraordinary solutions, and therefore wish to find forms of healthcare that they cannot provide for themselves for free, and which would not exist at all without the expenditure of much human effort and ingenuity, along with major investments of money, time, and manpower.

Answering to that wish (i.e., “demand”) for extraordinary forms of healthcare, many people devote years of their lives and mental energy trying to develop various ingenious new ways of fostering and restoring health (i.e., “supply”), often by means of extremely delicate and expensive research and/or technological advances. Naturally, these enterprising individuals seek remuneration from people interested in availing themselves of the goods and services developed through their efforts. They are not slaves, after all, and therefore have no reason to devote years of their lives, and so much of their mental energy, on solutions for other people’s problems, without any hope of being compensated for their work.

Because people these days have forgotten that healthcare includes all those self-directed and free (or almost free) things we may do to promote our own physical well-being, we have lost sight of the fact that strictly speaking, no one lives without access to healthcare. When I go for a walk, I am “providing” healthcare. When I forego the cake in favor of the vegetables, I am “providing” healthcare. But today, having lost this broader understanding of healthcare, i.e., having conflated the general concept of caring for one’s health with the subcategory of high-tech, specialized-human-skills health solutions, we speak casually, and falsely, of people who “cannot get healthcare.” What we mean by this, in truth, is that these people cannot easily “get” the kind of care that has been developed by other people, at great expense, for which efforts and expenses those other people (normally) expect to be materially compensated.

And due in part to this careless thinking, and this poor use of the concept of “healthcare,” we all slide into half-imagining that people who cannot “get” goods and services they “need” (i.e., want), which goods and services were developed by other people, often within the past few decades of human history, are somehow being deprived of something to which they are entitled as human beings.

You are certainly entitled to healthcare, in the sense related to the right of self-preservation, which is to say that you have the right to take measures to promote your own health and that of your loved ones. You are not, on the other hand, entitled to the fruit of other people’s labor and expense. In fact, the notion of a right to “healthcare,” in the modern misunderstood sense of that term, implies that you have a right to something (machines, expertise) that did not even exist as an idea in anyone’s head five, fifty, or five hundred years ago.

This is no more reasonable as a rights claim than saying you have a right to a smartphone. It reduces the notion of rights to nothing more than “wants.” “I want a phone.” “I want access to that million-dollar medical machine.” This has nothing at all to do with rights.

The result of this rhetorical concession or half-concession to the socialist principle that a desire is a right — that “something has to be done about the issue of access,” although “there is no healthcare panacea” — is that conservatives are too easily susceptible to the manipulations of the corporate-political self-seekers who oppose socialized medicine with the equally corrupt idea of something they call “free market solutions,” or “market-based solutions.”

Hence American conservatives, for example, have to stop adopting the GOP euphemism, “free market solutions,” which in practice means a market regulated to hell by a board of corporate lawyers and bureaucratic fixers.

In short, the only real “free market solution” is the free market, plain and simple.

No one has a right to high-tech equipment and highly-trained specialists, for that would utterly annihilate the freedom and property rights of the people who develop, own, and operate the high-tech equipment.

But you do have a right to the use and disposal of your rightfully-earned income and other property (including property gained through charity or gifts from others), which, in a free market, you may use to purchase as much high-tech healthcare as you can afford.

The idea, regularly tossed at you by the “left” and “right” sides of the establishment, that in a truly free market only the very wealthy would have “access” to high-tech medicine, is exactly as reasonable as the idea that in a free market only the very wealthy would have access to personal computers. The main reason high-tech medicine is developed and provided in the first place is for the sake of making it available to as many people as possible for the greatest profit of the developers and providers. That’s how the free market works.

The GOP has as much of a vested interest in hiding that reasoning from you as do the socialist Democrats. Both parties are funded by people who want to control the system for their own advantage, i.e., to destroy the free market, thereby limiting access to healthcare by limiting liberty.

To return to the analogy of personal computers, an example I have used for years, both in this context and in the context of private education: Imagine that in the early days of personal computers, when the technology was rare and new, and only the very wealthy could afford one of these devices, the political class (in cahoots with cynical leaders from the computer industry) had decided that this technology was so useful and essential to modern life that people had a “right” to personal computers. Imagine, further, that in the name of this supposed right, the government decided to heavily regulate the production and distribution of PCs to ensure that those without great wealth would have “access” to this expensive new technology, by means of something they called a “market-based solution to the problem of computer distribution.” Today, most people might indeed have a PC, but these would be much lower quality PCs, and much more expensive to produce and distribute, than the real machines that everyone has now, and at much lower prices than in those early days, by way of the actual (relatively) free market.

Today, it remains true, of course, that only the wealthiest among us can afford the absolutely newest, highest-quality PCs. But on the other hand, the lowest-quality, cheapest PCs on the market today — the ones accessible to “the poor” — are in fact much better, faster, and more powerful than the machines that the wealthiest could buy thirty years ago. That’s another benefit of the free market, of course, which one loses by increments with every concession to government-regulated “solutions” grounded in phony rights claims.

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