Socialist Healthcare

What is with the recent bent of people who otherwise subscribe to laissez faire leanings and libertarian beliefs jumping on the idea that the government should buy everyone’s healthcare? First it was Rogier, and now this guy? The second one seems to be more lefty than libertarian, but et tu, Rogier?

How did we get to the point where people who are known for saying the government should get out of the business of building roads are the same ones who are saying that the government should be paying for all the hospitals? Does the war really distort reality so much for so many people that they have started to knee-jerk against anything said by anyone who votes Republican? I honestly can’t think of a good libertarian argument for it.

Single payer healthcare will have no prophylactic advantage. We already have plenty of healthcare for the poor. Medicaid catches everyone who is too poor to buy healthcare. Is healthcare expensive? You bet. That doesn’t mean that the government should buy it for you. Cars are expensive. You’ll die without medical care? You’ll die with medical care. In the long term, the mortality rate is 100%. Dying later is a luxury.

I don’t see any reason to think that I would be in less danger of catching something communicable if we had socialist health care. We already have programs to immunize children, with subsidies to handle to poor children. And the really nasty stuff, like TB, ends up infecting people who often won’t follow through with treatment that has already been given to them, like IV drug users and homeless people. Having the government pay for my treatment isn’t going to make the treatment it is already paying for any more effective.

There are other, more ominous problems from a libertarian standpoint that rarely make it into the mainstream debate. One of these is government immunity. Once the government is the single payer, there is going to be a big push to nationalize the whole medical industry. One of two things is going to happen. First, the government is going to pay what it takes to keep for-profit agencies practicing medicine. This is going to cause the budget to balloon in ways we haven’t seen since WW2, and people will be screaming nationalization to bring it under control. Or, the government will not pay what it takes to keep for-profit agencies practicing medicine, they will close their doors, and the government will buy their assets and start a national healthcare company. Either way, the government will end up directly treating us.

At that point, the doctors and nurses are either government employees or government contractors. And you cannot sue government employees or contractors. American malpractice suits have created a very, very meticulous and careful healthcare system. (I personally think it is too safe, but that is another article.) The US government is not going to live under the fear of lawsuits that the current industry suffers under. When was the last time you heard about someone winning a lawsuit against the DMV for screwing up their driver’s license application? When was the last time someone won a lawsuit against the police for failing to save them from a burglar? How successful do you think a lawsuit against the city for ruining the front end of your car with substandard roads would be?

You can count on three things when the government takes over an industry — it will be over-administrated, with all the attendant costs. It will be ineffective, because it becomes impossible to terminate the unproductive (or even dangerously incompetent.) And it will be absolutely, 100% unaccountable from a legal standpoint. Is that the kind of healthcare that libertarians want? Can anyone point to any indicator beyond, “I really, really want it to be different this time” showing that I’m wrong?


  1. Mexigogue says:

    If you narrow down the 2000 election to a vote for either war or nationalized health care I will tell you I don’t want either one. But if I had to choose one I will choose war, because has a better chance of actually ending one day. I stand by my 2000 vote.

  2. R says:

    Have you guys heard of Giuliani’s proposed plan? Tax cuts to fund health care via private insurance companies? Sounds interesting, but there aren’t enough details to really start contemplating it.