Liberty, Health Care, and WalMart

A fairly absurd argument that Dems' health care reform bill will increase liberty from William Galston:

So when the Tea Partiers complain that a government health insurance mandate invades their liberty, they reveal a defective understanding of the logic of liberty in a modern society. Individuals who choose to go without health insurance could try to resolve the contradiction by signing a document foreswearing all reliance on health care they didn't pay for themselves. But, because our medical norms don't permit us to leave injured accident victims at the side of the road, such a document couldn't be enforced. To be a citizen of the United States today is to live in a community where individual health care choices can have social consequences, a fact to which government can legitimately respond.

The obvious fallacy in this argument is that choosing not to insure against health care costs is not an announcement one will refuse to pay them when they are incurred, particularly in extremis. Rather than smiting such spurious strawmen, Galston might explain how a policy of throwing people in jail for not buying health insurance can be called consonant with maximizing liberty outside of an Orwell novel.

And such a policy is counterproductive anyway. Stephen Spruiell cites a Democrat who makes an relevant analogy to WalMart:

In most goods and services there are very few active consumers. What happens is, everybody selling a good is affected by Wal-Mart. You benefit from that wherever you are. So many of those who oppose consumer-driven health care use the perfect as the enemy of the good. You're not going to shop for health care if you're hit by a bus. That's not the point. The point is you're served in a health-care system that's been tightened up, both from a cost and quality point of view, by the fact that some consumers, for many procedures, are shopping around, and not just on price.

The inefficient government is already paying for half or more of health care by some estimates, and insurance companies granted near-monopolies by state law cover all but a few percent of the rest. That's not a recipe for driving efficiency, and the smaller we make the already-tiny fraction of people who are still incentivized to shop around for health care the worse off we're all going to be in the end. The bill under consideration would make it zero.

posted by Dave on 02.06.10 at 03:50 PM


"liberty in a modern society" = slave of the state

pst314   ·  February 6, 2010 5:55 PM

Many years ago, my liberal friends argued that helmet laws were needed to protect the taxpayers from the costs of caring for uninsured accident victims. They scoffed when I pointed out that this logic could just as easily be used to justify laws outlawing skateboarding, black diamond ski slopes, skydiving, etc. Dependents of the state soon become slaves of the state.

pst314   ·  February 6, 2010 5:59 PM

A guy who posts at zomblog argued (correctly in my book) that universal healthcare turns us all into busybodies. Your weight problem, smoking, drinking, dangerous activities are now truely my concern, at least fiscally, and so I have a right to have some say in your choices.

RickC   ·  February 6, 2010 8:20 PM

It is the inability of social reformers to accept the free actions of those they would care for (sic!) that makes government-sponsored programs tyranny by definition.

Brett   ·  February 7, 2010 12:17 PM

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