Two major stories of last week reveal how a stubborn adherence to the doctrine of collectivism by political leaders can paralyze both thought and action when they are confronted with certain facts and circumstances, which could otherwise be dealt with in a relatively straightforward manner. The stories are to be found domestically in US health care “reform,” and in foreign affairs in the Iranian civilian protests. The questions at issue are: for US legislators, “How do ‘we’ pay for health care ‘reform?'” and for those concerned with White House politics, “Should the President make more forceful statements of support for the Iranian protesters?”
Health Care Reform
Many legislators and lobbyists have been grinding away at developing plans to force Americans into a health care industry determined and guided not by their individual choices in an open market, but by central government planning. One of the goals of the “reform” is to get all Americans covered by health insurance, the approximately 15 percent uninsured representing a level unacceptable to the central planners. Confronted by the grim facts that the great plans will have a great cost too, the country has ended up with the aforementioned question of the week.
If one did not think like a collectivist he might better ask, “Who will pay for health care ‘reform’?” The answer of course is that every single taxpayer will pay, and even those Americans who don’t pay income taxes may be faced with special taxes on products deemed unhealthful, or with a “value-added tax” that will affect every producer and consumer in the country. People will have their net incomes reduced, not just from more taxes but possibly as a result of employer mandated health care, while others will join the unemployed as a result. It has to be the case that an employer forced to provide health care to employees must find other ways to reduce total payroll to the level his business can support. Perhaps the single, guaranteed outcome of the central government’s planning of this 20 percent piece of the US economy will be the overall reduction in Americans’ standard of living. Everyone will have more taken from them by the state in the form of taxes and choices, and personal liberty will be sacrificed to bureaucratic intervention. You won’t be able to afford to do as many things as you might otherwise.
Health care does not occur naturally and it exists in limited supply at any given time. Great discoveries and inventions are required, and much training and development of specialized skills. The point is that health care is an economic good. As such, its market-determined price is the result of choices made by countless patients and providers in the total industry working within the confines of available supply. The nature of this economic good is such that its prices are very elastic, that is to say that the demand for health care services is quite flexible depending on circumstances faced by individuals seeking care. What makes it become conceived as “too expensive” by many is the largely thoughtless, perhaps well-intentioned interference by the state in enabling the creation of the “third party payer” system that is well developed in the US. The system is largely “socialized” already and for some patients the difference between systems of universal health care in other countries and the US system is small. The “seen” cost to the patient is for practical purposes very small if not zero. Demand is unlimited in such cases and so prices naturally head for the stratosphere in response.
The solution, once you stop thinking like a collectivist, is to find a way to make the doctor/patient relationship closer in diagnosis, treatment and accounting. Find ways to take the state out of the examination room and accounting office in other words, not increase its presence with such schemes as centralizing all Americans’ medical records in one large relational database. The key is in decentralizing the relationship with the state.
Obama was “troubled” by the violence in the streets of Iran but failed to comment further for a long while, even as leaders of other nations like Canada, Germany and France condemned the harsh response of the Iranian regime to its terrorized citizens’ protests. Defenders of Obama say that he did the right thing given the historical relationship between Iran and the United States of America. It was correct they say, for him to show a “calm competency” and not incite the mullahs and the crackpot President Ahmadinejad to over-react to the protests as a result of interference or “meddling” in Iranian affairs by Western commentators,especially the United States.
This collectivist-dominated administration is the gang that can’t think straight. Whether or not President Obama says anything the re-elected President of Iran went on record immediately following election day to blame the Western media for “harming” Iranians. When the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei held prayer meetings on Friday he too made no bones about placing blame outside the regime.
The Obama administration appears either as intimidated by the regime of Iran or worse, completely unable to see that the issue is not which oppressive group runs that nuclear weapon-developing terror state, but the individuals in the street holding up their English language signs and pleading for a show of international support for their plight. It makes no difference whether the power struggles are between factions of mullahs, or between presidential candidates. The fact is, even in the very likely event that Ahmadinejad did enjoy election by the majority, these poor citizens, part of a significant minority, are still being terrorized and some killed.
The world of nations needs to witness a political leader who has the guts to stand up on the world stage and declare, without aid of a teleprompter, that the United States stands up for individual rights and not for the democratic process of choosing the tyranny of the majority over the minority. As long as that collectivist principle of democracy used as an end rather than a means is employed, tyranny will prevail. Regrettably, the US has fallen far from grace as a defender of the individual over the last century. Today, the US administration holds a 52.7 percent popular election support and that is considered a sufficient mandate for a host of radical changes imposed on the minority, with scarcely even a question of moral validity considered. Unfortunately therefore, President Obama is not the advocate of individual rights the world needs to see. Tragically, a potential candidate for that role was Neda Agha-Soltan, a 16 year-old girl shot dead in the streets of Tehran by a sniper’s bullet.
Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske