A Triumph for Tyranny

Introduction

In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, along with his companion Gustave de Beaumont, traveled from France to the United States for — ironically — studying the U.S. prison system. Democracy in America, the book in which he recorded his observations from his nine-month tour, has provided background for many discussions about democracy even to this day.

In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville raises the possibility of a tyranny of the majority under democratic forms of government. Although he saw a risk of that form of tyranny in the U.S., he also observed elements of the Republic structure of the United States government that might mitigate the tyranny of the majority. In fact, he entitled one of his chapters “Causes Which Mitigate the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States.”

Over the years, and particularly in the 20th century, the U.S. Government — abetted by its citizens — has swept aside the protections against the tyranny spawned by democratic forms of government. The concerns expressed by Alexis de Tocqueville and the fears of many of the founding fathers have come to pass in ways they could only imagine. We have created the tyranny of the majority of the minority over the population.

I have chosen “healthcare” legislation as an outstanding example.

Healthcare Tyranny

In 2009, with a vote on The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the U.S. Government Congress enacted another triumph for tyranny. Two hundred nineteen people (in essence only eight people), not even elected by most citizens, place further limits on the liberty of over 300,000,000 Americans. In the original version, they had the audacity to force people to take actions they would not have chosen on their own.

I don’t see this as an issue of Democrats versus Republicans. Both parties believe in more oppression—they want to control the lives of other people. We just got the Democrat form of oppression rather than the Republican form. I favor neither.

Contrary to popular misconception, the United States of America does not need “healthcare” reform of any sort. It requires, instead, the repeal of all existing legislation that hampers the emergence of a free market in all forms of care for the sick and needy.

To those who argue that a free-market will not care for those people I have two from responses:

First, you cannot provide any empirical evidence to support your claim. A free market for these services — or any other for that matter — has never existed in this country. Without the interference of the federal government, American citizens have traditionally stepped forward to help those in need voluntarily.

Second, in a free market, both parties win in every voluntary transaction, for every product/service. In every government controlled market, the monopoly force of government picks winners and losers. In such a system — in which winners pick the pockets of losers — we all lose in the long run. These statements apply to “healthcare” as much as any other service.

If you favor any form of legislation regarding “healthcare,” you don’t favor liberty or economic efficiency. You favor the freedom of getting what you want and the freedom of others to get what you want them to get. You favor a misguided view of economic efficiency that practices stealing from healthier and more productive people to support less healthy and less productive people. These forms of freedom and economic efficiency will eventually make you less free, less healthy, and less productive.

Conclusion

Cloaked in altruism, tyranny and oppression in the U.S. of America takes on a particularly sinister character. It creates the unseen tyranny of one citizen over another. The atrocious legislation, known as “Obamacare,” provides only one example of the many and more frequent examples of tyranny within a “democratic” form of government. Many other examples, both real and proposed, of the tyranny of the majority exist.

Minimum wage laws, consumer “protection” laws, labor laws, etc., all provide living examples of a minority of representatives restricting the freedom of all citizens. Little hope exists in the trend of this legislative tyranny. Now, many legislators — and citizens — actually support the horrendously to hear radical proposal referred to as The Green New Deal.

Don’t enslave your neighbor; set him free.

Healthcare Economics

Government involvement in “healthcare” provides startling example of an incredible waste of resources that no one seems to notice. It shows how a current benefit causes a long-term drag on the economy.

In my last post I pointed out how a vote for government amounts to a vote for economic inefficiency.

In this post I will point out some important questions regarding a specific intervention of government in the market — the intervention in “healthcare.”

The complexity of this subject precludes me from covering it in any detail. I would simply like to point out some of the issues that people seem to ignore when dealing with the subject.

Terminology

How can we discuss the subject intelligently without using accurate terminology?

We have for years used the euphemistic term “healthcare” to refer to what should more accurately be referred to as “sickness-care.” In common usage, people normally use the term healthcare to refer to prescription drugs, hospital stays, vaccinations, etc. These topics, however, have a great deal to do with sickness and very little to do with health.

Most people also seem to deny that this sickness-care is a product or service that should have a normal market price. Some people claim that they have a right to healthcare. By some magical activity it should be given to them with no cost. They don’t seem to understand that healthcare consists of a service like many other services—not much different from the service of a plumber or an auto mechanic. Natural law gives you the right to life. It does not give you the right to health; that’s up to you.

To prevent confusion on your part I will continue to refer to sickness-care as healthcare. I don’t want you tripping over too many new concepts all at once.

Prices-Costs

Price plays an important role in the allocation of all resources—even those used in a service like healthcare. But, what mechanism tells bureaucrats what to pay providers for medical treatment services? They have no way to effectively and efficiently allocate resources to such a valuable service because they have no price mechanism to observe. If they want a resource, they give up nothing to get it—unlike a consumer would.

The willingness of people to pay for healthcare should determine the price of medical care in the same way that people’s willingness to pay for gasoline determines its price. How much do you value your own health? What sacrifice would you make to maintain good health?

The government does not — indeed cannot — know the answers to these questions. And, providing the service free, or cheap, creates another set of problems.

Demand

Economists don’t agree on very much, but they nearly universally agree that providing a good for free, or cheap, leads to more demand.

More demand almost always leads to higher prices for the entity paying the bills. When government takes on the role of providing any service for people, the price, ultimately paid by taxpayers, tends to rise. Look at the many activities in which government intervenes e.g. schools, union wages, postal service, real estate, etc. The prices rise faster than the rest of the market. The same thing happens to the cost of healthcare.

With free healthcare people tend to have more doctor visits, more visits to the ER, and more demand for prescription drugs. Since government does not know the value of any of these services, they have no way of knowing how much to provide nor at what cost.

Allocation

Ever-growing demand with the lack of an effective pricing mechanism leads to an inefficient allocation of medical resources. As with most government activities, providing healthcare amounts to a redistribution from the healthy and productive to the sick and less productive. This redistribution causes a drag on rest of the economy that affects all consumers. Without these pricing mechanisms, how can bureaucrats know who should get what treatment and when?

This principle—mis-allocation due to lack of price signals—applies particularly to what has become a political talking point: pre-existing conditions. Who defines the meaning of pre-existing conditions and determines who has them? Then, who pays for the treatment of those pre-existing conditions. As indicated above the healthy and more productive people pay for the sick and less productive.

The resources taken involuntarily from productive activities actually create a negative feedback for the sick themselves. The long-term source of the philanthropic support of those with serious conditions gets diminished by current taxation and transfers to the ill.

Enough resources do exist to help those who really need long-term financial assistance for their medical needs. Individuals, however, not the government should decide from where those resources come. The government, by confiscating people’s resources, insult the voluntary kindness of people and their willingness to help people in need. People with pre-existing conditions would not die in the streets without government stealing on their behalf.

Conclusion

Healthcare, like any other service, should be left to the participants in the market. Consumers should decide how much they value their own health, and generous individuals can and will help who need long-term medical care.

Government intervention in healthcare leads to at least three detrimental outcomes:

  • Higher costs—paid by tax payers.
  • Misallocation of resources—robbing more productive people.
  • A general drag on the economy—costing the healthy and sick alike.

Will legislators ever have the political courage to take the right and effective action and get government entirely out of the business of providing healthcare?