Monday, March 22, 2010

Obama's Great Leap Forward

Congratulations to Obama and his supporters for getting a health care bill passed. If somehow the current plan turns out to have problems, I have no doubt Congress will patch it up with the necessary amendments -- assuming, of course, the economy has not completely collapsed by then.

Readers of Atlas Shrugged might welcome ObamaCare for the same reasons the strikers of Rand's novel welcomed every new state intrusion: It hastens the arrival of reckoning day. Libertarians who have their own "Galt's Gulch" have the best insurance of all. They can witness the implosion from a safe and hidden locale instead of having it collapse on their heads.

Canada is a country with progressive government health care. What's it like getting medical treatment in Canada? I have only anecdotal information to pass on. My sister and her husband live in Calgary. They are not poor. Their son is a doctor. A little over a year ago, my sister was told she needed an MRI, and so she was put on a waiting list -- not a waiting list to get the MRI, but a waiting list to have one scheduled. A year after being put on the list, she was finally due to schedule an MRI. Unfortunately for her, the date on which she was to work out the arrangements with the bureaucrats came while she was out of the country spending time with our mother, who was in hospice and recently died. When she gets back to Canada she will have to start over. Having a son who's a doctor doesn't shorten her wait time. Meanwhile, what's happening to her health?

Such a question misses the point, of course. The system was designed to meet the requirements of "social justice," not the needs of individual health care consumers. From the standpoint of its advocates, the system is morally flawless because it's explicitly based on altruism instead of selfishness. So what if it fails to meet consumer demands? That's a destructive, selfish way of looking at it. People need to remain quiet and wait their turn like good little subjects. If they die waiting, that's a small price to pay for existing under the moral grandeur of collectivism. No system is perfect, and the medical bureaucrats are doing their best. It's egalitarian, and only insensitive monsters would oppose it.

For a brief sketch of a system of ethics contrary to altruism, see this Mike Wallace interview with Ayn Rand.

For a discussion of the general principles underlying government intrusion into health care, see this Murray Rothbard essay on HillaryCare.

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