Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Monday, August 02, 2004

The case against socialized health care
Written by: Beck

Three big essays in one day--because readers of INCITE deserve a helping of quantity with their quality.

During the DNC, liberal blogger David Anderson of In Search of Utopia decided to respond to some of the attacks on Edwards' speech made from the right. One of the conservative blogs he singled out was INCITE, and in the comments I told him I would give him a response at some time. This post is a combination response to David & a general discussion of why socialized (a.k.a. universal) health care is a bad idea.

First, David excerpts from my original Edwards' speech live blogging:

"No, these people have nothing new to offer. All they hope to offer is more handouts. The fact that you can get 16 years of education from the government (a free college education is just a Pell grant away) is insufficient it would seem."
David's comments on my comments:

As for the comments from INCITE... Well I am never shocked at the incredible ignorance of those who have never faced personal despair.

I am one of those people who made it out of the ghetto, and made something of my life, but if you will pardon the pun, the Utopist bullshit most conservatives sell themselves about a glorious America that is above racism or poverty is just that.

I went to a poor inner city school where books in 1971 were talking about man, "one day," walking on the moon. I taught in schools where several hundred students shared ONE computer. And at a time when community colleges are shutting their doors for lack of funding and school programs are being cut, the only thing ABSURD is the argument that ALL IS WELL.

As for handouts, another racist buzzword for welfare. I don&'t believe in the welfare state... I don't believe people should be able to go on the doll for life. But then again I don't believe in HANDOUTS to Halliburton or Enron either.

My father, a poor uneducated man worked for the minimum wage MOST of his life. My mother sold Avon and did odd jobs to help him. A welfare check never crossed the threshold of my parents house, but today, with so many people out of work, without insurance and without hope, these guys offer hope.... And you can slam them all you want but that 92% of Americans you and Kerry are talking about want hope too.
David saves me the trouble of making the argument that indefinite reward welfare doesn't work. If unemployment & welfare benefits lasted as long as a person remained signed up for it, it would create a significant disincentive at the margin for people to work. I can't honestly say that, faced with the choice of flipping burgers for the rest of my life or cashing government checks for the rest of my life, I would choose the burgers. Most reasonable people on the left understand that, having seen the results of that policy at work in the 70's and 80's. Welfare reform--much of it executed under Clinton--was a very needed thing.

After all, people shouldn't be eligible for any kind of social safety net if they're not willing to give back to the society which provides it when they are able. David's own hard work & his father's before him are a testament to the mentality that makes American society productive. In that regard, he's a good conservative, though I'm sure he'd cringe to hear me call him that.

As for David's various accusations of racism (not directed specifically at me, mind you, but at certain aspects of the conservative mindset in general), I don't have an answer. I don't, because those accusations don't make any sense to me. It seems to me that his accusations necessarily imply an association between minorities and the poor, and that policies perceived as intended to "keep the poor poor" are by implication racist. I think that's complete balderdash, and I think conservative minorities would agree with me in that regard.

What then my problem with socialized health care? First of all, it suffers from the same problems as lifetime unemployment & welfare benefits. They create a disincentive at the margin for an individual to provide for himself when the governed will do it for him. People who take pride in their ability to care for their families, regardless of how poor, will always strive to provide for themselves, but they often seem like more the exception than the rule.

Perhaps more importantly, however, socialized health care is an economic disaster waiting to happen, and it flies in the face of common sense. People able to provide themselves with private health insurance will no longer do so, as the government will do it for them.

Furthermore, businesses who once might have offered health care benefits as an enticement to potential employees will no longer feel compelled to make such an offer. The government will find itself picking up the health care tab for vastly more people than their current estimates would predict as small businesses (and even many large corporations who employ large numbers of blue collar workers) will promptly jettison healthcare coverage. At the same time that tax payers find themselves picking up more and more of the tab, employers will largely feel uncompleted to return the saved money to their employees. Universal health care, thus becomes a form of institutionalized corporate welfare.

Furthermore, quality of health care will rapidly deteriorate. Every nation that has implemented universal health care--every single one--has seen the quality of health care provided decline. The reason for this is that with the government providing the insurance policies, it falls to the government to regulate the rates at which they will reimburse medical practitioners. Left with no choice but to lose money or cut corners, hospitals will cut corners. The problems caused by many homos skimpy coverage and draconian cost control measures will promptly infect the entire health care system from top to bottom. While I would hope that the US wouldn't make Canada's mistake of requiring patients to use the public health system, thereby preventing the wealthy "line-jumping" (an idiotic concept rooted in egalitarian notions that everyone should receive the same sub-standard quality of service regardless of what they can pay), the impact on all but the highest-end of health care providers will find itself stuck under government health care cost structuring.

Objections to my previous argument might say that the government would use reasonable prices, thereby preventing corporate greed while maintaining a high level of care, I counter with the example of the long and storied history of Medicare and Medicaid abuse. When abuse happens--i.e. overbilling & false billing--the institution keeps the ill gotten gains. When abuse doesn't happen, the consumer suffers sub-standard care. It's a vicious cycle, and human nature (and the nature of politicians who love being magnanimous in concept and tight-fisted when the rubber meets the road) being what it is, incidents of abuse and fraud will multiply rapidly. Much of it will actually be out of necessity, as hospitals will be faced with the unpleasant choices of cutting services or chisling government health care regulators.

There's a further factor which must not be forgotten. When I was growing up in the 80's, I used to hear that the two highest paying professions--the jobs that the smart kids and the scions of wealthy families always aspired to--were lawyer and doctor. The lawyers can protect themselves, but doctors' lobbying groups tend to be much weaker than those of the pharmaceuticals (who would love socialized health care) & the consumer advocates. Doctors get run over roughshod, and their pay isn't nearly commensurate with what it was in the 80's. With socialized health care, doctor pay will find itself regulated as well. Even if it's not regulated by law, hospitals will regulate it out of necessity. You know what happens when you remove the financial incentive from seeking one of the single most challenging professions in the world? Think about how hard it is to become a doctor--the long years of study and longer years of internship and residency. That's to say nothing of the enormous stress of having people's lives in your hands. These people are heros, they shouldn't be getting paid like low-level bureaucrats. Their reward should be commensurate with their work & ability. The ludicrous rates doctors have to pay for malpractice insurance, thanks to systematic abuse by trial lawyers, doesn't help either, but that's another debate for another time.

There's also the issue of what economists term "moral hazard." Moral hazard, briefly put, is the problem insurers always face in that those most likely to make insurance claims are the most likely to seek out insurance. Furthermore, once insurance is in place, they're more likely to take risks. An uninsured driver, for instance, will drive much more cautiously than an insured one, as he knows full well he can't afford the consequences of a screw up (and no, I'm not advocating an end to auto-insurance, I'm just making an example).

Many of the 44 million uninsured Americans (these were numbers from a speech at the DNC--I don't remember whose exactly--use at your own risk) are uninsured by choice. Healthy people who don't have children take a calculated risk and either save the money saved by forgoing health insurance (in essence creating their own insurance policy out of a savings account) or spend it on comforts they couldn't otherwise afford. As such, when these people become mildly ill--a cold, the flu, a sprained ankle--they don't bother to go see a doctor. They self-medicate as best they can and hope it gets better. If they don't, they suck it up and go to a doctor, dipping into the rainy-day fund, and hope that it doesn't turn out to be something major which will require ongoing expense.

With universal health care in place, these people will suddenly find themselves with no reason to avoid a doctors visit except the threat of long waiting lists and lines (and there will be long waiting lists and lines, believe me). As such, the system will find itself flooded again with far more people than current utilization levels might imply.

Then there's one final point. It's the least compelling argument to liberals, but to a libertarian leaning free-market advocate such as myself, it's one of the most compelling arguments. Any time you force one person at the point of a gun to pay for another person's goods or services, regardless of whether you use the technique of "taxation" to effect this payment, it is theft, plain and simple. Taxation doesn't constitute theft at the point of a gun you say? Try not paying your taxes, and see what happens. In a free society, ones earnings reflect ones productive contribution to society. To deny that reward is immoral. But like I said, liberals don't typically find that argument especially compelling.

So let the flames fly. Doubtlessly many people, assuming any manage to make it through this entire diatribe, will disagree with me. If I think of anything else, I'll toss out an update. Feel free to leave your comments, hostile or otherwise, and I'll try to respond to them as best I can. I belted this out pretty quickly, with virtually no proof reading, so it's bound to have a few errors and oddities. Don't hesitate to point them out and I'll address them as I can.

Update: David's response to this post can be found here, with an especially insightful discussion of the race angle.

Contact The Author:

John Beck

Feedback Welcomed

Greatest Hits

The Complete United Nations Posts
Immoderate Moderates
Marketing Myopia
In defense of the Republic
UKIP in America
Playing Connect the Dots
A Point So Often Missed: The Presence of an Administered Rate
Reagan Remembrance
Dr. Wolfowitz, or How I Supported the Right War Waged in the Wrong Way for the Wrong Reasons
Divine Right of Kings and UN Mandates
A Fantastic Idea, If I Do Say So Myself
Why We Were Right to Liberate Iraq
The Crisis of Conservatism

Blogs Worth Bookmarking

Steal The Blinds
Poor Dudley's Almanac
Protein Wisdom
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
New Sisyphus
Jim Treacher
Ace of Spades
Captain's Quarters
Rambling's Journal
Neolibertarian Blog
LLP Group Blog
The Llama Butchers
The Castle Argghhh
The Politburo Diktat
The Dissident Frogman
In Search of Utopia
Aaron's cc:
You Know You Wanna
Classical Values
Clowning Glory
Vice Squad
Hit & Run
Link Mecca
The Corner
Power Line
Michelle Malkin
Mises Institute
marchand chronicles
Enlighten - New Jersey

More Top Reads

SlagleRock's Slaughterhouse
This Blog is Full of Crap
Who Tends the Fires
The Bleat
Outside the Beltway
Small Dead Animals
Kim du Toit
Tman in Tennessee
Hog On Ice
Pardon My English
Mr. Minority
Speed Of Thought
La Shawn Barber
Right Wing News
USS Clueless
Belmont Club
Shades of Gray
Seldom Sober
Roger L. Simon
Tacoma Blaze
A Small Victory
Murdoc Online
Iraq Elections Diatribe
Winds of Change
Enlighten - New Jersey
Random Fate
Riding Sun
The Daily File
Matt "The Man" Margolis
Bastard Sword
Roller Coaster of Hate

News Links

Blogger News Network
National Review Online
Tech Central Station
The Drudge Report
Reason Online
Mises Institute
The Weekly Standard
Front Page Magazine
Town Hall

Affiliations, Accolades, & Acknowledgements

The Neolibertarian Network


Image Hosted by
"More tallent than a million monkeys with typewriters."
--Glenn Reynolds

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Life, Liberty, Property Community

Reciprocal Blogrolling

Accidental Verbosity
Conservative Eyes
The Moderate Voice
Perpetual Three-Dot Column
Sudan Watch
Mystery Achievement
Le Sabot Post-Moderne
Comment Me No Comments
New Spew

Links That Amuse the Writers

Huffington's Toast
The IFOC News
Dave Barry's Blog
Drum Machine
Something Awful
Cox & Forkum
Exploding Dog


March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
August 2006
March 2007
May 2007
June 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
September 2008
November 2008
December 2008
March 2009
April 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009

The Elephant Graveyard

We Are Full of Shit
The Sicilian
The Diplomad
Insults Unpunished
Fear & Loathing in Iraq
Right Wingin-It
Serenity's Journal
Son of Nixon
Rachel Lucas


Site Design by Maystar
Ask not for whom the blog tolls...
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by

Listed on Blogwise
Blogarama - The Blog Directory


Image Hosted by

Email Questions and Comments

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
eXTReMe Tracker