flag stethoscope gavelAnyone who follows the misadventures and machinations of Obummercare must chuckle at reports about it. Leftists inevitably praise the system as successful, however obvious its failures, while those on the right regularly laud its impending demise. Yet federal programs seldom if ever die.
Indeed, politics rather than fact shapes most Americans’ opinions of nationalized medical insurance—even in cases pertaining strictly to numbers. For example, on July 28, the conservatives at Forbes.com declared “that the ACA significantly increased premiums, ” while a day later, the more liberal shills at “healthinsurance.org” insisted that “Health premiums after Obamacare” are “lower.”
Obummercare has become a sort of political Rorschach Test, in which observers see what they please. No doubt that’s a function of size and complexity: “healthcare” accounted for 16% of the country’s economy in 2008, and experts predict its share will rise to 20% by 2021. So gargantuan a universe enables partisans to isolate “evidence” substantiating all claims, however preposterous.
But that malleability also emphasizes the value of principles. Obummercare can and will fail; it must, according to economic principles, and it should, according to moral ones. Whether it temporarily flourishes or even “lowers health premiums” doesn’t matter: principle alone should inform our view of and hopes for the (Un)Affordable Care Act’s future. Even the brutal Soviet Union succumbed to economic principles after menacing the world for seventy years.
Yet most Americans long ago ceded the political field to pragmatism. They agree with politicians and bureaucrats that if a governmental program “succeeds” or promises some great benefit, it thereby becomes not only acceptable but desirable. They no longer ask, “Is it moral and Constitutional for government to provide medical insurance (or education, or mortgages, or food, etc., ad infinitum)?” Rather, the question shifts to, “How many freebies can I get? How many of my expenses can I push onto my neighbors?” As the debate over Obummercare showed, few Americans care whether the (Un)ACA is Constitutional; even fewer worry about its morality. Nor does anyone recommend abolishing Medicare and Medicaid over these same concerns; heck, politicians refused to repeal even aportion of Medicare—the “drug benefit”—thanks to its immense popularity.
But principles triumph in the end; ergo, the wise man heeds them. And the first principle of politics is this: “Government is force.”
In other words, the State’s essence consists of brute, physical force. And not only when it goes to war: it regularly threatens all of us, its golden geese and victims, with violence. The marble monuments politicians erect to themselves, the flags and bunting, the elections in which we supposedly choose our rulers, the cant about democracy—all disguise government’s ferocity. Nonetheless, the State is nothing more than the organized violence its minions legally initiate against everyone living within a geographical area. Force has ever been government’s hallmark throughout history and around the world.
Indeed, government’s compulsion so permeates our lives that most folks take it for granted. Until recently, the American State kidnapped children each day, forcing parents to relinquish their kids to public schools; now, government allows families to teach their offspring at home—but they must still seek the State’s permission before doing so. We drive cars we buy on roads we pay for in the manner bureaucrats decree and only with their approval; cops enforcing the government’s whims arrest and even kill anyone defying these strictures.
We could multiply these mundane examples by the thousands. Yet the only time most people notice the State’s violence is when it attacks an elderly, sick or otherwise vulnerable citizen for ordinary behavior it has not yet criminalized. For instance, a “secretive Court of Protection” in Britain compelled a young girl to leave her family and live instead in a “supervised care home” after her “father verbally reprimand[ed] his daughter in public for bad behaviour.” Judges prohibited the family from contact with her—but her grandmother hugged her when the two met by chance on the street. For that, the court imprisoned Grandma. And it’s about to remand her to the pokey for a second offense: when the girl ran away from the “care home” and phoned her granny for help, the lady took her in. “What grandmother would turn her back on their grandchild in those circumstances?” she rhetorically asked.
Recall this woman’s plight the next time politicians or bureaucrats propose an extension of their authority in the hope of using even more physical constraints against even more people. Of course, they won’t phrase their ambition so honestly; they will instead prattle about how many constituents die from lack of medical care and how the State should impel us to buy insurance for our own good. Yet none of their lies alter the precept that government is force. And though politicians pretend to help us, overriding our decisions infantilizes and harms us.
Our second principle builds on the first. We deplore violence that forces us to act against our will. (In fact, when people the State doesn’t employ so oppress us, we call them “criminals.”) Ergo, we don’t treat others that way, whether we honor the Golden Rule, Kant’s Categorical Imperative, or simple human dignity. Initiating violence is always evil, however vehemently the assailant contends that he acts for his victim’s own good. Only savages and sociopaths attack peaceful people.
Nor do we outsource violence: no entity operating in our name should compel others to act against their wishes. Yet that is precisely what government does with each of its positive laws and regulations. Obummercare obliges us (or our employers) to buy medical insurance. It compels doctors and hospitals to treat patients as bureaucrats dictate. It restricts competitors from selling insurance as they see fit. Its myriad sanctions threaten all who do not comply with its endless rules. By its very nature, it is utterly immoral.
However grandiose or compassionate a political goal may seem, government is force. And civilized adults never initiate violence against each other.
— Becky Akers