I was having a conversation with a Canadian friend of mine recently that went like so many others I’ve had with my American friends, that I finally decided I needed to write about it. The topic of the conversation is one that should have been discussed in every school in America at some point or another, but apparently is not. I can excuse my Canadian friend, because he’s Canadian, but all Americans should know this from grade school on. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: A totally free market (obviously with some necessary regulation to minimize corruption) for health care services and insurance is a necessary element of reducing health care costs in America.
Canadian Friend (CF): Okay, but shouldn’t the purchase of health insurance still be mandatory, so that everyone is covered?
Me: No. That’s draconian, and frankly, un-American!
CF: But what happens when someone has a major medical problem and they don’t have insurance?
Me: They should have had it. They took a risk and lost.
CF: Well, that’s fine for people who can afford health insurance or are wealthy enough to pay the bill, but what about the poor?
Me: In a free market, with minimal regulation mostly aimed at preventing corruption, costs would be far lower than they are now, so we’re only talking about a very small percentage of the overall population. There are charities out there to help them. And even if there weren’t, each and every American has a responsibility to take care of themselves.
CF: So, when someone who is uninsured and too poor to buy insurance, let alone pay the medical bill, has a major medical problem, the public at large gets stuck with the bill?
Me: And how is that different from what happens everywhere, regardless of how healthcare costs are managed, regulated, or controlled? Besides, many of the illnesses experienced by the poor are of their own making. Smoking or drug abuse, for instance.
CF: Exactly. Why should the public have to pick up the tab for someone else’s lack of personal responsibility? Why shouldn’t we pass laws that tax or outlaw certain types of behavior that are detrimental to our health?
Alright. Let me just address this head-on. First and foremost, this country was founded on the radical concept of individual freedom. America’s Founders placed a higher priority on individual freedom, than they did on protecting the benefits of the public at large. This means, at its core, that we, as a nation, value our individual rights and the freedoms that come with those rights MORE than the rights of “the people.” When I say, “the people,” I am referring to the public at large, the collective, the masses, etc., as they are most often referred to by those in favor of social justice and socialists in general.
I know this is a difficult concept for many people to get their head around. It is counterintuitive. What I am saying is nothing less than that we, as a nation, are willing to sacrifice benefits to the majority in order to protect the rights of even just one person (don’t forget that “the majority” is made up of individuals). If many have to suffer so that one may enjoy the freedom that comes from protecting his or her individual, unalienable rights, then so be it.
This is a radical idea. It’s so radical, that it had never before been established in any other nation prior to the founding of the United States of America. Never in the history of mankind. And it is the number one reason behind why America has enjoyed success on an historically epic and unprecedented scale. That, and a profound respect for, and observance of, the rule of law.
It’s also so radical and counterintuitive, that if it isn’t taught in the schools and by parents to their children, it is virtually unknown.
Here’s the catch, though. With these rights and the freedoms that come with them, also comes great responsibility. If a person has the right to own a gun, he or she also has a responsibility to not use that gun for evil.
Take the gun issue as an example. We are faced with two possible choices in this country, just as other nations are. We can either opt for allowing individuals to own guns and then enact laws to punish those who use them for evil, or we can opt to not allow individuals to own guns and thus try to prevent them from having the freedom to choose between using the gun for evil or not.
The entire basis of this nation is that when faced with this choice, we nearly always opt for the former and NOT the latter. This is the very heart and soul of our nation’s founding and for what it stands. We, as a nation, are willing to allow for the potential suffering that may come from an act of violence with a gun, in order to protect to the maximum extent possible, individual freedom.
Ben Franklin said it best, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security, deserve neither.” This means, in America at least, that we are willing to subject ourselves to the dangers posed by those few who choose to use their rights and freedoms for evil, in order that the rest of us may retain those rights and freedoms to enjoy life and pursue happiness.
The person who acts irresponsibly and chooses not to have health insurance, particularly in a market where it is affordable or accessible to all but the poorest unemployed, is subject to the consequences of his or her choice when illness strikes. Fortunately for them, we are, in addition to being the most prosperous nation on the planet, the most generous and giving people on same said planet (proof of this is so abundant on the internet, I’ll leave it to you to do your own homework). We have charities and many of them are designed specifically to handle hard cases like these. And because they are locally run and by people who are passionate about it, they are the very best suited to do it.
And at the end of the day, if someone falls through the cracks and is unable to get charitable assistance, and they default on their medical bills, the public at large is ultimately going to pay for it, one way or another, whether they like it or not. And I ask again, how is that different from a universal health care system, where the public pays for everyone’s health care? Only in one way, the individual experiences a bad credit rating. That’s it. And let’s face it, for those who choose to be utterly responsible, or irresponsible for that matter, credit is unnecessary. Just ask Dave Ramsey!
I have no doubt that there are a nearly unlimited number of special circumstances that someone who vociferously disagrees with me and what this country was founded upon can come up with to challenge what I am saying in this post. And I am certain that there is an answer for ALL of them. The answers probably all look very much alike. And some will also probably seem harsh to the gentle soul. But the truth isn’t always what we want to hear. And I would suggest that if you don’t like the principles that this country was founded upon, rather than trying to “fundamentally change” it, do the rest of us a favor and either accept it, or, if you cannot accept it, feel free to find a country that is more to your liking and emigrate. My respect and admiration goes out to those who do!