Mr Obama Has An Idea
And It Might Be Best Described As Evil

Rights are a very confusing notion. It seems to me there are two possibilities regarding Mr Obama’s recent claim that “health care is a right.” Either he means something completely different by “right” than I might understand it to mean (which is to say not a common notion of what is casually meant by “a right”) or he should not get anybody’s vote because he’s, well, insane. Bill Whittle, former democrat, at NRO puts this one perspective:

Well, back in the day, we would simply say that a right has legal authority — it’s in the Constitution and therefore it’s a not just a right, it’s a birthright. So why shouldn’t we amend the Constitution to include the rights to health care, food, housing, education — all the rest? What’s the difference between the rights we have and the “rights” Obama wants to give us?

Simply this: Constitutional rights protect us from things: intimidation, illegal search and seizure, self-incrimination, and so on. The revolutionary idea of our Founding Fathers was that people had a God-given right to live as they saw fit. Our constitutional rights protect us from the power of government.

The Declaration states that the “rights we hold to be self-evident” (and perhaps granted by Nature’s God) where Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Happiness almost certainly mean for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin to be the Aristotelian eudomonia (definition #2 at the link). Rights for our founders are emphatically not consumables that the government should provide for us.

There are two essential problems with Mr Obama’s (insane?) claim that health care is a “right”. The first is illustrated above, and that it is not a right as normally thought. The notion that health care is a fundamental right to which every person is entitled is radical policy of redistribution at best. The second problem with the idea of healthcare as thing which government can cure is that it’s wrong!

In the fouth and fifth centuries the Church, especially in the Eastern Roman Empire, began a program of providing health care, food, and shelter for the poor. At that time as well, for the first time, narratives of the poor and their plight entered into public discourse (in homilies for one). Caring and providing basic health care for those who couldn’t afford it was for the Church the exercise of the very important virtue of charity. As an aside, health care in and of itself is not, for the Christian, the first priority or an essential thing in life. That is receiving health care for myself is less important than my relationship with God. The apostles (and Jesus) first look to sins, forgiveness and repentance before healing. But, as so often happens, I digress. Mr Obama rejects all of this. Health care is a “right”. So apparently, if you have a need for this commodity, and I have resources you are in the right taking it. Sociologists cite that those on the right are better at understanding the left than the reverse. But in this case, I fail entirely. This notion that health care is a right seems closer to an immoral or even evil concept than one which should might be promoted as a good.

The essential problem of today’s healthcare “crises” is that we have to ration it. Why? 400 years ago, before industrial automation, everyday staples, clothing, and manufactured goods were could barely be produced in quantities for everyone. While there were inequities in production, even if these had somehow magically (or more to the point “angelically”) have been removed, there still wouldn’t have been “enough.” Likewise today, with health care, politicians rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, promising (emptily) that just “better smarter” distribution of health care resources will make the problem go away. It won’t. The only thing that will “solve” the health care problem, just as with essential commodities, is if we repeat that self-same solution that makes manufactured goods and food cheap today. The effort involved in producing cloth today requires a few people and a bunch of machines and acres of cloth is created. Health care is an intensely human activity today. It requires people, specialists with training for the most part to supply the basic health care “product.” Until the health care product is put through the expansion of effort that automation can provide it will remain expensive. Specifically, when your doctor can see two or three order of magnitude more patients in the same he does now … then he will be able to charge two to three orders of magnitude less to you the consumer. Then and only then will health care become affordable and available to everyone. Today the biggest obstacle to this in the way of moving toward that end, is in fact people like Mr Obama and government regulation. Mr Obama is pushing for more government involvement in health care. Name one industry which was made more efficient by more government regulation.

Today there are books, in which a parent or person can navigate simple flowcharts of medical diagnoses. Many steps end with “see a doctor”, many do not. A small amount of automation and inexpensive (digital?) diagnostic tools connected to a computer, which if the demand was enough would become quickly very inexpensive, could do a lot more. If this/these devices could prescribe the necessary medications then the need for the specialized diagnostic tools of a Doctor would be less needed. Diseases move through communities in small local waves. When the flu is “in the school system”, pediatricians are deluged with a onslaught of kids with exactly the same disease, needing the same treatment. If the diagnostic device took your location and diagnoses from your community then their diagnoses could be made even more accurate. A random sample of those patients could even be sent to a trained diagnostician to check the accuracy/quality of the automated diagnoses. In fact the Doctor in a region might get a very small “licensing” fee from the community around him that uses it. He might be “pinged” with a query when the automatic diagnostic tool finds a situation which it cannot be resolved. The data (and some historical data) would then be avaliable for him, so much of the basic diagnostic data would already be available to him (saving him time). This is just a suggestion of how a medical technology might enable a Doctor to service and provide the medical product for orders of magnitude more patients.

What is the essential roadblock in the sale, development, and distribution of a program and equipment as described in the previous paragraph. That would be the Government. FDA, regulation and their laws all prevents this from being tested or tried.

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16 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    1. I’m not sure how healthcare is a ‘radical redistribution’….considering how almost every developed nation guarantees some type of basic healthcare package it would seem to be a pretty mainstream redistribution.

    2. The second problem with the idea of healthcare as thing which government can cure

    Generally ‘healthcare’ is shorthand for a basic set of medical treatments that society feels all its members should be able to have regardless of ability to pay. It is not a right to cures that doesn’t exist (yet)

    3. There is a distinction between legislative and constitutional rights. The constitutional rights are restraints on government hence they can always be provided no matter what society’s material condition. We could be living in a post-nuclear war wasteland with nothing but caves but, in theory, the Fed. gov’t could still refrain from making any law to establish or prohibit the free exercise of religion. There are also rights that a legislated.

    The NRO commentator glossed over one, education. Every child has a right to free public school education. This, of course, is something that may become impossible to provide should society collapse into Mad Max levels of anarchy but barring such melodrama it is something we are capable of providing and as a society we have choosen to do so. Redistribution? Yes. Insane? No.

    It seems we instinctively have already crossed the bridge to including healthcare here. Can’t pay your cable bill? They will shut you off. Can’t pay the gas bill? That will get shut off too. Have not a penny in your pocket but break your leg in the middle of the street? Well you’re going to get help.

    Since you’re not going to get denied healthcare haven’t we already established it as a right? We are just redistributing the cost all onto a few poor suckers like hospital emergancy rooms rather than sharing it equally.

  2. I don’t think I’d describe Obama’s description of healthcare as a “right” as evil, but it is surely misguided and dangerous.

    Bill Whittle has it right. The original intent of our Founding Fathers was to establish rights as something you have a right from; from government intervention. Reading the Bill of Rights carefully, you see that the founders assume that we were given these rights by God, and so their purpose was simply to make sure the Government didn’t infringe on them.

    To Obama and commenter Boonton, though, “rights” are simply goodies to be given away because “every developed nation guarantees some type of basic healthcare package” Oh well then, if they do it elsewhere…. the illogic is obvious.

    Your commenter also says that “every child has a right to free public school education.” But this is not true. It would be accurate to say that the government has an obligation to provide free public education, but that’s not really the same. It’s a distinction with a difference.

    No, rights are not goodies to be stolen, , er taxed, from one group and given to another. Claiming things as rights when they are not is indeed a philosophically radical change, whether Obama and Boonton want to admit it or not.

  3. Boonton says:

    OK so if we rephrase this as the “gov’t has an obligation to guarantee everyone access to some basic healthcare package” we can all agree, call it a day and go have a drink?

  4. I agree that it’s not a right. However, I think we’d do well to treat it as one.

  5. Sierra Night Tide says:

    The writer is out of his/her fucking gourd! Drug addicts current have a RIGHT to free healthcare and a variety of other services such as free education (college), free housing, free money, free food FREE FREE FREE.

    meanwhile …. I who have been working my ass off since I was 16 years old ended up in the hospital and was told no free services for me. I was too old and too young for medical. No free college no free anything while I was at home recovering.

    Health care needs to be a RIGHT for all hard working people of ALL ages NOT addicted and working!

    Voting for Obama and real change.

  6. Sierra Night Tide says:

    Healthcare is NOT just given to you. I was suppose to be in the hospital for four days but because I didn’t qualify (not an addict) for medical I had to leave with medicine a medical employee (won’t rat the person out) gave to me because this person knew I would not be able to get my medicine because NO MEDICAL SERVICES FOR NON ADDICTS!

    Which addiction should I choose just so that I continue to breathe, get my medicine and keep a job? Or should I just keep going to the emergency rooms every time I need my medication? Nope…. No money so the bill is not paid meaning I am costing the government 10 times more money vs medical for someone between the ages of 21 to 65.

  7. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    “Healthcare” can mean a lot of different things to different people. To Mr (?) Night Tide it means free hospitalization and chronic care apparently.

    I find the contrast between the “ask not what the country can do for you” sentiment and the bread and circuses response by the modern Democrat striking.

    OK so if we rephrase this as the “gov’t has an obligation to guarantee everyone access to some basic healthcare package” we can all agree, call it a day and go have a drink?

    If that’s what Mr Obama meant, then he used really really bad terminolgy to express himself. Why not just say that? (not the “have a drink” part)

    Perhaps some of this is semantic. I don’t think everyone has a “right” to education either. I think the term “right” perhaps means different things to each of us.

    JA,
    OK, you’re 58 unemployed and have cancer. Healthcare is a right. How much should the government provide. Aggressive treatment (especially if the first course fails) could cost say over $1 million. What does that “right” mean then?

    All,
    If Healthcare is to be a right. How can you determine how to ration it? What does rationing it mean? Our current abilities regarding healthcare expand every year. The costs required to save those, whom we can, afflicted with cancers and diseases that a decade ago were beyond our reach are astronomical. How do you decide not to save person X because it is too expensive if healthcare is a “right”.

  8. Boonton says:

    Mark,

    I think I handled your issues in my point #3:

    There is a distinction between legislative and constitutional rights.

    A person reaching 65 has a right to start collecting Social Security. The people you meet in the bar or (since this is morning, the logal coffee shop) will probably agree with that statement. At the same time, most are aware that Socia Security exists as legislation which can be modified or even abolished with no provision for those hitting 65. Likewise they also recognize that should something really dramatic happen like a nuclear war, a zombie infestation or some other real life translation of a bad day on the sci-fi channel Social Security may cease to exist even if no law is ever passed eliminating it.

  9. Mark,

    Rationing would work approximately the way it does now. The only difference under my vision is that everybody has decent health insurance — the government just picks up the tab for the premiums of those who can’t afford it. It’s not like insurance companies don’t make those rationing decisions today.

  10. Boonton says:

    If Healthcare is to be a right. How can you determine how to ration it? What does rationing it mean? Our current abilities regarding healthcare expand every year.

    I would prefer something that rationalizes what we have now. Essentially we have a universal amount of coverage determined by our political will to set a min. amount of coverage countered by the cost of paying for it. Beyond that basic coverage, individuals and employers are free to purchase whatever healthcare they want either directly out of pocket or by private insurance.

    Social Security is an analogy here (WARNING: Analogies are only analogies, clearly a univeral health system would have a lot that would be different as well as a lot that is similiar…please don’t nitpick it apart too much). Think about the disability portion of it. Everyone is covered if they are stricken with some type of disability that makes them unable to work. That part is univesal but you are free to purchase your own disability insurance that provides benefits beyond SSI should you become disabled as well as amass your own private savings pool in case that happens. How much the univeral part covers is a political decision, which it should be considering the facts are changing on the ground all the time.

    Rationing would only apply to a true socialized medicine model where all medical care is controlled directly by the gov’t. That I wouldn’t go for.

  11. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    What you call a “legislative right” I don’t characterize as a “right”. And I expect to be collecting from SS when I’m 72-75 (right now I’m, uhm, almost 47).

    JA,
    I think the pressure for insurance companies to not cover or cover seemingly less and less is exactly why people are tolerant of the notion of nationalizing healthcare/health insurance. They have some magical notion that squeeze will stop. It won’t. It will in fact likely get worse. As I noted nationalizing healthcare or its insurance is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It does nothing to address the source of the problem (labor costs related to healthcare) and in fact just makes it worse.

  12. Boonton says:

    Mark,

    Nontheless, if they don’t send you your check you’re going to hire a lawyer who will sue on your behalf. You indeed have a legislative right to SSI. I see no particular reason why universal healthcare should not be likewise considered.

    As far as labor costs for healthcare, I’m not exactly sure why this is the problem. Yes relative to other products and services healthcare is getting more expensive. This is due to the fact that other goods and services get cheaper due to higher productivity growth. To use pharmaceuticals, take a basket of pills the typical person was taking in 2000. Those same pills are available today for probably less money (inflation adjusted). This has to be kept in mind when complaining about the cost of healthcare. Not unlike videogames, the healthcare of 2008 isn’t the healthcare of 2000.

  13. Mark,

    s I noted nationalizing healthcare or its insurance is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It does nothing to address the source of the problem (labor costs related to healthcare) and in fact just makes it worse.

    Forget about the source, it’s solving the problem! The problem is uninsured people. If they are all insured, it’s pretty silly to talk about the “source” of the problem. What problem?

  14. Boonton says:

    “Nationalizing healthcare” to me means full out socialization…essentially the UK’s policy. You go to the doctor like you go to the post office, everyone works for the gov’t.

    I would favor something along the lines of Medicare or flat voucher for insurance (with a requirement that companies accepting the voucher include people with pre-existing conditions and high risk profiles). The doctors aren’t run by the gov’t and neither is insurance. A doctor that gets lots of patients makes money, one who doesn’t looses money etc.

  15. Mark says:

    JA,
    That notion that insurance is the problem is insane. Do you imagine insurance as some sort of money tree? The problem is that healthare is expensive.

    Boonton,
    And I would prefer a Constitutional Amendment forbidding the government from providing Insurance, as a democratically elected politician is incapable of sticking to an actuarial prediction/recommendation.

  16. Mark,

    I’m suggesting that the federal government buy insurance for those who legitimately cannot afford it and pay for it by raising taxes on the rich.