Archive for July, 2009

Obama’s Impossible Health Care Proposal

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Even if one doesn’t recognize the immorality of government redistribution of wealth, the clear irrationality of the proposed government health care scheme should dissuade even the most fervent socialist.

Medical care is a scarce resource. The emotional and intellectual rigors of the medical profession naturally limit the number of individuals willing and able to work as doctors. Government licensing requirements further compound the problem by preventing the market from aligning particular medical needs with the appropriate level of medical expertise. Even if unaware of the economic principles that predict inadequate supply, anyone who goes to a doctor’s office will experience the consequences of this scarcity first hand: patients have to make appointments and wait to see a doctor. So there is a problem: medical care—a necessary resource—is also a scarce resource.

A rational response to this problem of scarcity would be to reduce regulatory burdens that prevent qualified individuals from providing medical services. “All States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories license physicians. To be licensed, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school, pass a licensing examination, and complete 1 to 7 years of graduate medical education.” Bureau of Labor Statistics Without a government license, it is a criminal offense to provide medical care, and ‘medical care’ is defined so broadly (see statute examples below) that these licenses go far beyond their purported purpose of protecting consumers.

Even if we must license health care providers to protect individuals from selecting someone unqualified (a dubious proposition), the present one-degree-fits-all approach is certainly overkill. Others have already researched this issue. “Nonphysician providers of medical care are in high demand in the United States. But licensure laws and federal regulations limit their scope of practice and restrict access to their services. The result has almost inevitably been less choice and higher prices for consumers. Safety and consumer protection issues are often cited as reasons for restricting nonphysician services. But the restrictions appear not to be based on empirical findings. Studies have repeatedly shown that qualified nonphysician providers–such as midwives, nurses, and chiropractors–can perform many health and medical services traditionally performed by physicians–with comparable health outcomes, lower costs, and high patient satisfaction.” The Medical Monopoly: Protecting Consumers or Limiting Competition? by Sue Blevins

So if America’s political leadership were really interested in making health care more affordable, the rational course of action would be to deregulate the profession. Unfortunately, America’s political leadership is not interested in solving the health care problem; it is interested in expanding government power and bribing voters. So it is promoting an irrational course of action that is designed to appeal to the unthinking herd: government health insurance.

Consider the facts. People want health care, but there are not enough health care providers to meet everyone’s needs. Hence there are long lines at doctors’ offices, and health care is expensive. Consequently some people can’t afford health care. Now consider the consequences of government health insurance. Suddenly those people who couldn’t previously afford health care will be able to afford it, but the number of health care providers will not increase. So the lines at the doctors’ offices will get longer, and the cost of health care (unless restricted), will increase. In other words, reducing the cost of an already scarce resource without increasing the supply will not solve the scarcity problem, it will amplify it. Government provided health insurance will not make health care more available, it will simply increase the number of individuals competing for that health care. Furthermore, if government restricts the prices of health care to prevent them from increasing, the number of qualified individuals willing to join the profession will decrease. Clearly, government subsidized health care wont work; the plan is irrational.

But maybe we shouldn’t really worry about rationality. Maybe we should just have the audacity to hope that the problem will fix itself. Who knows, maybe an altruistic group of otherwise unoccupied but eminently qualified individuals will appear at the doors of the hospitals and doctors offices around the country and offer to combat the disease and decay of mankind. Or maybe we should just say yes we can enslave the medical profession and require it to work more hours for less pay. When you don’t value individual liberty or individual responsibility, anything is possible with the proper application of force.

 

Sample Statutes

California

“any person who practices or attempts to practice, or who advertises or holds himself or herself out as practicing, any system or mode of treating the sick or afflicted in this state, or who diagnoses, treats, operates for, or prescribes for any ailment, blemish, deformity, disease, disfigurement, disorder, injury, or other physical or mental condition of any person, without having at the time of so doing a valid, unrevoked, or unsuspended certificate as provided in this chapter or without being authorized to perform the act pursuant to a certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of law is guilty of a public offense, punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment in the state prison, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and either imprisonment.” California Business and Professions Code Ch. 5 Art. 3

Indiana

“It is unlawful for any person to practice medicine or osteopathic medicine in this state without holding a license or permit to do so, as provided in this article. A person who violates this article by unlawfully practicing medicine or osteopathic medicine commits a Class C felony.” IC 25-22.5-8 Sec 1-2

“(a) ‘Practice of medicine or osteopathic medicine’ means any one (1) or a combination of the following:

        (1) Holding oneself out to the public as being engaged in: (A) the diagnosis, treatment, correction, or prevention of any disease, ailment, defect, injury, infirmity, deformity, pain, or other condition of human beings; (B) the suggestion, recommendation, or prescription or administration of any form of treatment, without limitation; (C) the performing of any kind of surgical operation upon a human being, including tattooing, except for tattooing (as defined in IC 35-42-2-7), in which human tissue is cut, burned, or vaporized by the use of any mechanical means, laser, or ionizing radiation, or the penetration of the skin or body orifice by any means, for the intended palliation, relief, or cure; or (D) the prevention of any physical, mental, or functional ailment or defect of any person.” IC 25-22.5-1-1.1

New York

“The practice of the profession of medicine is defined as diagnosing, treating, operating or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical condition.” EDN Title VIII Article 131 §6521

“Anyone not authorized to practice under this title who practices or offers to practice or holds himself out as being able to practice in any profession in which a license is a prerequisite to the practice of the acts … shall be guilty of a class E felony.” EDN Title VIII Article 130* Sub Article 4 §6512

Government: A Non-Consensual Relationship That’s Okay

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

A key line from the Declaration of Independence reads, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This idea is one of the foundations of democratic thought. Unfortunately, some have taken this idea to an extreme, converted to anarchy and, thereby, lost sight of an important aspect of political organization.

The misunderstanding comes from giving supremacy to the idea of consent. The fallacious argument runs as follows: Governments tax and regulate without the consent of every individual who is taxed and regulated. By definition the non-consenting individuals will not voluntarily submit to the tax or regulation, so they must be motivated to submit by force or threat of force. Forcing or threatening others to submit is unjust. Therefore, all governments are unjust.

This argument has some merit. Governments frequently wrong individuals by unjustly redistributing wealth and restricting innocuous behavior. It is no excuse that a majority of citizens voted for the redistribution or restriction; if an action is unjust, then it remains unjust no matter how many millions vote for it. However, lack of consent does not categorically preclude the just use of force because consent is not the only justification for force.

Consider the use of force in self-defense. It is unquestionably just to use proportionate force to defend oneself even if the aggressor fails to shout his consent along with his battle cry. The aggressor has created a relationship with his potential victim such that he has waived his right to object to the use of proportionate defensive force. Note that the aggressor is barred only from objecting to disproportionate force. Disproportionate force used in self-defense remains unjust. For example, if the aggressor attacks with a fly swatter, a nuclear response would be inappropriate.

Consider also the use of force in punishment. One who wrongfully harms another exposes himself to proportionate punishment whether he consents to the punishment or not. Note again, that the punishment must be proportionate to the harm done. The Old Testament articulates this principle well: “And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (Leviticus 24:19-20).

Clearly, proportionate force is justified without consent in the above circumstances. Similar arguments hold true for the use of proportionate force in response in the context of other relationships. Consent is simply one way whereby what would have been an unjust use of force can be justified.

A minimal level of government and the force required for its operation can be justified without consent by the relationship that each individual in a community bears to every other individual. This relationship derives from the burden that each individual imposes by merely existing: occupying space, consuming resources, diminishing others’ expectations of privacy, polluting, etc. These are natural and necessary consequences of human existence and belie any argument for an absolute right to freedom from all coercion.

The burden an individual imposes on others by his existence is very small, much smaller than the burden that an aggressor imposes on his victim. Consequently, the force that can be justified by this relationship is also very small. It nevertheless suffices to justify the formation of a minimal government by the majority so long as the burden this government imposes is proportionate to the small burden an individual imposes by his existence. Under these circumstances a government can be just even without the consent of every individual subject to its power.