Need Does Not Create Right -- Socialized Medicine Must Go

By Gord Gekko
web posted September 1996

The Fraser Institute recently released a report concerning Canada’s vaunted medical system. The news was not as good as Great Society types would have us believe in regard to the efficiency of our socialist Medicare regime. One of the main conclusions of the report was that Canadians are waiting longer for medical treatment. The survey, which covered more than 2 000 specialists, says that some Canadians have to wait up to three months for elective surgery.

That little nugget frames nicely the debate over national healthcare. As a free society, we must ask ourselves if we have the right to regulate an entire industry as vital as medicine. Doubtless that is the very reason that people often give in this country for nationalized healthcare. The reason we need Medicare, people of that ideological persuasion opine, is because people need healthcare – they have a right to it, and because they have a need means that people are entitled to it.

That argument is effective if one only forgets several things. The first is that no one has the moral right to take from someone else without the other’s permission. Simply, in a free capitalist state, one must enter into an agreement with the other without either side using coercion.

That being so, does the government have the right to mandate what a doctor will charge for their services? The answer, in a free society, is no. Under the current Canadian Medicare system, doctors do not have the right to charge their own rates based on market conditions and their own ability. The government effectively decides how the Medicare system will be run and who gets access to it. Doctors do not have the right to open private clinics even if they choose to opt out (which cannot be done) out of the system.

The argument used often enough in support of Medicare is that the average person cannot afford health care without a collectivist program. This is complete balderdash. Who is paying for health care now? The average person. If the current load of social programs were to be cut completely, as would be morally proper, the average person could pay for their own health care or purchase what level of insurance they wished to cover health costs.

The second problem with Medicare is the very coercive nature of the program. If one does not wish to be a part of the Medicare system, one has no recourse. Your taxes pay for the institutional slavery of doctors and patients whether you support it or not. At the barrel of a proverbial gun you are told that you must be a part of Medicare because it is good for you and society.

"If I had known how to name them, I should then have signed off in detail from all the societies which I never signed on to; but I did not know where to find such a complete list."
- Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (1849)

As a capitalist, I have no problems with monopolies, as long as they are earned. Nothing that is not earned can have value to a rational human being. The value of government run healthcare is laid bare for all to see. Massive cost over-runs, over-billing, and dare I say some corruption, have created a program that is slowly spiraling into perdition. Waiting lists for procedures, both elective and necessary grow longer every year. Educated men and women are moving out of Canada to work in the freer American medical system. How far away is rationing? Think it cannot happen here?

We are also holding an entire productive class under a system of slavery. Doctors must be treated as traders, not serfs. Their skills, important as they are, should not be placed under the control of society due to some dubious concept of ‘the public good’. What makes me dejected is that many doctors support the current system or some limited reforms for two reasons. Either they see it as their duty to help people, which is their right to believe, or because they make a very comfortable living. Both reasons are morally wrong if they force other doctors who do not support the current system to join it. Mid-August saw a unanimous vote by delegates to the Canadian Medical Association's meeting in Sydney, Nova Scotia in support of the Medicare system. Their gripe? It was underfunded.

I also find it offensive for a profession like medicine to be regulated by bureaucrats. Imagine the enormous skill it takes to perform a medical procedure. I am in complete awe of the immense skill it takes to perform some of the more complex procedures. When I think about this skill, I find it even more abhorrent that a small-minded clerk dares to inform the medical profession what is permissible in this country, and what it not. I would wager that doctors have been immeasurably more useful to you then a clerk ever will, yet we impose heinous regulations on the avatars of intelligence, disallowing them from practicing their chosen profession in freedom.

We also have different regions of Canada wanting to limit what the health care system has to pay for. Alberta clearly wanted to remove funding for abortions a year ago. Other provinces would no doubt love to scale back some services but cannot afford the bully from Ottawa punishing them monetarily. The argument from Ottawa is that we cannot have different tiers of medicine, as if that was somehow morally wrong. Indeed, late August saw Prime Minister Chrétien state that the Medicare system will not be given to the provinces to administer because he believes that it would create a two-tiered system. Only a federal government, he stated, can enforce standards.

You might object to what I say because you believe medicine is above the petty concerns of economics. You might argue that doctors have the obligation to help the public because their services are so essential. You may also say that you have the right to medical services because you need them. You are wrong on all counts. You do not have the right to something because you need it. You have no right to enslave an entire profession to your own concerns. You are wrong for not treating doctors as traders.

And where are the conservatives when it comes to this debate? In Canada there do not seem to be any sometimes. I often hear conservatives preach about how we need cuts in spending to social programs but tearfully defend healthcare…because they use it. If you support socialized Medicare in any degree, you are no different from Liberals and New Democrats. The Progressive Conservatives, at their recent Policy Convention, defeated a proposal by the youth wing to dismantle healthcare. Who argued most against it? Jean Charest, leader of the supposed Conservative Party.

The argument is often made that health care is so important that only a government mandate can insure that people receive healthcare, that ordinary people cannot help themselves with such a complex system. It always makes me wince to think that there are people who do not think twice about dropping a lot of money on what they consider a luxury, but are vociferously opposed to spending a dime in their own health. These people may be incapable of distinguishing the relative importance of some things in life, but their inability should not mean that I am compelled to belong to this vile program.

Whether you believe it or not, I have the right to self-determination. I have a right to decide what I wish to be a part of, and conversely, what I do not wish to be a part of. I am not responsible for other people in this society, though I may choose to help them. No government or organization has the right to decide for me that my production and membership can be co-opted for the purposes of a bureaucrat in Ottawa.

The medical industry is no different from any other industry in this nation. It should be subject to the same rules that govern the marketplace. Doctors must be allowed to practice their profession in freedom, selling their services as they see fit, not as the mob sees fit. Theirs is a profession that is marked by intelligence – surely we cannot penalize the very attribute that makes them so special. Allowing freedom in this sector of the economy is a priority for every conservative who believes in individual rights. Conservatives were successful in stopping Clinton’s health care plan in the United States – now let’s see if Canadian conservatives are up to the task of promoting freedom here.

The day may be coming for healthcare. I already see it tottering. As a student of history I know well the signs of future collapse, and the health care system in Canada will collapse. Much as the Farmers for Freedom are fighting for laissez-faire capitalism against the Canadian Wheat Board, I can see doctors fighting for their right to engage in commerce without government interference. Sooner or later the program will collapse. The questions for you are: Do you want the program to collapse and create chaos? Or will you begin to dismantle it voluntarily? Do you have the right to make decisions for other people, or will you let people create their own choices? Choose fast…you might not have time if you wait.


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