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Death Panels

Death panels are in the news again.  Here is the story.  Basically, they tried to include end of life planning in the healthcare bill but the public didn’t like it so they took it out and now they are doing it through the bureaucracy over the weekend…..on Christmas…… oh and they advised Democratic congressmen not to brag about it too much.  So having the government pay for end of live planning isn’t really such a bad thing (at least it’s not any worse than when they pay for other things).  But there are two important things to take away from this.

First, this is how things get done now, not through congress but through the bureaucracy.  All the attention is on what congress passes but regardless of what they pass, the bureaucracy does whatever it has to do in order to advance their progressive agenda.  We mistake these bills for a battle over how powerful the government will be but for the most part, the battle is already over and we have lost.  We have let the executive branch gradually gain the power to do practically whatever it wants so now they have a big debate and the public weighs in and then they do whatever they want regardless of public opinion and the outcome of congressional proceedings.  We have to realize that our problems are deep and systemic.  They won’t be fixed by just electing Republicans or repealing the healthcare bill.

Second, and more importantly, even though what they are creating now are not death panels, death panels are the inevitable result of their philosophy.  The progressive moral code says that “healthcare is a human right.”  This is not like the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Let’s examine the difference.

Negative rights:  This means you cannot be prevented from doing something.  These are the rights of which the founders spoke.  The right to life does not mean that you are guaranteed to never die.  It means that you cannot be prevented from trying to remain alive.  There are certain negative rights with which everyone is “endowed by their creator.”  These are part of the laws of nature.  There is a liberty inherent in man simply as a result of being man.  This cannot be taken away by the government, the government can only change the options between which he is at liberty to choose.

Positive rights: This is the right to get something no matter what.  This is the right to healthcare.  It is entirely different from a negative right.  If “right” is understood to mean a negative right, then we had a right to healthcare when the country was founded.  That is, you had a right to get whatever healthcare you could buy or get someone to willingly buy for you.  But this is not what they mean.  They mean, you should get healthcare no matter what, even if nobody is willing to provide it for you.  There are no positive rights inherent in nature.  Every creature is born with the freedom to try to survive but no creature is born with the guarantee that it will survive no matter what it does.

I have said before that progressives are people who don’t believe in scarcity.  This is the case here.  They say “I believe everyone has a right to healthcare.”  But if they believe this then they are simply factually incorrect.  There is no natural right to healthcare.  What they mean to say is “I wish there were a right to healthcare.”  Well that’s all well and good but the fact is that there isn’t and in the presence of that fact the question which confronts us is whether to embrace the rights we do have or to sacrifice them grasping for an imaginary one we wish we had.

This may sound like hyperbole but it must be understood that creating a positive right always infringes upon someone else’s negative rights.  If someone is to be guaranteed healthcare that means that someone else must be compelled to provide it for them.  This means the second person’s right not to provide it is sacrificed.  Sometimes it’s more subtle than this.  For instance if you are healthier than I am and the government gives me the “right” to buy health insurance for the same price as you, what it is really doing is preventing you and the insurance company from engaging in a mutually beneficial trade (insurance for some amount of money less than the amount for which it would be willing to sell it to me).  In other words, they are taking away your negative right to healthcare.

So what does this have to do with death panels?  Once you acknowledge that scarcity is not caused by greedy capitalists, it is a fact of nature, you have to acknowledge that goods must be rationed.  The question then is how to ration them.  Here are two ways.

1.  Everyone has the right to their own property and labor and the right to trade it with whomever at whatever prices they want.  This means that you have a right to whatever healthcare you are willing and able to pay for.  You make the decision about how much of it is worth buying just like any other good.  You can negotiate an insurance contract with an insurance company and buy as much or as little as you think is worth buying on terms that are beneficial to both parties. 

2.  Everyone has a right to healthcare.  Healthcare must be provided to anyone who wants it potentially at someone else’s expense.  This already violates the moral premise of private property but it doesn’t even address the issue of rationing.  Rhetorically this solves the problem of rationing by assuming scarcity away.  But the problem is still there and eventually it must be dealt with.  You can’t actually give everyone all the healthcare they want because there isn’t an unlimited supply of it. 

What’s more, people will now make decisions which are inefficient since they are no longer trading their own stuff for healthcare, they are just demanding it and someone else is paying for it.  So naturally they will want as much as they can get. Under the first rationing scheme a person might find themself toward the end of their life and be faced with the opportunity to undergo an expensive procedure which is expected to prolong their life for a few months.  They may decide that it would be better to pass the money on to their children or donate it to the local orphanage or what have you.  Or they may not, since it’s their money they could decide the best way to use it.

On the other hand if a person finds themself in a similar situation under the second scheme, naturally they will want as much healthcare as possible because the benefits will be disassociated with the costs.  The costs will be bourne by others but the check will be signed by the government, quite likely a government that had promised to reduce healthcare costs.  So who will decide whether or not it is worth it to get the procedure? 

The free market is a mechanism for rationing scarce goods.  It happens to be the only mechanism compatible with individual liberty and property rights and it also turns out to be pretty efficient most of the time.  But the free market doesn’t guarantee that everyone will be “equal.”  If you go on a quest to make them “equal,” you will have to destroy the free market.  If you destroy the market and the price mechanism, you must have another way of rationing (one that is not compatible with individual liberty and property rights). 

I’m not saying that they have created this system already I am saying that it is a logical necessity of the system they are creating.  Of course they aren’t going to tell you that they are creating a system where the government has to decide what you can and can’t get.  They are just going to tell you that you can have whatever you want. But scarcity is a law of nature you can’t just wish it away.  Eventually this system will cause a “crisis” by which they will pretend to be totally surprised.  They will have no choice but to ration care.  But don’t worry because the structure to do this will already be in place.  We will just have the bureaucracy tweak the rules a little bit, no congressional approval required.

  1. May 16, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    The only way to get anywhere close to a fair ettaimse is to actually call up a solar installer in your area, and get a free quote. The price depends vastly on your energy usage, and your location. Two houses can be neighbors, and one can use 20 times as much electricity.Solar hot water costs $4-6k, after which you may get some rebates or credits.Solar electricity costs $6k and up, after which you may get rebates or credits. A typical system, if there is such a thing, is several times that size, and it is not unheard of to have a system 20 times that large.

  2. October 30, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Pro-Choice Silver…HAHAHA (if only it weren’t so serious!!!!)The thing that scraes me most is that once they force most people into the public option, they are then going to be allowed to dictate to us how to live our lives, as they will be paying for our health care. And the scariest part about THAT is the ability to dictate to us how to raise our children…whether in vaccines, or grocery choices, we are going to be slaves to the government if and when this bill passes.:-(

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