A Conservative Argument From Principle Against Universal HealthcareDomestic Policy — By Dustin R. Steeve on September 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm
The nature of the current debate surrounding the implementation of universal healthcare in America is troubling because it is comprised almost entirely of pragmatic arguments void of concern for the principles behind the project. Before one asks how much a thing will cost, how it will be organized, or whether “the uninsured” will benefit, one should ask whether enacting universal healthcare is in keeping with the values and principles of the American experiment. In other words, is universal healthcare good for America?
Universal healthcare is not good for America. In America, universal healthcare would undermine principles important to the functioning of society; specifically, it would undermine individual liberty, free enterprise and free markets, and the right to life.
Inasmuch as the government bureaucracy mandated by universal healthcare makes decisions concerning the health habits and medical treatment of individual Americans, it undermines individual liberty. The purpose of government in America is to provide a defense of the people’s right to life, liberty, and happiness. By concerning itself with the health practices of citizens, the government extends its reach beyond defense into offense. Instead of defending a free society wherein people are empowered to choose for themselves the manner and nature of their medical treatments, the government would become an active agent making decisions on behalf of individuals. The government would do this by shifting personal medical decisions away from individuals to bureaucrats who would debate and decide which treatments each citizen ought to choose from. If universal healthcare is enacted, one’s personal belief about the best treatment for oneself would become only a small variable plugged into a great calculus of statistics, studies, best practices, and popular political beliefs; an equation constructed to create stability for a medical system meant to care for all. By the very nature of systems individuality gives way to universality, liberty to a supposedly benevolent tyranny.
As universal healthcare undermines personal liberty it causes our free market economy to malfunction. In free markets, personal liberty provides two important functions. First, it enables people to choose the products and services they think are best. Second, it empowers entrepreneurs to solve problems and meet needs, medical or otherwise. Universal healthcare would render entrepreneurs unable to meet the medical needs of their neighbors. Within free markets, competition serves as a mechanism to refine and reward good ideas while removing poor ideas. Competition, being critical to the maintenance and preservation of free societies, would be eliminated in a system of universal healthcare where the government could not fail and other competitors, which could fail, would not be able to compete. Instating universal healthcare would effectively remove free market influence from 1/6th of America’s economy; a large segment of our free market economy would no longer be free. If 1/6th of a system is no longer functioning as designed, how can one reasonably expect that the entire system will remain stable?
Finally, universal healthcare would cause the government to violate its constitutional duty to defend the right to life. Though intended to provide medical coverage to its citizens and therefore protect their lives, universal healthcare would make the government an active agent in deciding when to end patients’ lives. End of life issues are an inextricable part of medical practice, whether they are related to elderly care, life-altering diseases, or controversial issues such as abortion or euthanasia. Instead of making a principled defense of its citizens’ right to life, universal healthcare would force the government to make pragmatic, cost based decisions regarding the perseveration of life. One can already see evidence for this in current debates about the cost of medical care for the elderly and serious discussions in the halls of congress about the economic value of euthanasia and abortion. Such debates ought to act as a warning for all regarding the means by which life will be measured and valued in a system of universal healthcare. Instead of defending one’s right to live, government would decide if one ought to live. And even if universal healthcare permits one to live, that one would find himself living in a less free and entrepreneurial society; a society that is supposedly good for everyone else. ‘