Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care Debate Shifting Onto Moral Grounds

The August 20, 2009 New York Times reported that President Obama is trying to make the argument that we have a "moral obligation" to provide universal health care.

This is good news for free market reform advocates.

The President and his political allies know that they are losing the economic arguments, so they are now trying to shift the argument to the moral plane. But this happens to be our strength. Most Americans want to "do the right thing", but they are sometimes mistaken as to what that right thing is. Fortunately, more and more people are raising the point that universal health care is wrong because there is no such thing as a "right" to health care.

Here are a few recent OpEds along these lines

Mike Rosen, "No 'Right' To Health Care"
Denver Post, August 13, 2009

John Lewis, "Health Care: Why Call It a 'Right'?"
Huffington Post, August 12, 2009

John Mackey, "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare"
Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009

Theodore Dalrymple, "Is There a 'Right' to Health Care?"
Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2009

Wendy Milling, "Lest We've Forgotten, Health Care Is Not a Right"
RealClearMarkets, June 23, 2009

In my opinion, the best-formulated arguments are from John Lewis and Wendy Milling. But all of these writers are trying to steer the debate in the right direction -- to the level of morality and rights. And their arguments are resonating with ordinary Americans.

This means that Americans are receptive to a discussion of these issues at the fundamental philosophy. At some level, they recognize that this fight is not merely about a particular economic program, but about the future direction of America.

The best essay I've ever read along these lines is Dr. Leonard Peikoff's classic article entitled, "Health Care is Not a Right", available at the FIRM website.

(This is the 2007 version by Leonard Peikoff updated with the assistance of Lin Zinser. For printing, I recommend the PDF version, but for sending as an e-mail link there's also an HTML version. The Ayn Rand Center website also has a nice PDF version suitable for printing.)

As Dr. Peikoff noted:
...Most people who oppose socialized medicine do so on the grounds that it is moral and well-intentioned, but impractical; i.e., it is a noble idea -- which just somehow does not work. I do not agree that socialized medicine is moral and well-intentioned, but impractical. Of course, it is impractical -- it does not work -- but I hold that it is impractical because it is immoral.

This is not a case of noble in theory but a failure in practice; it is a case of vicious in theory and therefore a disaster in practice.

I want to focus on the moral issue at stake. So long as people believe that socialized medicine is a noble plan, there is no way to fight it. You cannot stop a noble plan -- not if it really is noble. The only way you can defeat it is to unmask it -- to show that it is the very opposite of noble. Then at least you have a fighting chance...
Last week, a local doctor called me up to tell me that he had started surfing the FIRM website, read Dr. Peikoff's essay, and thought it was the best analysis he had ever seen on this issue, precisely because it cut to the heart of the debate.

We are at a crucial point in the battle of the ideas. According to pollsters and pundits, ObamaCare is in political jeopardy -- but it is not dead yet. The American people know that there is something deeply wrong with the idea, and they are starting to understand why. We can help them by providing the proper moral arguments they need to counter the faux moral arguments now being advanced by the White House.

Hence, please feel free to circulate the above links to any friends, family, or elected officials who might be interested. You can also print out copies to distribute at Tea Parties, Town Hall meetings, etc.

We have the right ideas and the right tools. Now we just have be willing to use them.