by Bruce Webb
The above was the title to a blog post on TPM whose body read as follows:
if 77% of americans want an alternative to paying insurance companies for medical care,
why is more than 77% of the televised debate time being given to industry mouthpieces that oppose it, and the screaming stooges that dont understand it?
i have yet to see a convincing argument for having insurance companies in the healthcare equation. the costs to our economy and the public health are now well known. so what is their value added?
My answer there is below the fold here.
i have yet to see a convincing argument for having insurance companies in the healthcare equation.
I don’t know about convincing but the argument is simple enough. It is drawn from F. Hayek and can be seen in this Mises.org review of his 1944 Book The Road to Serfdom
What F.A. Hayek saw, and what most all his contemporaries missed, was that every step away from the free market and toward government planning represented a compromise of human freedom generally and a step toward a form of dictatorship–and this is true in all times and places. He demonstrated this against every claim that government control was really only a means of increasing social well-being. Hayek said that government planning would make society less livable, more brutal, more despotic. Socialism in all its forms is contrary to freedom.
Once you adopt this argument, which is really a faith-based belief system, every demonstration that a government program would deliver a service in a better more cost efficient way is just in the end a trick to induce you to take just one more step down the Road to Serfdom. That private insurance systems do not add value is no reason not to have them, they serve a conservative purpose all of their own.
Hayek is said to have abandoned the strong form of this argument by the sixties, the proof of the success of the Social Democracies of post-war Austria and the Scandinavian countries made the Socialism=Gulag equation obsolete. But his U.S. followers are still trapped in that worldview, something that is assisted by their near complete ignorance about conditions outside U.S. borders.
Insurance companies represent the American Way. And only a DFH commie intent on leading us down the Road to Serfdom will tell you any different. Pointing to examples where governmental planning and intervention worked, say Hoover Dam, the Interstate Highway System, and Social Security only hardens the resistance. Why believe what your eyes see when you know the Devil is out and about doing his works?
In fact you can best see this in a religious context. It doesn’t take any time at all to point out the deep inconsistencies between the four accounts of Jesus’ Passion in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and between those of the conventional understanding as seen in Mel Gibson’s version. The differences are not just those of perspective, the stories are totally different. None of that matters to a true believer, he knows what he knows and he does not need some snotty nosed atheist doing his reading for him.
The Health Care battle is no different, the varioius High Priests and Priestesses have given the faithful the Word and they don’t want to hear any heathenish babble about “value added”.
Capitalism=Freedom. So saith Rand, Hayek and Friedman. And if that Credo is good enough for Limbaugh Palin and Gingrich it is good enough for anyone.
Only a fool gets angry and frustrated that he can’t convert a Fundamentalist, instead you just have to work around them. As here.
I have made this argument before, in fact as recently as yesterday in an exchange on an AB thread.
Free market fundamentalism is a faith based religion. This is not to say that its theorists including Hayek and Friedmen were not brilliant men. But you can say the same and more about some of the greats who built the intellectual superstructure that underpins Catholicism: St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas were in their various eras intellectual giants fully equal to such figures as Aristotle and Newton and Einstein. It is just that where the latter three were interested in breaking boundaries the first three were intent on fortifying the region between the barriers. Barrier breakers are by nature open to challenge, that is what they themselves are doing. Fortifiers take challenges into account but only to build the defense even stronger.
St. Anselm presented us with one of the earliest Ontological Proof of the Existence of God. But it was not like he needed it for himself. There is a reason the call Freshwater Economics ‘Orthodox’ and it is not just because it established its position first. Questions like “Why private insurance?” are more akin to challenges to the catechism.