Kevin Carson at the Center for a Stateless Society on the myths and prejudices of the status quo healthcare system, ‘government takeovers’ and the fake ‘options’ presented by the oligarchs.

9 Dec 09 | C4SS

In an article for the January issue of Reason, Matt Welch compared his experiences in the “private” American healthcare system and the French “socialized” system, and found the latter a lot more attractive from the perspective of the average healthcare consumer.  The “waiting lines” were a lot less of a problem in France than in the U.S., and the French system was a lot more user-friendly and simple from the standpoint of bureaucratic hassle.  While people rich enough to pay for major procedures out of pocket might prefer the American system, the average American insurance policyholder would probably find the French system heaven on earth.

The point, Welch said, is not that a socialized system is better than a private system.  The point is that their honestly socialized system is better than our socialized corporate system masquerading as a “private” one.  He’d prefer a genuinely free market system to either the French or American system.  But enemies of Obamacare need to drop the bullshit about the American healthcare system being “the best in the world,” and defending it as “our free market system.”  Anyone with direct experience of foreign healthcare systems will be more than happy to expose such lies.

One of the commenters on Welch’s article, at Reason Hit&Run blog, made a good point:  there’s really nothing all that astonishing about a comparatively well-run socialized system beating a really incompetent and slipshod mixed government-private system.  But a genuine free market system wasn’t even in the running.

The fact that we’re dealing in the U.S. with a choice between two or more alternative state-private mixes is one reason I haven’t gotten too worked up about the whole Obamacare debate.

I especially don’t understand why the public option, of all things, is where self-described opponents of a “government takeover of healthcare” chose to draw a line in the sand.

The features of the plan that the Democrats, Republicans and Blue Dogs all agree on are far more statist than the public option as such.

An individual mandate, coupled with taxpayer subsidies of hundreds of billions over a ten year period to people at various multiples of the poverty rate strikes me as about as statist as you can get—especially when the “reform” maintains the insurance cartel’s jacked-up prices.  As far as I’m concerned, a “private” insurance company that gets a huge share of its income from the taxpayers, and “sells” insurance to people who were forced to buy it, is as much a component of the state ruling class as a straightforward government agency.  Even more so, in a sense, because the taxpayer-funded overhead includes an additional layer of parasites known as “shareholders.”

Prohibitions against denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, and other forms of denial of coverage, don’t bother the insurance companies at all.  Since the entire industry is  required to do these things it’s not a competitive issue, and the lack of cost controls means they can simply pass on increased costs to policyholders with a generous markup.  They will subsidize coverage of the sick and currently uninsured by increasing everyone else’s premiums.

Consider this in light of the principles of dialectical libertarianism.  A particular government measure is not to be evaluated on an atomistic basis, but in light of its contribution to the level of statism in the system of the whole.  As Brad Spangler pointed out, when you’re held up at gunpoint the bagman who collects your money is just as much a robber as the guy holding your gun.  The corporate bagmen who lobby for government intervention and profit from it are, therefore, part of the government.  And when government intervenes to grant special privileges for nominally “private” actors, that is a net increase in statism.  On the other hand, when a second government intervention qualifies or limits the exercise of this grant of privilege for the sake of ameliorating the worst effects of privilege, it is a net decrease in statism.

In this light, the public option would actually have represented a net decrease in statism.  The major components of the healthcare “reform” that everyone agreed on were a naked power grab by a state-enforced cartel, forcing the entire population to purchase insurance at cartel prices and taxing the public to buy it for those who can’t afford it.  The public option, on the other hand, would have been entirely self-financed after the initial seed money of a few billion, and nobody would have been forced to buy it.  But it would have offered price competition to members of the insurance cartel.

It’s interesting, don’t you think, that all the professed enemies of “big government” and friends of “our free market system” objected to the public option of all things.

Lieberman and others explicitly said that competition to “private” insurance companies was what they couldn’t abide.  But holding up taxpayers and forcing them to buy insurance at gunpoint, at whatever price the insurance companies choose to charge, with no competition—why, that’s not “big government” at all.  Because the insurance companies are businesses, you see, and anything that benefits business is part of “our free market system.”

Whenever you see a Republican or beltway “libertarian” talking about “our free market system,” remember that they’d have been using the same rhetoric about Krupp and I. G. Farben if they’d lived in Nazi Germany.

Kevin Carson is a research associate at the Center for a Stateless Society, contemporary mutualist author and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: An Individualist Anarchist Perspective. Mr. Carson has also written for a variety of internet-based journals and blogs, including Just Things, The Art of the Possible, the P2P Foundation and his own Mutualist Blog.

  1. despicable says:

    It is a fact that “Conservative Democrats” will screw up the programs and policies of the Democrats just like the Conservative Republicans are destroying the “Republican party” by compromising the natural tendency of their Republican base to move backward into the no longer relevant past.

    There comes a time in politics and in life when “compromise becomes “SELL OUT! ”
The “Middle Of The Road” conservatives, have no loyalty to anything or anybody. They are only in politics to feather their nest. They believe in nothing and will sell out to lobyists for personal gain. They are now and have always been “OPPORTUNISTS of the worst sort!
It is because of the “Middle Of The Road” centrists in both the democrat and republican party, that their definately will be a “Political Realignment,” in our good old American political system!
The Republican Party, as it is now constituted will go out of existence because it is too far away from the beliefs of the American public. It is no longer relevant to our present and to what will be our future! 
The “Democrat Party” will be compromised by the Centrists and made to become the new more relevant conservative party.
 A new political party will enter into the mainstream that will represent our aspirations for a progressive and more social future.
 This will all be written in the “Book of Future Events!”

  2. hpx83 says:

    Very interesting point, one I’ve been making many times myself. What few people realize is that while private is better than public, the kind of charade private+public system that the US has is usually the most toxic of them all. People say that “nudge” politics is a modern phenomenon, which is completely rubbish. As soon as the government makes health-care plans tax-deductible, they have efficiently decided that there should be more health-care consumption than otherwise would have been the case.

    As a native citizen of what is known as the socialist state of Sweden, I can say a thing or two about our health-care system. Basically, what you get from public healthcare is this :
    – Free / Almost free access to any care
    – Rationing by “need” or “rationality” (don’t perform over-expensive procedures on old people) by means of the bureucratic method.
    – Waiting lines for all more complex procedures (but from what I’ve gathered, once you get surgery/treatment it is usually very modern, very high class)
    – After a couple of decades, a reasonably functioning healthcare system

    Note that before you reaching the “reasonably functioning healthcare system”, you must go through the “bureucratic meltdown hell” phase, followed by a “purging of the bureucrat mentality” phase, to finally end up with a system that is somewhat balanced. Also worth noting is that your possibility to get care that bureucrats decide the government shouldn’t pay for is completely based on your powers of system manipulation. You can complain, you can go to higher authorities, in the more extreme cases media will bring it up, etc. Usually though, you should get a regular bank loan, go down to mainland Europe and get the procedure done with your own money.

    The biggest mistake is thinking that public/socialized medicine is “fair”. That’s the only thing it won’t be. It can however be fairly efficient (see previous comment on getting pass “bureucrat hell”) – Sweden only spends approx. 9% of GDP on healthcare, and it’s still, by western standards “reasonably working”.

    Finally, if the authors of this blog ever have the time I would very much like to discuss the concept of “Left libertarianism”, which I have understood to mean something like “Libertarianism without property rights”. How is that supposed to work, really?


  3. What is ridiculous is concentrating on healthcare to begin with, when what the Left (if there really is one in America, which from what I can see is in serious doubt) should have been concentrating on was the mass unionization of the service sector. If this was accomplished–along with a spike in employee ownership and control in small businesses, an attractive prospect to struggling owners right now–then matters like healthcare would be taken care of by an empowered working class. Without that, America will see more distraction, and more working class people heading to the Right.

    Truthfully healthcare was put before these things because it is a favorite bullshit issue of middle class boomers. From what I can see, it was always a matter of screwing young people. A vicious, worthless sytem, which exports its viciousness around the world, is not just going to turn over on an issue as remote as this one.

  4. […] Little Alex in Wonderland | Honest Statism Beats a Fake ‘Free Market’ Every Time « Little Alex … […]

  5. ossp says:

    I’d be interested to hear about any private health care systems that deliver anything like decent and affordable care to a large amount of people. It’s fine to put out a theoretical implication that: ‘in the best of all possible unfettered market worlds, health care would be competitive and affordable’, but the facts don’t seem to match. And the claim that: the free-,market never gets a look-in under the state-corporate collusion..well, that sounds not much different from the old-time Marxists that everyone loves to hate.

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