I once had the misfortune of discussing socialized medicine with a coworker. This wasn’t someone I knew, but he’d seen the following Rothbard quote on my desktop:
“It is easy to be conspicuously compassionate if others are being forced to pay the cost.”
This sparked a brief conversation where Obamacare was quickly raised and I expressed my opposition to any sort of socialized medicine. His response was to claim that, in a world with such medical advances as have been witnessed over the past century, it would be barbaric to not offer the best care to everyone. The conversation ended shortly after that, but the thought has since lingered with me.
Barbarism has left an unfortunate stain of human history. While it was far more prevalent in the distant past, the Twentieth Century had some of the most brutal instances of barbarism to date. In fact, more human life was taken, through war, famine, and other state induced circumstances, than any point prior.
Barbarism requires action on the part of one party against another. Barbaric behavior is just that, behavior. It requires action. Can a lack of action, such as providing health care, really be considered barbaric?
In the case of health care, there are medicines and services necessary to provide the care required. The development of these involves expertise, training, and funding. If health care is to be made available to everyone, it would require those who create medications, as well as those who administer the treatments, to make their products and services available.
And that’s what happens. Doctors, for example, endure extremely difficult training to advance their knowledge and improve their skills. They don’t do this to revel in their own industriousness, they do it to help people who need medical care. Medical equipment companies, as well as pharmaceutical companies, develop solutions for the same reason, to provide them in treatment of medical conditions. Finally, insurance providers develop actuarial pools to distribute insurance risk across their policy holders to improve the likelihood that those in need will be able to afford catastrophic events. All of this is made available to those with the resources to compensate the efforts of providers.
Since health care is already made readily available, perhaps it is the cost passed on to the consumer which is “barbaric.” If this is true, none of the health care resources mentioned above would be available. No one would gladly endure medical school, an internship and long hospital shifts if, in the end, they were offered no compensation for their efforts. The same would be said of manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers.
Of course, the progressive response to this is that the cost must be paid by the state. However, the state produces no income of its own. All of the funding offered by the state must first be taken, by force if necessary, from the productive members of its citizenry. Presumably, medical providers would be included in that productive group. Regardless, the expropriation of funds through taxation is much closer to barbaric than expecting to be compensated for solving the health needs of others.