Freedom Is Indivisible
DECEMBER 01, 1977 by HANS SENNHOLZ
Dr. Sennholz heads the Department of Economics at Grove City College and Is a noted writer and lecturer on monetary and economic affairs. This article Is reprinted by permission from the October 1977 issue of Private Practice.
Many opponents of nationalized medicine question its workability, while surrendering the foundation upon which it would rest. They have yielded to the philosophical premise that medical care, like education, ought to be available to everyone as his right. They subscribe to the notion that certain services are the proper concern of government, which must control and regulate them, or even provide them for the benefit of all. While they embrace the principle of political control of some industries, and political readjustments of individual income and wealth, they find it disturbing when politics finally turns its attention to their particular profession. "But we are different," they tell us. "Medical care is too important to be subjected to bureaucratic regulation and control. Its quality will decline and its expenses will soar."
Such arguments are not persuasive once you accept government as the regulator of our economic affairs and the guarantor of economic wellbeing. There are differences between public education and public health. But if government is expected to provide the former because public education is said to be so beneficial for all, why should government not provide an equal, or even more beneficial, service to public health? If an army of public school teachers can render valuable services to public education, can not an army of physicians, under similar employment conditions, render equally valuable services to public health? There are technical differences: the education of our children is imparted collectively to small groups assembled in public buildings, while medical care in most cases is provided individually in non-public buildings. A surgeon operates on patients one at a time. But such differences do not explain why government should be more concerned about education than it is about medical care.
In the United States, government pays for all or part of the medical care for some 70 million persons-veterans, Medicare and Medicaid recipients, members of the armed forces, and others. Thus, government is already providing limited nationalized medicine to vast numbers of people. If this is fair and equitable, if this is the proper function of government for 70 million people, why should it be so outrageous for 200 million Americans?
The answer is simple: one practice is as bad as the other. But the multiplication of government services to more and more people is multiplying the evil, which must prevail in the end. This is why we should regret and oppose each and every step toward a provider society, the national education system as well as a national health system, and all others.
We should deny the philosophical premise of the welfare state that education, medical care, and the like ought to be available to all as a matter of right. There is no such right in nature nor in the realm of human action. The right to services and benefits, which so many are proclaiming today, is merely the right to seize income and wealth from other individuals through the body politic. The right of one is the duty of another, the benefit of one is the loss of another. The right to services and benefits actually is the right to tax and confiscate, which not only negates someone else’s rights to his own labor and freedom, but also jeopardizes peaceful and harmonious social cooperation. A society that creates such rights becomes a conflict society in which political might is the source of all rights. And the rights of some become the tyranny of others.
The physician who readily accepts the transfer system in education, transportation, communication, or urban redevelopment must find it very difficult to prove why medical care should not be redeveloped according to similar plans. The dentist who, as a student at a state college and state dental school, applauded massive redistribution through public education, cannot logically oppose more transfer through public medical care.
But who wants to be logical in such matters? The physician who clamors for a million dollar Federal grant to his community hospital may resent the half-million dollar grant to the new community center. The industrialist with a multimillion dollar Federal loan may be indignant about the food stamps that enrich the idle paupers. And the Social Security beneficiary who is anxiously awaiting another raise is loudly condemning Federal aid to higher education. In the end, they all may perish in the sinking ship, even the innocent passengers.
To defend individual freedom successfully we must rally to the defense of all professional and economic freedoms. To reverse the long trend toward political power and economic conflict, we must turn away from government as a convenient source of rights and benefits, and once again rely on individual effort and initiative to solve our problems. And lest we be suspect of insincerity in the defense of freedom-that we seek it whenever it presumably favors us, but prefer government regulation and control whenever they promise benefits to us-we must be uncompromisingly consistent. In particular, we must show the way by shunning and relinquishing all rights and privileges that favor our own profession. The college professor must reject the Federal research grant offered to him, and the physician the Federal subsidy to the community hospital.
Some government favors were granted in the distant past, which are now taken to be unquestioned prerogatives of the profession. Old license and accreditation procedures force the student of law to attend a school accredited by the American Bar Association, and then seek admission to a state bar after passing a mandatory state examination. The procedure anchored in state legislation shelters the attorneys in each state from competition not only by unlicensed practitioners but also by other attorneys properly licensed in other states. Of course, the legislation was passed in order to safeguard and improve the quality of legal services to the citizenry. But unfortunately it also greatly reduces the number of attorneys available in each state, necessitates more labor reaching across state lines, and otherwise raises the costs of legal services and the incomes of the properly trained and licensed attorneys at law. While we need not question the motivation of the quality legislation, its effects cast doubt on the stated objectives of bar associations and their recommendations for further legislation toward professional improvements. To question the state license procedures for schools, members, and their places of work is like questioning the very existence of the profession. But where government is the acknowledged author of license and livelihood, it can also author a national health system.