A lot of criticism has been raised lately as to the urgency with which the government has been addressing certain key issues high on the priority list of both our new presidential administration and the congress. As the economy remains in recession and previous programs have not achieved the results promised, skepticism is on the rise and is being reflected in dropping approval ratings. In spite of this, the urgency continues and the current focus for the urgency seems to revolve around a few key issues; Environmental (green) initiatives and Health Care Reform.
Besides some of the obvious conclusions one might draw as to why the proposed solutions for these alleged ‘problem’ areas are being expedited, it also begs the question; “why these specific issues?” In spite of the alleged ‘good intentions’ of these platform issues, the simple answer is control, control and control.
Before reading this post, if you haven’t already please refer back to my piece “The Nature of Power and Why I’m a Skeptic” and pay especially close attention to the concept of ‘things deemed greater than one’s self-interest’ especially as it relates to the common good (the state) and mother earth (the environment).
These things consist of ‘irreproachable ideals’ – things that can’t be definitively proven or substantiated (intangible concepts) and therefore rely on the ‘faith’ of the followers or believers in them. Things that represent ‘good intentions’ and thus cannot be ‘challenged’ without ease in alleging ‘ill will’ upon anyone making such a challenge.
The existence of these ideals creates the justification as well as the motive force behind the agendas for health care reform and green initiatives respectively.
US Constitution: “A Charter of Negative Liberties”
Before getting elected, the then Senator Obama from the State of Illinois was interviewed on Chicago Public Radio. At that time he depicted the US Constitution (and the Bill of Rights) as a “Charter of Negative Liberties”. He also went on to assume beyond the restrictions (on government) in the Constitution to suppose ‘responsibilities’ of government in providing (benefits) for it’s citizens:
Generally the constitution is a charter of negative liberties – says what the states ‘can’t’ do to you, says what the federal government ‘can’t’ do to you – but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the the state government must do on your behalf.
In the same interview he introduced his notions of ‘economic justice’ and ‘redistributive change’.
So why are these notions relevant? First let’s address the notion of the US Constitution from the perspective of ‘Negative Liberties’. As described by Isaiah Berlin who coined the concepts;
This would make the characterization an accurate one as it relates to our founding document(s). However, it in no way assumes the other concepts (economic justice or redistributive change). There was little ambiguity in the principles that the founders sought in their definitions of the role of government, especially as relates to Redistribution of Wealth, the underpinning concept behind ‘Economic Justice’ and ‘Redistributive Change’.
The entire impetus behind government social programs hinges on a notion of what the government ‘must do’ on your behalf, and in this regard Senator Obama’s comments on the Warren Court were accurate. But the US Constitution and the establishment of the United States government never pre-supposed, and it’s founders specifically denounced the very notions that the government should exercise any actions which denied personal liberties or infringed upon personal property – a pre-condition of funding any ‘government’ social program.
Furthermore, many of the founders spoke at length on concepts that would fall under ‘positive’ liberty when referring to the responsibilities of the governed and/or the ‘free’ in both public debates and personal correspondence. It should also be noted that the Constitution does address what government ‘must do’ on your behalf, but that the list of those things is short and succinct, leaving any additional powers and responsibilities to the states and the governed.
“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.” — James Madison in a letter to James Robertson
(for more of the founder’s thoughts on the subject, be sure to check out The Founding Fathers on redistribution of wealth on The Reference Frame for a great collection of their quotes and thoughts on the subject)
Crisis = Good
When it comes to providing political solutions (i.e. changes to the status quo), crisis is good. It was once said the ‘fear is a great motivator’. If that’s the case than outright panic is downright excellent in that regard.
When you can find or worse, create the artificial perception that there is a ‘crisis condition’, you can better motivate people to accept change. Furthermore, if you can convince them of the crisis and the need for change, you can institute less acceptable solutions and/or implement such changes quicker and with less interference.
Private Property + Personal Liberty = Bad
One important thing to remember about statist concepts is the abolishing of private property ownership and in general the suppression of the individual and individual liberties and freedoms for the betterment of the state or common good. As it currently stands, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is a limitation on government power and therefore a guarantor of individual rights and individual property ownership (whether it is adhered to or not).
In a Statist (Marxist) society, the state assumes control over some or all businesses and property for the ‘common good’. The state also regulates or outright runs industry, commerce and distribution.
Why Health Care?
It’s not Communism, it’s being ‘Part of a Community!’
When asked on MSNBC if his new surcharge on those making over $280,000 constituted a ‘punishment on the rich’, President Obama replied:
“No it’s not punishing the rich, I think the way I look at it is that if I can afford to do a little bit more so a whole bunch of families out there have a little more security when I already have security, that’s part of being a community”
This may sound familiar to some of you, although the wording is a bit different. It’s basically the same as a statement made in the Critique of the Gotha Program by none other than Karl Marx (founder of communism) which has become one of the key slogans of his statist philosophies:
The use of the word “I’ and the expression of it as his own position is simply rhetorical and political. By no means is he talking about ‘himself’ or his own intentions. What he means is ‘you’ – “if you can afford to do a little bit more…”
While it may be a legitimate point to make in regards to community relations that the condition of your neighbors effects you, there is a marked difference between the advocacy of charitable support of the less fortunate, and mandated acquisition of personal property at the point of a gun for the purpose of redistribution. (and if you don’t believe government tax and spend is conducted at the point of a gun, earn money, refuse to pay your taxes and wait to see the result! Sooner or later if you continue to refuse to pay ‘your fair share’, someone with a gun will arrive at your door)
Rhetorical usage aside, this self-reference is curious when compared to Obama’s own adamant denial that he was in any was socialist, going so far as to say;
“It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question.”
It’s not about your health!
The fact is, we have the best emergency care and one of the best health care systems in the world. People from all over the world come here for medical treatment. The McKinsey Quarterly report on ‘medical tourism’ states:
The largest segment, with 40 percent of all medical travelers, seeks the world’s most advanced technologies. These men and women take their search for high-quality medical care global, giving little attention to the proximity of potential destinations or the cost of care. Most such patients—originating in Latin America (38 percent), the Middle East (35 percent), Europe (16 percent), and Canada (7 percent)—travel to the United States. – Mapping the market for medical travel
The notion that “45 million Americans–or 16% of the population–go without health insurance” comes from Census Bureau statistics which admit that “health insurance coverage is likely to be under reported,” according to the article, Five Myths About Health Care from Forbes Magazine. They further point out that;
Nearly 18 million of the uninsured–38%–make more than $50,000 annually. More than nine million of those folks make more than $75,000 a year. Foolish as it may seem, a sizable number of financially comfortable individuals–particularly the young—opt against owning insurance.
And when speaking of the ‘uninsured’ it is important to point out the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) which requires by federal law that anyone entering the emergency room of any hospital that participates with Medicare, ‘receive treatment regardless of their ability to pay’. So a lack of medical insurance does not equate to a lack of access.
Government vs. Private Insurance – it’s in the contract!
Many opponents of government run health care point out the track records of similar programs in other countries, the problems with bureaucracies, waiting lists and rationing. There’s more than enough information out there on this subject. What I think is more important to focus upon when it comes to the notion of ‘control’ is the nature of public vs. private insurance, mainly the nature of a contract.
In a private run system, when you seek (or are provided access to) health insurance, you enter into a contractual agreement with the health care insurance provider. In essence, you (or your employer or both) agree to pay a sum of X dollars per month to receive various forms of coverage. The private industry may factor in certain notions of risk when arriving at X, but once the amount is established (abuses aside) they are contractually obligated to provide you access in case of need to various pre-determined health services.
This scenario does not exist in a public run system. Not only is there talk of there being mandated enrollment for the uninsured (with penalties for employers failing to offer or individuals failing to enroll in a qualified plan) but once you are enrolled, the coverage you receive is based on the government’s decision as to what qualifies as proper care.
Health, Security and Liberty
It is not a stretch that once mandated to participate in a government program, the government is going to have a vested concern in your lifestyle. There have already been efforts in a number of areas from smoking to food ingredients to place limitations on individual choices (liberty) in the name of improved security. (the results of how much ‘security’ was improved are a subject for debate)
Ultimately, the government is not only going to have a say in what kind of treatment(s) you can receive and when, but will have little choice (although I’m sure it’s a goal) but to play a more active role in preemptive actions to limit choices that would increase ‘risky behavior’ and thus result in ‘increased health care costs’.
These limits may come by way of punitive pricing on the plans itself, restrictions on various treatments or medications, rationing based on those living ‘at higher risk’ for certain types of ailments or increased restrictions (choices aka liberties) when it comes to access to foods and activities themselves. A really nice way to side-step the ‘Bill of Rights’.
Why the Environment?
No it’s not a rally cry for the MSU Spartans. But it is a rally cry from many both in government and in society. Forget for a moment that the ‘green’ movement has become a new safe-haven and cause de jour for socialists and communists (including the new Green Czar, Van Joness appointed by President Obama). Green of course is the new catch phrase for ‘environmentally friendly’ or, in other words, pro-environmentalists.
I have been a strong advocate for ‘responsible use’ (a.k.a. conservation) for years, and have also been out spoken considerably against environmentalist movements for their ‘preservationist’ approach to the environment that borders on Gaianism.
But the notion of ‘green friendly’ when it is combined with political initiatives such as ‘Cap-and-Trade’ and similar legislation are a direct assault on the capitalist system, regardless of the suggested ‘good intentions’ of reducing ‘alleged’ pollution or protecting the environment.
Any commercial venture can be demonstrated to have an environmental impact. What better way to institute control over all commercial ventures than by giving government the ability to assign a ‘cost’ to that impact? A nice side-step around the pre-established Laissez Faire! (and in fact a direct contradiction to it since the words literally mean “a policy of allowing events to take their own course“)
Similar to other so-called ‘well intentioned’ progressive initiatives, it gives those in positions of political power the ability to assign ‘good’ and ‘bad’ statuses to various commercial enterprises and then to assign beneficial or punitive government citations respectively on those enterprises.
Your land is no longer your’s
Thus far in this country the concept of property ownership includes determination over that property. If you have trees or plants, find oil, ores or precious gems on your property, you have ownership over those resources as well. Further, if you desire to develop that land, you have generally been able to do so as you see fit.
When you place constraints on ‘environmental impact’ you now begin to erode at that concept of determination and therefore erode at private property ownership itself. There have already been a number of such issues arise with the EPA over wetlands and endangered species.
When you place further environmental impact restrictions on the water and the air itself, you now have dominion in the hands of the government to control virtually any land use, commercial and private alike!