Slate Treats Doctors Like Dumb Serfs

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Slate gleefully trumpets, as a "political own goal," a cost projection regarding a plan by wanna-be slave driver Bernie Sanders for "Medicare for All":

The study was published by Charles Blahous of the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who is known, among other things, for arguing that Social Security retirement benefits need to be cut. Blahous seems to have set out to show that, even if you assume switching to a single-payer system will lead to major cost savings on medical care and administrative expenses, it will still require a massive increase in federal spending. He calculates that if Sanders' bill delivered on all of its promises, it would increase federal spending on health care by $32.6 trillion between 2022 and 2031 -- which is, of course, quite a bit of money, and the number that conservatives are choosing to focus on. But as economist Ernie Tedeschi noted on Twitter this morning, Blahous' report also shows that total U.S. health care spending would fall by about $2.05 trillion during that time period, even as all Americans would finally have insurance, because the plan would reduce payments to doctors and hospitals to Medicare rates (which are lower than what private insurance pays) while saving on prescription drug costs and administrative expenses. [links in original, bold added]
First off, advocates of individual rights can take this as an object lesson in not letting your opponents dictate the terms of your arguments. In other words, Blahous in particular and conservatives in general should take a cue from Ayn Rand and argue against schemes like this on moral grounds instead of or in addition to any analysis they might perform.

Whatever socialized medicine might cost, it is wrong because it involves forcibly taking money from someone or violating their right to contract or both (as does Sanders's plan). Second, it would be amusing to see author Jordan Weissmann of Slate make such an argument if I weren't in mortal danger of having to live as he chooses to. Ayn Rand noted this folly in her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, through the words of a character who was a brain surgeon:
Do you want a doctor willing to work for whatever loot Bernie Sanders is willing to dole out? (Image via Pixabay.)
"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.

I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything -- except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards -- never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind -- yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it -- and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't." [bold added]
Congratulations, Slate. You have helped legions of people who already agree with you continue to imagine that socialism will work "this time," and pat themselves on the back for how "smart" they are -- by focusing on something that supports their cause if lots of unrealistic assumptions hold and lots of people are willing to underpay their own doctors. Perhaps, rather than cheer on ripping off physicians, Weissmann would consider how lucky he is that he lives in a semi-capitalist system. Thanks to freedom of contract, he holds a job at all. Judging by his product, but thanks to the fact that someone is free to offer him whatever he's getting, he is way overpaid.

-- CAV

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