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Socialism Is the Root of Healthcare Woes


The healthcare system in the Czech Republic has a valuable, albeit perhaps discomforting, lesson for Americans.

For decades, Americans have convinced themselves that they live in a free-enterprise country. For such Americans, such government programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling are an important and essential part of America’s free-enterprise system.

Consider the healthcare system in the Czech Republic, which used to be under the domination of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Under communism, health care was free…. Many Czechs see it as a matter of principle that health care should be free.”

Did you catch the operative word — “free”? The reason that healthcare under communism is considered “free” is because the government guarantees it for everyone. Communists and socialists believe that free healthcare is a fundamental right.

Explaining the Czech mindset, Marc J. Roberts, who teaches at Harvard’s School of Public Health, analogized, “Most people in the United States believe that primary education should be free and open to all and that it shouldn’t be subject to market principles.”

Roberts might have also used socialist and communist Cuba as an example, given the free education that the Cuban government provides its citizens from elementary school through college. For that matter, he could also have pointed out that free health care has long been a core program in Fidel Castro’s communist and socialist system.

Of course, health care under communism and socialism isn’t really free given that it is financed by government-imposed taxes, most of which, as the Times points out, are taken out of people’s paychecks.

The reason that the Czech healthcare system is in the news is that a doctor’s visit now costs $1.85 while a hospital stay costs $4 per day. An American might be tempted to ask, “What’s wrong with that?” The Czechs would respond that no one should have to pay anything for healthcare. After all, free healthcare, they say, is a fundamental right.

Of course, there is one slight downside to the socialist/communist healthcare system in the Czech Republic: According to the Times, the country ranks “at or near the bottom in life expectancy, as well as mortality rates for strokes, heart disease, and cancer.”

Oh well, I suppose no healthcare system is perfect, not even a “free” one.

Why does the healthcare system in the Czech Republic provide a valuable one for the American people? Primarily because it might help to pierce the life of the lie and mindset of delusion that afflicts so many Americans — that is, that America has a free-enterprise healthcare system.

If Americans come to realize that their government-provided Medicare and Medicaid are not free enterprise but instead akin to the socialist and communist system in the Czech Republic (and Cuba), then maybe they’ll begin to see that the healthcare woes that are afflicting our nation are not caused by free enterprise but instead by socialism.

Only by reaching the right diagnosis of America’s healthcare ills is there any hope that Americans will arrive at the correct prescription — the one that the Czechs unfortunately have not yet arrived at. That prescription entails the adoption of a truly free-market health care system, one in which Medicare, Medicaid, and all other forms of government involvement in healthcare are removed entirely from the body politic.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.