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Conservative Follies on Obamacare


Let’s remind ourselves of the central feature of Obamacare: coercion. Under former President Obama’s program, the federal government orders Americans to purchase healthcare insurance. If they fail or refuse to do so, government officials punish them.

How can such a mandate possibly be reconciled with the principles of a genuinely free society?

It can’t be. In a free society, people decide for themselves whether they want to buy insurance or, for that matter, anything else. It’s their call. When government forces someone to buy insurance, or a car, or a house, or anything else, that is the exact opposite of freedom.

Forcing people to buy things doesn’t bother liberals (i.e., progressives) one whit. That’s because their concept of freedom is defined by the “freedom” of government to order people to do things. As far as liberals are concerned, the more orders are issued by government officials, the freer the society.

But conservatives know better. That was the principal reason they objected to Obamacare from the beginning — not just because it would be another socialist disaster (which it, not surprisingly, has turned out to be) but because of the mandate. Conservatives rightfully objected: Forcing people to buy insurance is contrary to the principles of freedom.

So, for the last 7 years or so, all we have heard from conservatives and Republicans has been: “Repeal Obamacare!” It’s been their mantra for 7 long years. Conservatives have used a countless number of their articles, op-eds, editorials, and speeches to exhort people to support the repeal of Obamacare. Conservative educational foundations and think tanks have engaged in never-ending fund-raising campaigns fleecing their donors with “Repeal Obamacare!” exhortations.

Not anymore. Most conservatives have suddenly gone silent about repealing Obamacare. Even the most expert of conservative healthcare commentators have resigned themselves to simply talking about what is going on. They are no longer exhorting people to “Repeal Obamacare!”

It’s standard conservatism. It’s what happened after the enactment of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For a while conservatives continued opposing it, arguing that FDR’s welfare-state revolution was destroying economic liberty.

It wasn’t long though before conservatives threw in the towel. As they saw that the welfare state way of life was growing in popularity, they joined the socialist movement, while, at the same time, proclaiming how they, unlike the left, were really “free enterprisers.” Today, conservatives are among the biggest supporters of Social Security, FDR’s landmark socialist achievement, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, the pride of FDR’s political progeny, President Lyndon Johnson.

And therein lies the root of the healthcare crisis: Medicare and Medicaid.

Ever since conservatives started their “Repeal Obamacare!” movement, it was destined to go nowhere. Why? Because there was a giant healthcare crisis that precipitated the enactment of Obamacare, one that entailed soaring, out-of-control healthcare costs. If conservatives succeeded in abolishing Obamacare, that would still leave the healthcare crisis that preceded Obamacare intact. Then what? What would conservatives do about that crisis?

At some point that was going to dawn on them. They just never figured that that day would really arrive — when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency. But arrive it did. And it flushed conservatives out into the open, where they were then faced with fulfilling their promise to “Abolish Obamacare!” Today, conservatives are  running for cover, not even bothering to apologize to all the donors who donated to their “Repeal Obamacare!” fundraising drives for the past 7 years, or to the publishers who published their countless “Repeal Obamacare!” articles, or to the audiences who had to listen to their insufferable “Repeal Obamacare!” speeches.

Prior to Medicare and Medicaid, the United States had the finest healthcare system in the world. Healthcare costs were reasonably priced. Most people didn’t even have major-medical insurance, as going to the doctor was essentially the same as going to the grocery store. What about the poor? Doctors and hospitals treated them for free.

‘I know this from experience. I grew up in Laredo, Texas, one of the poorest cities in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Every day the doctors’ offices in Laredo were filled with patients, many of whom were too poor to pay, and the doctors knew it. Nonetheless, I never heard of one patient being turned away. The doctors treated them anyway, knowing that they would never get paid. They did it because they believed it was the right thing to do. Laredo doctors were also among the wealthiest people in town. They were making so much money from people who could pay that they could afford to subsidize the poor with free treatment.

Medicare and Medicaid ended up destroying the greatest healthcare system in history. The enactment of these two socialist programs are why healthcare costs began soaring out of control and have never stopped. Even worse, Medicare and Medicaid destroyed people’s faith in freedom, in themselves, and in genuine free markets. In fact, it has also destroyed people’s concept of what a genuine free market is all about—one in which there is not government involvement in healthcare, including Medicare and Medicaid. Today, all too many Americans are unable to imagine a society without Medicare or Medicaid.

But as we have been pointing out for the past 28 years here at FFF, there is but one moral and practical solution to America’s healthcare woes: Repeal Medicare and Medicaid and end all government involvement in healthcare. Anything else will only make the situation worse.

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.