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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Forced Healthcare Goodness


David Lazarus, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, says that there is nothing wrong with Obamacare, which enables him to have his preexisting condition, Type 1 diabetes, paid for by other people. In his article in today’s Times,  entitled “Republicans Should Gladly Pay for My Preexisting Healthcare Condition,” he compares Obamacare to a giant insurance program in which many people pay premiums into a big pool in order to ensure against the risk of contracting an illness, having an automobile accident, or suffering some other unfortunate event.

His conflation of insurance and Obamacare shows how radically different leftists are from us libertarians, at least with respect to moral principles.

Let’s assume that we lived in a society without any governmental involvement in healthcare. No Medicare. No Medicaid. No Obamacare. In other words, the type of society in which Americans lived for more than 150 years.

In that society, Lazarus, along with everyone else, would be free to purchase insurance to protect against catastrophic illnesses. The choice would be up to him.

Let’s assume that Lazarus chose not to purchase the insurance and then contracted diabetes. Let’s also assume that treatment was costing him a small fortune, depleting his income stream and assets, and even threatening him with impoverishment.

One day, Lazarus encounters a wealthy person walking down an alley. He pulls out a gun and says, “You’re a rich person and I’m a sick, poor person. That’s not fair. You have a moral duty to help me out. Hand over $100,000 or I’ll shoot you.” The rich person complies and hands over the money.

Would anyone defend such conduct on moral grounds? I doubt it. My hunch is that everyone would call Lazarus a thief, no matter how sick and poor he was. In fact, there is virtually no doubt that the local prosecutor would secure a criminal indictment against Lazarus for armed robbery. There is also virtually no doubt that the presiding judge in the case would prohibit Lazarus from justifying his act at trial by arguing that he was just organizing and running a healthcare insurance program to assist him with his medical expenses.

There is something important to note about insurance: It is voluntary. People are free to subscribe to it or not. Those who do so are protected by the pool of wealth that comes from other people who have also voluntarily bought the insurance. Those who don’t subscribe to it cannot make an insurance claim. If they get hit by fire, theft, or illness, they must bear the financial consequences because they chose not to buy the insurance.

That’s not to say that Lazarus couldn’t ask people for help. Of course he could. He could have a private fundraising drive. He could ask doctors and hospitals to give him a discount or even free treatment. They would all be free to say yes or no.

Where liberals go off base, morally speaking, is with respect to government. That’s when their moral compass is thrown off kilter. It’s  when they go morally blind. They believe that when the majority of people in a society vote to take people’s money in order to give it to others, what would ordinarily be considered armed robbery if committed by a private person suddenly becomes an act of caring and compassion when carried out by majority vote.

Suppose Lazarus went to the City Council and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. John Smith, who is a longtime member of our community, is a multimillionaire. I am sick and impoverished. It’s really unfair that he has so much money when I need a portion of his money much more than he does. I don’t want to rob him because that would be wrong and constitute a crime. So, would you please vote to take $100,000 from him and give it to me”?

Liberals see nothing wrong with that. In their minds, such a vote simply reflects how good and caring everyone is.

Suppose, however, that Lazarus instead says to the City Council: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have health insurance. Therefore, please vote to take $100,000 from the Metropolitan Insurance Company, which is really rich, to pay for my healthcare expenses. To help Metropolitan cover this, please force everyone to buy insurance from Metropolitan.”

Is there any difference, morally speaking, in such a scheme? Of course not. It’s just a variation of armed robbery, albeit couched in legitimacy through governmental involvement and majority vote.

That’s because in all these socialist schemes, force is involved. That is, if Smith refuses to be plundered or if healthy people who don’t want insurance refuse to buy insurance, the City Council will use force to impose its will on such people — force that is no different, in principle, from the force involved in armed robbery.

There is only one type of healthcare system that is consistent with freedom, free markets, morality, and charity. That system is the separation of healthcare and the state, the total elimination of all governmental involvement in healthcare. Too bad liberals can’t see that. Too bad that they continue to lead our nation down the road toward more healthcare crises, more moral debauchery, more personal irresponsibility, and more force.

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.