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Cuban Doctors Are Teaching Us About U.S. Slavery

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Cuban doctors working in Brazil have just put the American left, including self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, in a very awkward position. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the doctors have filed suit in Brazil complaining of their enslavement by their own government — the Cuban government — as part of Cuba’s single-payer, socialist, one-size-fits-all healthcare system. Yes, the same healthcare system that the American left has praised and glorified for more than 50 years and would love to see installed here in the United States, given that Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare have turned out to be such disasters.

Slavery? I thought slavery had been abolished all over the world.

Those Cuban doctors are talking about tax slavery, a principle that all too many Americans unfortunately just don’t get.

Let’s take the classic example of slavery, like that which existed in the Old South. Black men and women were owned by plantation owners. They were forced to work for the owners. Slaves were not paid any wage or salary for their labor but were provided with free housing, free healthcare, and free food.

Slaves had no choice in the matter. They had to stay working on the plantation, whether they wanted to or not.

Let’s assume that a plantation owner treated a slave really well, giving him a really nice cottage in which to live, providing him with an excellent diet, and giving him first-class medical care. Let’s even go a step further and say that the plantation owner gave the slave a money allowance.

Would that change the situation? Would the slave no longer be a slave? Of course he would. That’s because he wouldn’t have a choice. His economic condition would be better than that of other slaves, but he would still be a slave.

Let’s assume that the federal government today seized an American and said: “From now on, you’re going to work for us, fulltime. We will provide you with free food, free housing, and free healthcare.”

Would that be any different from slavery in the Old South? Some people would say, “Yes, Jacob, because when the government does it, that’s different from when a plantation owner does it.”

But that’s obviously ridiculous. Slavery is slavery, regardless of whether the enslaver is a government or a private entity. In fact, throughout history governments have been premier enslavers of people.

What if the government provides the person with an allowance? Does that change the situation? No, because the person isn’t free to walk away. It’s no different than if a plantation owner had paid an allowance to his slaves.

Are their modern-day instances of where governments enslave people? Of course. That’s what conscription or the draft does — it empowers the government to forcibly seize people and force them to work (and kill) for the government, in return for free housing, free food, free healthcare, and an allowance.

So, where do those Cuban doctors fit into all this? Under Cuba’s much-vaunted healthcare system, doctors are required to work for the government. In return, the government gives them an allowance. At the same time, everyone in Cuba gets free healthcare.

What’s not to like, right? Just think: free healthcare, just like free education, free food, and free housing under Cuba’s socialist system. That’s why American liberals have long extolled Cuba’s socialist system — because everything is free.

Well, apparently, those Cuban doctors working in Brazil aren’t too happy with the arrangement. You see, they were excited to go to Brazil because they would be receiving $1,400 a month, compared to the $30 a month (yes, thirty) that the Cuban government pays doctors working in Cuba.

But then those Cuban doctors working in Brazil learned that the Brazilian government is actually paying the Cuban government $3,620 a month per doctor. Imagine that: the Cuban doctors are doing all the work but their government is receiving most of the money. Talk about exploitation!

That’s why those Cuban doctors are suing. As one of the suing doctors put it, “There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.” His statement was ratified by a Brazilian judge who called the arrangement a “form of slave labor.”

But can’t you already hear Bernie Sanders and other American leftists calling those Cuban doctors greedy, selfish, uncaring, capitalist swine who hate the poor, needy, and disadvantaged?

Maybe — just maybe — those Cuban doctors will induce more Americans to recognize their own plight as tax slaves.

As our American ancestors understood, freedom entails, at a minimum, the right to keep everything you earn and to decide what to do with it. That’s why there was no taxation on income for more than 125 years here in the United States. People were free to keep 100 percent of their earnings and there was nothing the government could do about it.

That system made the individual American sovereign and the government subservient.

Then in 1916 the federal government adopted the federal income tax, which made everyone’s income subject to being seized by the government. That new system completely inverted the relationship between the American people and the government, making the government the sovereign and the citizen the serf.

Sometimes the government is nice and takes less. Sometimes it’s not so nice and takes more. But the amount taken is beside the point. The real point is that whatever the government permits people to keep is essentially their allowance — no different in principle from the allowance that the Cuban government permits its doctors to keep.

The words of Johann Goethe sum up the plight of the American people: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believed they are free.” That’s what makes many Americans more enslaved than those Cuban doctors.

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.