lAs I continue to emphasize, there is only one way out of the deadly coronavirus morass — a free-market healthcare system. A genuine free-market healthcare system — one in which healthcare and the state are totally separated — one in which the government plays no role whatsoever in healthcare — one in which the healthcare industry, not government officials, would be leading and guiding us out of the biggest threat to our health in our lifetime.
I repeat: There is no other solution. Sticking to the current paradigm, which has proven beyond all doubt to be a deadly, dead-end road — will only bring more unnecessary death, suffering, and impoverishment.
A question naturally arises: How would a free-market healthcare system handle people who don’t follow the guidelines set forth by the healthcare professionals? Would the state mandatorily quarantine people with the virus in some sort of coronavirus detention center?
Actually, there is a much better way to handle the situation, one that induces correct behavior through the use of the state’s judicial system.
A free-market healthcare system
Keep in mind, first of all, that a free-market response to the coronavirus would have been entirely different from the central-planning response of government officials.
In a system based on central planning, there are inevitably going to be shortages of essential items. That’s because the central planners lack the knowledge and expertise to know how many things to produce. Thus for a libertarian, it comes as no surprise that there was a widespread shortage of testing kits when they were needed most.
That would never have happened in a free market. Entrepreneurs would have been flooding the market with testing kits, especially to make a profit and especially given that they wouldn’t have had to secure approval from state bureaucrats. People could have relied on ratings or recommendations from the healthcare industry as to which test kits to buy. One can easily imagine that test kits would have been in such abundant supply that they would have been flooding into America homes at, say, $2 each, via Amazon overnight delivery.
People could have then tested themselves every few days. If someone tested positive, he would self-isolate. Everyone who tested negative would have continued going to work. There would have been no mandatory business shutdowns. Millions of people would not have been laid off. Business would have continued. The government would not have sent countless businesses into bankruptcy, as it is doing today.
Criminal and civil liability
How could we ensure that those who tested positive would voluntarily self-isolate? Would there have to be mandatory quarantines and quarantine detention centers?
No. All that we would have to do is use the judicial system, both criminal and civil, to induce people to self-isolate.
Suppose someone has tested positive and goes out and infects someone. Why shouldn’t he be subjected to the same standards of a standard homicide case — a prosecution for murder, manslaughter, or negligence homicide if the person he infects dies, or a prosecution for assault if he survives? How is what the infected person has done to another person any different in principle than when someone knowingly or negligently kills or assaults another person?
Would there be difficulties with proof? Of course, but that difficulty applies in lots of criminal prosecutions. The state would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the infected person criminally caused the death of the victim.
Nonetheless, the possibility of a criminal prosecution for murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide would serve as a powerful inducement for an infected person to stay at home and self-isolate.
Moreover, we could add the possibility of civil liability. Here, the burden of proof — “by a preponderance of the evidence” — is much lighter than in a criminal case. Why not let the victim sue the person who has infected him for damages for medical bills, pain, and suffering, just like in other tort cases? If the victim has died, the family could sue for wrongful death.
The possibility of a big judgement for damages in a civil suit would also serve as a powerful inducement for a sick person to stay at home and self-isolate.
What about people who refuse to test themselves? They could be held liable in criminal law for negligent homicide and in civil law for negligence or even gross negligence, especially given that in a free market testing kits would be cheap and plentiful.
The benefits of a free-market healthcare system and a functional judicial system are obvious: a healthier, more dynamic, prosperous, and harmonious society. It just takes thinking outside the statist box and replacing dead-end paradigms with a functional one.