Libertarians can argue until they are blue in the face against mandatory vaccines, vaccine passports, mask mandates, lockdowns, and other government healthcare measures to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic — and, now, its Delta variant — but one thing is for sure: Even if they succeed in their endeavors, it will not constitute healthcare freedom. At best, such libertarians will have improved our lives as welfare-state serfs, but that is a far cry from living one’s life as a genuinely free person.
There is but one way that we can achieve healthcare freedom — by totally separating healthcare and the state. Settling for persuading the state to better manage its control over healthcare simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to freedom.
Think about slavery. Suppose a group of reform-oriented libertarians in 1855 had persuaded the state legislatures in southern states to enact legislation that prohibited slaveowners from inflicting lashes on their slaves and that also required them to provide better food, healthcare, and working conditions for their slaves.
The slaves would undoubtedly have been grateful for their improved condition. But they would have known that their improved situation wouldn’t have been freedom. Achieving freedom would have meant the dismantling, not the reform, of the structure of slavery.
Think about freedom of religion. Suppose our ancestors had established a system of public churches. Just imagine the mess that would have produced. It would be comparable to the healthcare mess we are experiencing today. Suppose a group of libertarians persuaded the federal and state governments to better manage the public-church system. They get legislation enacted repealing compulsory-attendance laws. They get other laws enacted enabling people to democratically elect their church ministers. They also get the mandates on wearing suits to church repealed.
All of that would improve the lot of the serfs — no doubt about it. But it wouldn’t be freedom. To achieve freedom requires ending all state involvement in religion — i.e., a separation of church and state.
Our American ancestors clearly understood this principle of liberty. They understood that freedom doesn’t involve a better, more benign management of tyranny. Instead, genuine freedom requires an end to governmental involvement in peaceful activity.
With the rise of the Delta variant in the Covid-19 crisis, we are now faced with a replay of the whack-a-mole game we’ve seen for the past year and a half. We are now seeing the same debates over healthcare mandates. It’s déjà vu, all over again.
And that’s the way it’s going to be so long as the federal government and the state governments are in charge of healthcare. People who favor governmental control over healthcare cannot really be surprised when government exercises that control in ways that people disapprove.
It’s no different, of course, with Medicare and Medicaid, which succeeded in destroying the finest healthcare system in history, one based on free-market principles. Unfortunately, all too many libertarians long ago accepted the inevitability of these two socialist programs by settling for promoting “health savings accounts” and other healthcare reforms.
What would healthcare freedom entail? An end to all governmental involvement in healthcare, at both the federal and state levels. The best way to achieve that is with a constitutional amendment modeled after the First and the Fourteenth Amendments: “No law shall be enacted, by either the federal or state governments, respecting the provision or regulation of healthcare, or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
We can devote the rest of our lives to advancing measures that will improve our lives as serfs. That certainly is one option. Or we can raise our vision to a higher level — one based on liberty. We can lead the world to liberty by leaving a legacy of healthcare liberty to future generations, just as our ancestors did for us with respect to religious liberty.