Like every other welfare-state program, health care is in constant crisis. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. That’s what socialism does. It produces crises in every area of society it touches. It’s not a coincidence that America’s healthcare system went from being the best in the world to one that is perpetually in crisis and chaos.
The root of the problem is Medicare and Medicaid, two gigantic socialistic programs that are based on the notion that government should wield the power to take money from people to whom it belongs in order to give it to people to whom it does not belong. It’s not a coincidence that once Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in the 1960s, healthcare costs began to soar and have continued to soar ever since.
To deal with never-ending health-care crises after Medicare and Medicaid were adopted, federal officials have enacted an endless series of reforms, including a myriad of health-care and insurance regulations. Every reform makes the situation worse, which then brings about the demand for new reforms. Obamacare is just the latest example of this phenomenon.
So what’s the solution to this governmentally produced healthcare chaos? The solution is clear: Repeal, don’t reform, every single government program that concerns health care, especially Medicare and Medicaid but also all healthcare regulations. Leave health care entirely to the free market — that is, a market that is free of all government involvement and interference. Leave people free to keep their own money and to manage their own health-care decisions. Separate health care and charity from the state, just as our ancestors separated church and state.
That, in fact, is the only solution that is consistent with the principles of a free society. Freedom necessarily means that people keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it. That’s one of the basic tenets of libertarianism.
Conservatives and liberals have a different perspective. They believe that it is the role of government to take care of people. They are firm believers in Medicare and Medicaid and are shocked and outraged whenever libertarians say that the two socialist programs should be abolished. They are convinced that if the federal government weren’t providing “free” health-care services to the elderly and the poor, there would be countless people dying in the streets from lack of health care.
What about the crises that a welfare state produces? Conservatives and liberals always come up with their own favorite reform plan to deal with the crises. All the argumentation and debate between conservatives and liberals is over which reform plan should be adopted to deal with the crises.
For example, to address the ongoing health-care crisis, liberals proposed and adopted Obamacare, a socialistic program that forces every American to participate in it. It is no surprise that it is already producing even more chaos and crises than existed before it was enacted.
Conservatives have spent an inordinate amount of time opposing Obamacare and showing why it should be repealed or drastically reformed. But ask yourself: What good would it do to repeal Obama-care, given that there would still be the ongoing health-care crisis that was the reason that Obamacare was adopted in the first place?
Fascism versus socialism
To deal with the crisis, conservatives — and some libertarians — have come up with their own reform plan. They propose that instead of Obamacare the government force people to deposit a portion of their income into health savings accounts, similar to individual retirement accounts. They call this plan a “free-market-oriented” approach to health care or health-care “choice.”
But it is nothing of the sort. This particular reform is nothing more than a fascist approach to health care, no different from the Social Security reform plan that we discussed in part 4 of this essay. Recall that economic fascism is a system in which the government permits people to keep their money but then controls and manipulates them into how to use it. By maintaining the aura of private ownership, the proponents of economic fascism maintain that their system is better than the system proposed by socialists, in which the government takes people’s money and gives it to others.
Is a system of economic fascism better than a socialist one? Maybe and maybe not. Socialists and fascists have fought over that issue for a long time.
But what does that debate have to do with libertarianism, whose aim is to achieve the genuinely free society? Both socialism and fascism are based on the notion that government is the master and people are the serfs. Recall our minimum baseline position that we discussed earlier in this series: A genuinely free society entails, at the very least, keeping everything you earn and deciding for yourself what to do with it.
Why describe a fascist program as “free-market oriented” or based on “choice”? Because it makes conservatives feel good about maintaining the tyranny of the status quo. Conservatives don’t like radical change, not even when it’s in the direction of freedom. Whatever the status quo is, they’re devoted to conserving it. By calling statist reforms “free-market oriented” or based on “choice,” conservatives convince themselves that they are supporting “freedom and free markets” when, in truth, all that they’re doing is supporting another statist program.
Of course, the master of this technique was Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs (e.g., Social Security and the National Industrial Recovery Act), as we discussed in part 4, consisted of a combination of socialism and fascism. By labeling his New Deal as a free-market reform to save America’s free-enterprise system, he was able to garner the support of the American people, who would never have supported a program that was labeled socialist or fascist.
Notice something else of critical importance insofar as freedom is concerned: The proponent of health-care savings accounts never leads people to question the legitimacy of income taxation and Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. By calling for mandatory health savings accounts, the proponent actually plants the idea in the minds of people that government plays a legitimate role in controlling people’s income and controlling and manipulating their health-care decisions.
The drug war
Let’s move on to another area — drug laws, which constitute one of the gravest infringements on liberty that government could ever inflict on people. Imagine: Putting people into jail for sitting in the privacy of their homes and ingesting what they wish to ingest. The federal government has been doing that for decades.
Everyone agrees that the drug war has been a manifest failure in what drug-war proponents supposedly hoped to accomplish — a drug-free world, one in which few people would be ingesting illicit drugs. Today, several decades after the war on drugs was launched, there are more people than ever consuming illicit drugs.
Throughout the years, there have been groups that have done their best to relieve the horrific consequences of the drug laws.
For example, there are those who have worked for the reduction or even the elimination of “mandatory minimum sentences,” which the law forces federal judges to mete out, as compared to permitting judges to show some degree of mercy on a case-by-case basis.
There are others who work to reform or eliminate “asset-forfeiture laws,” which authorize law-enforcement personnel to seize cash and other forms of property that are suspected of being part of the drug trade. There are countless horror stories in which drug agents have seized money from people and not even charged them with a crime. “Sue us if you want your money back,” is what they tell the victims.
Thus, those who are working to alleviate the harsh consequences of the drug war are doing fantastically important work. But, once again, let’s be clear: It’s not freedom. Even if the reformers are successful in achieving their end, it’s not the genuinely free society. It is nothing more than a better way of life for the serfs, no different in principle from how reform would have brought a better way of life for the slaves on the plantation, as we discussed in part 1 of this essay.
There is but one solution to the drug war that is consistent with the principles of a free society: Abolish drug laws. Repeal all of them. Freedom necessarily entails the fundamental, God-given right to ingest whatever a person wants to ingest, whether it be liquor, beer, tobacco, fatty foods, sugar, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or anything else.
How about immigration controls?
Ever since I was a child growing up on a farm on the Rio Grande near Laredo, Texas, I have seen the periodic paroxysms of anxiety and depression that have struck people as part of the federal government’s failed system of immigration controls. And it would be difficult to find a better example of Ludwig von Mises’s dictum that one government intervention inevitably leads to more interventions, owing to the crises and chaos that inevitably are produced by each intervention.
There is one — and only one — solution to the decades-long, never-ending immigration crisis. That solution is: Open the borders to the free movements of people. Let me repeat that for emphasis: The only solution to the never-ending series of crises that come with immigration controls is to end the immigration controls. There is no other solution. Immigration reforms will only make the situation worse, and as Mises pointed out, each new intervention leads inexorably in the direction of a totally controlled society.
Thus, in order to reach a critical mass of people who finally recognize that, it is vitally important to challenge the structure of immigration controls itself. It is actually a socialist structure in the sense that the federal government is planning, in a top-down, command-and-control manner, the peaceful movements of millions of people. Why wouldn’t we expect such a program to produce “planned chaos,” which was the title that Mises gave one of his books? Central planning has always produced chaos and crises, and it will continue to do so, owing to socialism’s inherent defectiveness.
Moreover, immigration controls violate the fundamental, God-given right of every person to pursue happiness in his own way, especially by entering into mutually beneficial and consensual transactions with others. It’s tempting to believe that when the Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it’s referring only to Americans. It’s not. It’s referring to all people everywhere.
In order to finally restore a system of open borders — the system that exists between the several states of the union — it is necessary to cause people to question the apparatus itself. If people aren’t questioning the apparatus, then it is a virtual certainty that the apparatus will remain intact.
Of course, both conservatives and liberals are hopeless in the area of immigration. They love immigration controls, no matter how much suffering, chaos, and crises they produce. They’re not about to give them up.
That leaves libertarians as the only hope for restoring a sense of morality, normality, rationality, and practicality to immigration. Libertarians know that only a system of open borders will accomplish that.
Thus, it’s disappointing when some libertarians give up advocating open borders and instead become immigration reformers. In the process of abandoning abolition and embracing reform, they no longer induce people to question the immigration-control apparatus itself.
For example, there are libertarians who devote their efforts to calling for “increased levels of immigration.” They show how immigrants have played a positive role in America’s economic history. They demonstrate how more immigrants will lead to increased economic prosperity in American society.
But notice what they don’t do: They don’t cause people to question the apparatus of immigration controls themselves. In fact, they actually do the opposite. They reinforce in people’s minds that the government is in charge of determining who comes into the country and who doesn’t. By calling for increased numbers of immigrants, they are essentially pleading with the government to exercise its central-planning powers by letting in more immigrants.
Of course, never mind that neither the libertarian immigration reformer nor the central planner can ever know for certain how many immigrants are the ideal number. That’s a point that the libertarian Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek repeatedly made — that the central planner can never know such things, which is precisely why central planning always leads to crises and chaos.
One thing is for sure: A system in which government is deciding whether to let in more immigrants is not freedom. Moreover, while it might make life better for some people, it does nothing to advance the free society because it doesn’t lead people to question the moral or pragmatic illegitimacy of immigration controls themselves.
Let’s now turn to the most massive infringement on the liberty and prosperity of the American people in our time, one that clearly distinguishes libertarians from conservatives and liberals, one where calls for reform leave Americans with a permanent loss of freedom — the warfare state or, as it is also commonly known, the national-security state.
This article was originally published in the September 2015 edition of Future of Freedom.