Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
With the Republican’s attempts at repealing and replacing Obamacare with some other form of GovernmentCare they think will be better it’s time to take a libertarian look at healthcare, medical insurance and non-government solutions.
The healthcare crisis has been around for a very long time. Its cause has been known for a very long time too: Government. Its cure has also been known for a very long time: The Private Sector.
The problem is that very few people other than libertarians want to deal with this reality. Cynical collusion between the medical industry and politicians has made both wealthy and politically powerful, and they’re not about to give up one penny of their wealth or one erg of their power to genuinely fix the problem. As far as they’re concerned it’s already “fixed,” in the sense that “the fix is in.”
Most Americans are convinced that if their secular religious institution—The State—doesn’t bless them with healthcare like miraculously raining manna down upon their heads from heaven (i.e., Government) there would be no healthcare. (man·na, noun, an unexpected or gratuitous benefit. – Oxford Dictionary)
Neither the attempts at HillaryCare in the 1990s, ObamaCare enacted in 2010, nor TrumpCare coming to a government-bungled social welfare program near you sooner or later—ever could have or will solve our health insurance/healthcare problems. The reason is simple:
Reed’s Rule: Anything that becomes politicized ceases to be about that thing and becomes all about the politics.
The only things that politics “solve” are the political and politically-connected sector’s desire for power, wealth and ego hits.
All social welfare programs, including health insurance, healthcare provisions and even a “social safety net” were created long ago by civil society for the benefit of the people who created them. They were killed off by the ruling sector for the benefit of the rulers.
These widespread and extremely successful not-for-profit voluntary organizations were called “friendly societies” in Great Britain and “fraternal associations” in the United States.
Typical Fraternal Society
History of Fraternal Associations
From 1787 when two former slaves created “The Free African Society of Philadelphia” through the early 20th Century hundreds of “benefit societies” were created that served the needs of millions of people. They offered their members various benefits such as affordable insurance, funded educational costs, paid their doctor and hospital bills, covered unemployment, childbirth, retirement and funeral expenses, offered permanent and short term orphanage care for children and many other benefits, all for a small monthly membership fee.
A 2014 article in The Federalist, “Mutual Aid Societies: It’s Amazing What People Can Do Together” by Greg Scandlen, founder of the non-partisan, non-profit Consumers for Health Care Choices, was subtitled, “History shows how local communities fed hungry children, covered medical emergencies, and empowered working-class men – no formal government necessary.”
A tiny few of these groups possibly familiar to today’s government-dominated minds included the International Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, Independent Order of Foresters, Lions Clubs International and Loyal Order of Moose.
In Oliver Twist Charles Dickens rightly attacked England’s Workhouses created under his government’s Poor Laws. Unfortunately, this gave all orphanages, including private sector operations, a bad name. Yet two of America’s greatest and best-loved public figures spent time in them. Louis Armstrong, considered one of the most influential jazz artists in the world, learned to play the bugle and the coronet in an orphanage before switching to the trumpet. America’s greatest baseball player, Babe Ruth, was introduced to baseball in one of those non-government not-for-profit institutions.
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These private institutions weren’t designed just to take in orphaned children; they were created to help poor unemployed, destitute or broken families by temporarily looking after their children while the parents got back on their feet. Neither Armstrong nor The Babe were orphans.
How Government and the AMA Killed Affordable Healthcare
Armstrong was arrested in New Orleans at age 9 for a “crime” that today would be called “Hanging Out” and again at age 11 for firing blanks from a pistol into the air on New Year’s Eve. He was sent to the Colored Waifs Home, a reform school for boys operated by the private non-profit Colored Branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He was eventually released into the custody of his father, or mother, or aunt, depending on the source.
By age 7 Babe Ruth had gotten into so much trouble in his poor Baltimore neighborhood—throwing tomatoes at cops, roughhousing, drinking, chewing tobacco, getting in fights—that his poor lower-class parents working long hard hours couldn’t control him. So they handed him over to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, which was part orphanage, part trade school and part reform school run by Xaverian Brothers, a religious brotherhood of lay men. It was where The Babe learned, among important personal lessons, how to play baseball both as a pitcher and as a hitter.
In the shadows of these two famous men, millions of unknown men, women and children with far fewer skills were aided by these private sector institutions in the US, Canada, Great Britain and Australia in many different social situations, including medical problems, without burdening them and their fellow citizens by forcibly redistributing ever bigger portions of everyone’s hard-earned incomes.
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Special Interests Killed Voluntary Societies
So how did these mutual aid societies eventually fail? The truth is, they didn’t fail; they were intentionally killed off by special interests.
Several major factors have been documented.
“With the dawn of the twentieth century,” Scandlen wrote in his Federalist article, “fraternal organizations met with intense push-back from organized medicine, which resented the idea that common working men should be the bosses of ‘medical gentlemen.’”
Another pushback came from the commercial insurance industry that began to see profitable market opportunities for selling life, and later health, insurance.
“But the most important opponent of these self-help organizations,” Scandlen pointed out, “came from the Progressive movement, which was committed to a society in which a well-educated elite was entrusted to manage the affairs of the populace.”
He expands on this progressivist assault on freedom by quoting David Beito in his seminal work From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: “The traditional fraternal worldview was under attack. Age-old virtues such as mutual aid, character building, self-restraint, thrift, and self-help, once taken for granted, came under fire either as outmoded or as drastically in need of modification.”
Or as most libertarians would put it, Progressivism was and is a coercive, authoritarian ideology that demands that every aspect of every country be ruled by a dictatorial government composed of hubristic technocratic snobs who “know better” than everyone else and intend to run society for their own benefit while pretending to run things “for the people” and—one of their favorite cover stories—“for the children.”
Ultimately, Progressives who wanted social dominance, the American Medical Association who wanted monopolistic control of healthcare, the commercial insurance cartels who wanted corporate riches, and politicians who always were and are open to bribes, kickbacks, payoffs, graft, and other forms of pecuniary “donations” that could be translated into votes all knew they could get what they wanted by destroying private sector voluntaryism.
Quoting Scandlen again:
“It wasn’t just that such values were boring and old-fashioned, but that their existence undermined the necessity of the State as the center of gravity in a modern society. Ideas such as thrift were pernicious to an economy that relied on consumer spending for growth. The more one saved, the less one spent. Similarly with loyalty: loyalty to one’s neighbors and coworkers interfered with loyalty to the State.”
In short, these and other special interests conspired—yes, conspired—to co-opt, politicize, commercialize and monetize all healthcare and health insurance systems by legally abolishing the mutual aid societies one law, rule, regulation and edict at a time.
Progressivism and their fellow groupthink collectivists in and out of government continue to believe that only a handful of elitists know how to run everyone else’s lives. Libertarians know that knowledge is so vast, so decentralized and individualized, so widely diffused throughout society that it can never be tapped by a few self-serving narcissistic specialists but must be allowed to spread freely where everyone can see it, test it, experiment with it and find what works best for everyone in the real world.
Today, because of this egregious drive for power, wealth and ego preening, all citizens are prisoners of their governments. So how do honest, caring, decent people solve America’s healthcare crisis along with virtually every other disaster in the country?
- Get government totally out of the medical business.
- Get government totally out of the insurance business.
- Get government totally out of everything else it has no business being in.
Then replace it all with a true laissez-faire mutualist voluntaryist free market society based on the libertarian non-aggression principle that rejects coercion, intimidation and fraud but tolerates all forms of nonviolent interactions among people.
But even here there is a caveat. Consider this quote from Kevin Williamson’s Amazon comments about his very good book with its very long title, The End Is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure:
“A few years ago, I was giving a lecture in which I mentioned, as an aside, that libertarians and free-market conservatives often utter the words ‘the market will take care of it’ or ‘voluntary charity will take care of it’ as though those sentences were real answers to meaningful questions. And when they do try to address social concerns in a more substantive fashion, they too often fall into the trap of drawing up blueprints for utopias.”
Which is why libertarians must keep reminding friends and foes alike: “Utopia is not an option.” Utopia is also clearly not an option for governments and their self-serving attempts at Hillarycare, Obamacare, Trumpcare and other forms of Progressivecare.
Caring people voluntarily working together solve problems; ego-binging authoritarian zealots imposing their will on others cause them.
The VA: America’s Failed Single-Payer Healthcare System
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Garry Reed