Archive for June, 2008

Our Medical System

June 25, 2008

For a quarter century conservatives have been hammering home the fear that socialized medicine is a communist-inspired plot against democracy and freedom.  They assert that socialized medical care will place “the government” in charge of your medical decisions; “the government” being viewed as necessarily a terrible thing.  They seem blissfully unaware that “the government” already provides medical coverage for federal workers and elected politicians, military personnel, and senior citizens and that these programs have proven to be very efficient.


One writer, pondering socialized medicine, asked “And by the way, since when did health-care become a right?”


This question misses the point of socialized medicine entirely.  The question is not whether or not our citizens have a right to good medical care.  The question is whether or not society can afford to have, in its midst, a lot of sick and unproductive citizens. 


A parallel example may be helpful.  Americans enjoy socialized police protection.  No matter where you live in this country there are police and/or sheriff’s departments dedicated to protecting the public from a wide variety of potential problems from parking violations to bank robberies to murder.  These officers and deputies are all public employees and we all pay for their services, whether or not we are individually threatened with criminal behavior at any given time.


The point is that we all benefit from an orderly society and our law officers do their best to provide it.  And, in precisely the same way, we all benefit from a healthy citizenry.  Our health-care providers should not be constrained from providing it – not just for those who can afford it but for all citizens.


A rich man, of course, is free to hire additional security guards if he wishes.  So too he is free to hire a plastic surgeon to perform procedures that are not necessary to his good health.  I think a good yardstick for when a service should be socialized would be that the service benefits all of society without respect to individual need.  The Nation is well served when all of its citizens are healthy, educated, and living without fear.