I MAKE A BRIEF APPEARANCE
, unwilling and unpaid mind you, in "Sicko
," Michael Moore's new film about health care in the U.S. In it, I make the point that while Canadians are entitled to their share of socialized medicine, the quality and availability of services is atrocious. Moore might be determined to present an alternate reality, but almost on cue I just happened to hear this week from an associate whose Canadian mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer in March. By June, she still hadn't been given a date for an operation, prompting her family to bring her to theMayo Clinic
in Minnesota and pay $45,000 out of pocket to have the procedure done. Not surprisingly, they'd rather pay to receive a service and be cured than not pay for it and die waiting for an appointment.
First off, it's important to realize the health-care system in the U.S. is far from a free market. Between Medicare, Medicaid and a myriad of other public programs, it's estimated that the government pays for and controls nearly half the health care in the country. Even private health care in the U.S. is a highly regulated, obsessively congealed ball of red tape. Under the present system virtually every element of private health care, from who can practice medicine to how kidneys are allocated, is controlled by bureaucrats. Yes, U.S. health care is problematic, but not because it's a for-profit capitalist system. The problem stems from it not being capitalist enough.
It's a little bit bewildering to suggest there's a "right" to health care considering that, all things being equal, food and shelter are more basic necessities of life. Why those aren't the subject of multimillion-dollar documentary films is because the free market has done a pretty good job of addressing those issues already. Home ownership in this country is at an all-time high and obesity, not starvation, is the major problem facing rich and poor alike.
Yet collectivists like Moore, along with politicians on both sides of the aisle, are now calling for even more government involvement in health care by setting up a "universal" system. Of course, universal health care is just another name for socialized medicine. Under socialism, health care is a right, just like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everybody has a right to health care in their view, not because they've done something to deserve it, but simply because of the fact they need it. Men like Moore believe that the fact that you lawfully earn your money doesn't entitle you to it, yet the fact that a cancer patient needs chemotherapy does entitle him to it.
The reality is that from Canada to Cuba socialized health care's record is appalling. It's impossible to tally how many patients die waiting for routine preventative procedures or how many innovations go undiscovered because precious resources are squandered. If you think the Post Office, IRS and Social Security are run poorly, then you can only imagine how horrific a national health-care system would be.
Yet the real reason to oppose socialized heath care isn't that it's impractical, but because it's immoral. As properly defined in the Declaration of Independence, we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So while you have an absolute right to your life, you don't have the right to demand society at large provide you with food, shelter, four weeks of vacation, a laptop computer or any other entitlement that populist politicians or socialist filmmakers care to propose.
Of course, a right is a right to action>, but not to a freebie owed to you simply by being born. In America, individual rights mean you're free to pursue your own life just as others are free to pursue their own. To the extent you'd like to contribute glasses for the blind or pay for operations for the poor, you're welcome to voluntarily. But man is not born owing thy neighbor anything, only the obligation not to interfere with his own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Your right to free speech, for example, doesn't obligate me to listen.
But establishing a right to health care is enslaving someone else with the obligation to provide it. A right to health care means that in fact, I don't have a right to my own pursuit of happiness, because I have a legal duty to work to fulfill your rights. If you need an aspirin, I work an extra 15 minutes a day. If you need a respirator, it might be an extra 15 days. Forced to serve the collective, the individual no longer has any rights at all.
Last fall I wrote that "political winds have prompted me to increase my allocation to foreign exchange beyond the good ol' greenback. You can debate if higher taxes and minimum wage, along with a move toward expanding entitlements such as Social Security or universal health care are worthy goals, but one thing is certain: They aren't free. As the anticapitalist, welfare state expands, it's my belief the value of the dollar will undoubtedly decline." Lo and behold, the dollar has already fallen sharply as the country has moved more toward an entitlement state and socialized health care. The trend shows no sign of shifting anytime soon.
The success of Moore's film and the widespread movement toward socialized health care by members of both political parties will only mean further declines for our nation's currency. Of course, that's the one risk I can hedge. The sad part is the quality of the health care for all Americans, rich or poor, will fall right along with it.
Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC.>