Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Britain’s Health Care Began With Propaganda

As America debates the merits and follies of nationalized health care, many people hold up “the rest of the world” as an example of a system that should be emulated.

After all, the argument goes, America is the only industrialized country on the planet that does not provide “free” (or at least, heavily subsidized) health care for its citizens.

It’s true. We’re the last hold-out. For a very good reason. Our health care system mirrors the principles that our founding fathers laid, which in turn created the greatest civilization on earth. There’s no reason to mess up a good thing.

The rest of the world believes that government exists for the benefit of the people. Taken to an extreme, they believe that the role of government is to “take care” of the people. That’s what Annie Leonard declares in “The Story Of Stuff”. She pooh-poohs the government’s true role of national defense, the foundations of capitalism, and the free market. Then she declares that the government should intervene to make sure that we, the consumers, don’t consume too much.

This notion that the government should have an active role in defining our quality of life has deep roots in European culture. We’re reminded of this by watching a charming piece of British propaganda: “Charlie’s March Of Time”. Created by the British government to introduce socialized health care to the Brits, the film traces British government back hundreds of years. In feudal times, the king took care of the people. In more modern times, the House of Commons took care of the common people.

The theme is consistent. People are not able to deal with the standard trials of life — unemployment, hunger, illness, retirement — without the government’s interference.

In a classic case of socialistic incrementalism, the film chronicles one act of Parliament after another, each removing one more area of personal responsibility from the citizenry while claiming to cure all social ills. The culmination of all this effort was 1946’s Health Service Act. The film reminds us that the utopian state costs only a few pounds and tuppence each week.

That’s fine for “the rest of the world”. But there is a very good reason why it won’t work in America. That’s because our country was founded on the principle of freedom FROM government. Americans believe the responsibility for care of the population rests in the population itself, not in the government. The constitution is concerned with what the government CANNOT do, rather than what it MUST do.

America is a collection of individuals. We were founded by a group of men who believed that the rights of the individual superseded the responsibility of the government to care for their needs. Most of our wars have been fought for the purpose of freeing citizens from a repressive government.

That’s what makes America unique from the rest of the world. We realize that rugged individualism and free-market capitalism always succeeds in the long run. And we have seen that socialism always eventually collapse under its own weight.

Let the rest of the world keep their nationalized health care. If it suits them well, so be it. But America has produced the greatest society in the history of the world by believing in the individual’s responsibility to take care of himself. There’s no reason to abandon a system that works.