Thursday, October 1, 2009

Do "Something" and Do It Now

Since taking office, the Obama administration has repeatedly told us that we must act, and act now, on a number of issues. Yesterday's Chronicle carried a story with a similar refrain.
A week after a Texas agency reported health care reform legislation would cost the state's Medicaid program an extra $20 billion over the next 10 years, a non-partisan foundation says inaction will exact a greater price.

Citing numerous statistics and quoting several state officials, the article paints a very bleak picture for Texas. Underlying all of the numbers and quotes is one resounding message: We must do something and we must do it now. But in this context "something" is a very broad, and a very vague, concept. In this context, it is meaningless. For example, "something" can range from a complete government takeover of health care to the complete repeal of Medicaid. Doing either is "something".

Of course, the Chicken Littles who are demanding immediate action are not considering the latter option. To them, "something" means more government controls and regulations. They refuse to question their basic premise, and any type of "reform" invariably means more of what has created this situation.

Ignoring the evidence of every nation that has nationalized health care, the advocates of "reform" demand action. When they do acknowledge some failure in Canada or Cuba or Great Britain, they retort that America will somehow avoid those failures. We must try "something", and if that doesn't work, we must try "something" else. They imply that we cannot predict the outcome of a particular course of action. If we abandon thinking in principles, they are right. If we abandon principles, the past has no connection to the future. If we abandon principles, all we can do is act and judge the results after the fact. If we abandon principles, all we can do is "something".

I would agree that "something" must be done about the state of health care in America. And I would agree that it should be done immediately. But that "something" must be guided by specific principles. True reform must be guided by the principles of individual rights.

Obama has attempted to frame the debate over health care in moral terms. He is correct. Fundamentally, the debate over health care reform is a moral issue. But to Obama morality consists in service to others, that morality demands that we place the welfare and interests of others before our own, that each of us must sacrifice for some alleged "greater good". To Obama, one man's need is a claim on the life and property of others, and it is government's responsibility to protect this "right".

However, need is not a right. "Rights" are, as Ayn Rand puts it:
a moral concept—the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others—the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context—the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.

Absent the recognition and protection of individual rights, there are no restrictions on the actions of government. In such an atmosphere, government may do as it pleases, justifying the most horrific atrocities in the name of the Volk or the proletariat or Allah. The lives of actual people are disposable.

If one rejects the principle of individual rights, then doing "something" ultimately means treating individuals as chattel. If you value your life, that is something that you must fight.

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