But, besides all this, there is something which is not seen. The fifty millions expended by the State cannot be spent, as they otherwise would have been, by the tax-payers. It is necessary to deduct, from all the good attributed to the public expenditure which has been effected, all the harm caused by the prevention of private expense, unless we say that James B. would have done nothing with the crown that he had gained, and of which the tax had deprived him; an absurd assertion, for if he took the trouble to earn it, it was because he expected the satisfaction of using it, He would have repaired the palings in his garden, which he cannot now do, and this is that which is not seen. [… etc] He would have become a member of the Mutual Assistance Society, but now he cannot; this is what is not seen. (Frederic Bastiat, 1850)
Mr. Bastiat does a terrific job in showing how taxes put to the socialist’s ends only serves to diminish freedom but what I want the reader to note the connection he draws here between taxation and ‘mutual assistance.’ It is agreed by all that we should like to help our fellow man. Liberals and socialists believe they can do that better by collective administration of coerced funds than individuals can do through churches, charities, and the like.
This is a view that neither Mr. Bastiat or myself share, but perhaps this isn’t the place for that whole discussion. Rather, let me draw attention to a basic economic problem facing us today in regards to providing charitable assistance in regards to people’s health: for any individual, church, or charity that wished to help with someone’s health care expenses, these expenses would likely be so prohibitively high that they would be unable to do so.
Churches have a hard enough time paying their staff a fair wage- how can they afford to help a single cancer patient (or whatever) whose medical bills exceed the salaries of three staffers?
In light of this problem, liberals feel quite confident that the problem is so big that this is an obvious argument for why we need Government to intervene.
Even sincere conservatives feel the tug in that direction. But I speak mainly to Christians of the conservative bent and I would like to submit that one of the reasons why the Church is so widely derided is because people (even Christians) do not think we believe all this ‘love for fellow man’ business.
We do not help the poor- we pay taxes to hire government officials to help the poor for us. The outsider reasons that there is no unique ‘good’ that the church offers, for secular government appears to be able to offer all these same ‘goods.’ Once we turn over the health of individuals to the State (which we basically already have) we will have essentially turned over to secular society all the important aspects of humanity to handle and administrate. This State provided help by necessity deals with the body to the exclusion of the soul. So, we are robbed of credit for our support of programs to help the down trodden and these same receive material help but no spiritual help.
It is entirely possible that this de-spiritualization is one of the chief goals of the statists to begin with when they do ‘good deeds,’ which I discuss here.
I appeal first of all to a simple economic reality that we have all experienced. We remember how much VCRs were when they first came out. Expensive! DVD players, which used to run in the hundreds of dollars can now be acquired for under twenty bucks. Computers, of course are prime examples. In 1997 I bought a Comcrap computer for nearly $2,000. I couldn’t give it away, today. For $2,000 today I could buy a computer that is- literally- hundreds of times better.
So we have seen how in the ‘free market’ prices don’t merely tend to drop, but they drop big! Even items that start out being very expensive, the kind of thing that no church or individual could spend money on if they wanted to, now are available at pennies on the dollar.
Doesn’t anyone wonder why this is not true for health care? (And any other area where the government intervenes? $500 toilet seat, anyone?)
It is evident that in order for the Church to reach out to the community even in matters of health, the costs of health care actually have to come down. We are told that the Democrats very much want these costs to come down, but either they aren’t very bright- unable to see what has happened right before their eyes with the exponential rise of technology- or they have an entirely different agenda. The fact that their chief strategy is to increase insurance coverage tells me all I need to know but you can make up your own mind.
Health insurance coverage would seem to be a no brainer, but in fact health insurance is probably why costs are so high to begin with.
No one will believe me if I merely assert that so let me give you just one example of how this works. Let’s say you have a hospital that needs $1,000 to provide its services and compensate its employees. Now you have a community of 100 people being served by that hospital. If we supposed that each of them used those services equally throughout the year, it would cost each of those individuals $10. But now let’s say an insurance company sets up shop. It is now the intermediary between the patients and the hospital and employs 5 people to manage all the paperwork, handle claims, etc. Now, the insurance company has to support its services and compensate its employees, too. Let’s say it costs them $100. In the meantime, the hospital still needs its $1,000. In short, in order for this system to be sustained, now the community has to provide $1,100, an increase from $10 each to $11.
I am using small numbers in order to illustrate the principle I wish to elucidate. Now imagine that instead of $1,000 a hospital has an operating budget of $50,000,000. Now imagine a whole system of such hospitals and a population being served in the tens of millions. Now let us imagine the size of the bureaucracy for the insurance company that will have to serve as intermediates. We are literally talking about hundreds of thousands of people- all who need to be well compensated. On this basis alone, health care costs will be inflated.
And our Government wishes to provide ‘insurance’ for the entire population.
This is just one reason why costs are automatically higher. I want to call attention to one more that was subtly alluded to in the above scenario. Namely, with presence of the intermediary, the normal relationship between ‘producer’ and ‘consumer’ is obliterated. The ‘consumer’ never has any idea what the ‘real’ cost is of a procedure. He does, however, know how much his insurance costs. If he’s paying $15,000 a year for his ‘health care insurance’ he is not going to be persuaded by the argument that for the ‘common good’ he should abstain from making use of the services his insurance is supposed to assure in order to ‘keep costs down for everyone.’ I know he’s not persuaded, because I am ‘he.’
But if this same person had his $15,000 a year in his own pocket to spend as he pleases on the ‘real costs’ of his health care, by keeping costs down for himself, costs come down for everyone- all on their own. No government interference required and no huge insurance companies needed.
The tenderhearted liberal retorts: “What about all those who still cannot afford those costs?”
I repeat that conservatives and Christian conservatives are just as interested in helping these people as anyone else. As far as health care goes, they would surely help, but costs are so high. But note that in the above, health care costs have come down!
A ‘Mutual Assistance Society’ cannot afford a $500 bottle of aspirin (or not many, any way) but for $2.50 they can supply quite a few!
Far from meaning that these poor people will be left without any help at all, lower health care costs- the real costs of health care- the fact is that it becomes much easier for caring and compassionate people in order to step in and provide real help.
I cannot be accused of hoping the health care insurance companies continue to get rich. As implied from the above, I should think we’d be better off without them at all (room, perhaps, for ‘catastrophic’ plans). But by the same token, doubling down on this system only serves to keep health care costs impossible to afford- apart, of course, from massive government intervention.
Personally, I am convinced that this is in fact exactly what the Government under the Democrats actually wants, for there is no greater form of control than over our entire bodies, and control is what the DNC ultimately seeks. Even if this is not the case (ha!) we should not blindly accept the terms of debate, accepting unquestioningly that the solution is more legislation, more bureacracy, and of course, more and more taxation as the Nanny State sustains itself.
The simple fact is that we already know how to bring down costs of things, and if that is what we really wanted to do, it could easily be done.
By accepting the terms of debate, we do something dangerous: we deprive ourselves of the ability to afford participating in ‘Mutual Assistance Societies’ while at the same time making it prohibitively expensive to offer care when we wanted to- all while diminishing the authenticity of the Gospel of Love as heard by outsiders… and Christians, too.