These are troubling times for free-market economists and limited-government advocates. During every new presidential campaign cycle, candidates from both parties seem committed to developing new and more intrusive ways for the federal government to “solve” issues of day instead of granting more power to people to find creative and flexible answers.
The evolution of American health care has been a top concern for the current campaign, and most candidates have given at least some support to the notion that the federal government will have to bridge the gap between rising costs and a lack of affordable insurance coverage.
Tom Patterson, a retired emergency room doctor who writes a weekly opinion column for the Tribune, is among those waging a desperate debate to weaken the political momentum toward government-mandated universal health care.
“If we did adopt a socialistic medical system in this country, the chances of going back would be very, very slim forever,” Patterson said.
This debate is critical to reminding Americans about the original purpose of crafting the Declaration of Independent, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Patterson and two other local columnists learned when they sat down recently with one of the nation’s most prominent writers and lecturers on the concepts of liberty and limited government.
The Tribune Editorial Board invited these columnists to speak Nov. 16 with Tibor Machan, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and official libertarian advisor to Freedom Communications, the parent company of this newspaper. This hourlong discussion also included what’s to be done about Social Security and Medicare and the gradual loss of privacy in the Internet age.
Machan explained that while access to medical care can sometimes be a life-or-death issue, obtaining appointments and treatments in a free-market economy should be viewed no differently than buying any other commodity, even something as simple as a pair of shoes.
“You don’t have a right to shoes,” Machan said. “You have a right to seek out shoes and buy (them).
“Even though health care is a much more emotional issue than shoes … if you had been used to the government providing you with shoes, it would probably would be just as difficult to deal with that issue as it is to deal with health care.”
Columnist Austin Hill said most Americans have become conditioned over time to believe that health care should be a collective concern involving outside parties who pay the bills instead of a personal, direct matter between doctors and patients.
“I would venture that a large part of the problem with health care in America as it exists today is because of those collectivist policies already in play, even within individual insurance companies or individual health care providers,” said Hill, a Valley radio and Web talk show host. “In terms of those physicians and health care providers, their work bears very little relation to the amount of revenue that is charged for their service.”
Linda Turley-Hansen, a former Valley television news anchor, said that explains why many people who claim to cherish liberty seem ready to surrender control of their health care to the government.
“Americans have given it up, one day at a time,” Turley-Hansen said. “Every time you take something that is 'free’ or government-provided … you are giving up, one step at a time, the free agency we are talking about today.”