The summer is over, and while the House of Commons is back in business a number of months have gone by with little to make fun of. However, I have found a point or two to comment upon nonetheless.
What do the Zamboni Treatment for victims of multiple Sclerosis, Robert Latimer and the mercy killing of his daughter, (Newfoundland’s) Premier Danny Williams’ heart surgery in the United States and blood donations by gay men all have in common? (Hint: there is a common thread). It’s “property rights and medical care” of course.
When numerous factual stories come along, each tugging you [and the media] this way and that on an emotional level, all sorts of inconsistent interpretations can arise of what’s right, and what’s fair, and what should be allowed, and what should be illegal…but when put together they can help to elaborate a consistent and principled theory of rights – and again, I will set out one Capitalist’s perspective based on recent medical news for you.
The basic problem with medical care in Canada in our generation is that it is run as a legally enforced monopoly by the Government. They teach that “monopolies” are bad, but actually set them up for their own benefit all the time. No “free market” monopoly has ever been able to survive; it is only once it is backed up by “law enforcing gunmen” that it is incontestable. Ah, but who can argue with Health, right? It must be good if it’s a Government Monopoly, right? (Like couriers had nothing to improve upon the Post Office? Like private schools can’t offer improvements on public education?)
There is a doctor in Italy, Paolo Zamboni, who might have figured out a cure, or a treatment, or a treatment in part, of the debilitating disease “Multiple Sclerosis” (of which I do not personally suffer). In any other day and age, a person suffering from any ailment would naturally want more information about how to cure it. Our Government, however, controls the flow of medical treatment in the country, so if It doesn’t like something, they will put the kybosh on obtaining the treatment here. As a result, the poor victim must leave the country to get the treatment. Now, as a Capitalist, I do not think the Government should be involved at all; for one thing, I do not want to have to pay, against my Will, for the treatment of others-that is a bottomless obligation, and we all know the system is crumbling under the weight of grey hair – but even if it weren’t, my wealth does not exist for the benefit of others, nor do others exist for my sake. “How can you be so cruel?” you ask in standard “welfare state-ese” …easy. Like anything in life, I pick and choose the things I want, just like you do. And if you are so keen to pay for someone’s health care, do you want to pay for their flight to Italy to get it? How far are you intending to go with your Robin Hood complex? How is that my concern?
Humans did not require Government to invent Universal Health Care. Things worth having evolve in the marketplace all by themselves; it’s not as if Ottawa owns all the smart people, after all. In fact, the Free Market invented insurance for all manner of problems, a complex mathematical program devised over hundreds of years before Canada was even born. It is efficient because market forces kick in to compel it to be and to maximize choice too – and if it has not yet evolved in the market freely, there is probably a problem with it. If a cheaper medical treatment comes along [maybe good Dr. Zamboni's, for instance] it would be in the insurance company’s interests to check it out, right? Instead, we have a Government with no especial incentive to do anything whatsoever except respond to this or that public pressure or special advocacy group. More tests. More studies. Health care policies structured on public economics. Now, caution, education, wisdom, these are all good things; but why would it be against the law to get the treatment in the meantime? Because of the cost of course. The Government is trying to protect me from having to pay for something stupid – its own daft policy requires it to pay for everything itself because politically we must have “classless” medicine - therefore there is no option to pay for it on your own. Stifling logic. At least with Free Market insurance (which I believe would be better), you can go your own way (or to court) in the event of a disagreement!
Next topic: Robert Latimer and the mercy killing of his chronically ill little daughter. Wow! Tough topic. Best to ignore it… no, wait, problems don’t go away by ignoring them. The issue of his parole keeps coming up. Frankly, I completely sympathize with this man and his plight; I gather from what I understand of his nature that he couldn’t care less about my sympathy, which is all the more compelling. He did what he did because he was the man on the spot with the big decision to make and he made the tough decision believing his decision was right, and was willing to pay the price for that decision: the sacrifice of his own daughter. What’s not to admire? How do you define a man, without including terms like being able to make tough decisions and standing by them? Why has he been incarcerated for so long? Because I guess the jury didn’t understand that they could acquit the fellow if they thought, too, that what he did was “right” and the law was “wrong”; same as Dr. Morgentaler did as he fought for the liberty of women to have abortions. If you can accept as a fact, as he did, that his daughter was better off being put out of her misery, then the law should not punish him and perhaps should be changed (which happened in the abortion story – yes, juries can trump Parliament). But the issue has not been whether or not she was “better off”, but merely that he did it. That is shameful and cowardly- the man should be consoled, not incarcerated.
When Susan Rodriguez (the young lady dying from ALS in the 1990′s) went before the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that the law against medically-assisted suicide was unconstitutional, her case was tossed out. The Court’s message was that changing the law was up to Parliament [although many examples abound of the Court compelling Parliamentary pro-action]; the hidden message remains, “you belong to us” – the highest Court ruled that we are not Free. As a Capitalist, I believe this decision was criminal. No one “belongs” to the State, we are not its chattels; the State works for us, not the other way around. The Court should not even have been asked the question: it was like asking your servant to bring you your donkey, but being told that you are not allowed to ride it. And the decision was based on our so-called “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” too. It’s enough to make one gag at the hypocrisy. On this topic, the law is, and the Court was, indeed the Ass.
Everyone must have the ability to end their existence when they believe it is time. This is not a “Right” granted by all men to one another as a universally enjoyed term of our social contract; such a term is foolish, since to have broken any contrary law is irrelevant once one is dead anyhow. “Rights” are terms of the political relationship between living people, not abstractions. When life, or meaningful life, is at an end, the Law is an irrelevance. When staring into that “long night”, the petty concerns, wars and egos of mankind take on a different perspective. Men like Robert Latimer, or the doctors who are willing to end a person’s agony with care and delicacy, are doing a mighty Thing, which Parliament, and the Courts, lack the courage to do.
I prepare Wills for people, so I am aware that most elderly people have no interest in being “kept alive” (against their will, I mean). Everyone seems to clue in that at some point the game has to finish; but remaining attached to wires and bottles to humour the law does not impress them. As a Capitalist, the position is quite simple: I have no interest in how you prioritize or implement your termination, whether you want to stretch it out as long as possible, jump off a bridge, sail off into the sunset, take an overdose, pull the pin out of a grenade…surely this is the ultimate “free choice”. The Government, or Society at large, should not be involved in your decision, nor in the medical costs of your decision. If you want to spend a fortune on a Zamboni Treatment, go for it; maybe it will work out for you. If you want to discharge yourself from hospital and go play a final round of golf, then go find the 19th hole your way. Don’t surrender to The Plan the Government has for you; they don’t have the skills or wit to write your final Act the way you want to play it.
That’s why when Danny Williams trotted off to the US to have his heart surgery, there was not a thing wrong with that. As a politician, it was above and beyond the call of duty to not even burden the domestic health care system with the cost of his treatment! Now, a lot of advocates for the System [doctors, bureaucrats, media] jumped on this and found fault with his decision. Stop trying to run other peoples lives! The only fault I can find is that the System obliged him to leave the country for the level of care and speed of treatment that he sought (if he could have had the same care and speed of treatment domestically, well, he wasted his money and that’s not my concern). In a Capitalist system, with or without insurance, everyone should be able to buy the medical treatment that they want and can afford. Same as food, cars, houses and everything else. And the law should not prevent it, since no harm is caused to others by free choice.
I have to say, Tommy Douglas was not a Canadian Hero despite the popular hyperbole. His Marxist view of medicine has, and will have, even further drastic and deleterious health-care consequences as the years roll along. The Soviet Union collapsed for a reason, after all. It didn’t work. Socialized anything [including medicine] must fail, because it is founded on a theory incompatible with how humans willingly behave. You can force it to work against people’s will for a while, that’s true… but the people will tear it down when they become strong enough to do so – or they will simply evade it, if they can, when the chips are down, like the Premier of Newfoundland, or just girls wanting abortions, can and did.
Next, we get to gay men and blood donations. Wow! Another bunch of land mines here. So, let’s diffuse them one by one. First, I have no interest, as a Capitalist, whether you are gay or straight, tall or short, black or red, etc. etc. In this story, a gay man wanted to give blood to Canadian Blood Services, they didn’t want his blood because it was risky product. Fine, but now it’s a story in the news ["Blood Ruling stirs fears of "Charter Free Zone", Globe & Mail, September 10, 2010, lead story] because there is a fear that the Government will not be subject to the Charter of Rights if it simply hands off administrative issues to “arms-length” boards, (such as Canadian Blood Services). As a Capitalist, I don’t face a challenge with this. Privatize the collection of blood, like any other commodity. Let market forces command its quality control. They can then turn away any donor they wish, just like McDonalds should be able to turn away any customer it wishes. No Charter right could apply to the giving of blood anyhow, the case was nonsense from the start, but to turn it on its head and fear the Government will structure things all over the place to dodge the Charter? Interesting concern, but I doubt They care. After all, your beloved Government handed prisoners over to the Afghanistan prison system, and to the CIA to be tortured, didn’t they, and yet they have faced no repercussions from you Voters for that breach of Rights. Susan Rodriguez proved that the State believes we have no existence independent of It, and yet they have faced no repercussions from you Voters for that breach of Rights. Hmmm. We may see more of this after all: you seem to be indifferent.
Frankly, if you want Big Government to control more and more of your life, well, “as you sow, so shall you reap”. Brother, you get what you paid for. If you want to do something about it, support Capitalism. Screw up the courage to be free.
[Postscript: as I am about to "go to press" with this blog, in today's paper, Sept 14/10, page A1, under Health Care, there is an article "Universal pharmacare touted as way to save billions". Right.]