|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
Bush is right about that. Why should the taxpayers have to provide health insurance for people who can afford it? In a truly free society taxpayers wouldn't be forced to provide it for anyone. The free market, unencumbered by government mandates, regulations, subsidies, and taxes, would have no trouble delivering high-quality medical care and insurance to anyone who wants it. Every serious problem facing America's medical system is attributable to government interference. That has been documented endlessly. The claims that government-run systems -- whether Canadian, British, or Cuban -- are efficient and compassionate are palpable nonsense. When people need sophisticated medical care without waiting, they come to the United States. That's true not because the United States has a free medical market, but because it has less government involvement than other countries. (That's a very low bar.) To the extent the government is involved, the system is messed up. Government is the reason medical insurance is expensive. It's been so distorted by the politicians that it isn't really insurance at all, but just another wealth-transfer program.
That said, Bush's position is not something we advocates of constraining government power can cheer. That may seem odd, but there's a deeper political point to be made. When Bush lectures middle-class and working-class people on self-responsibility, he has no credibility whatever. This is true for most establishment conservatives today. They have violated the freedom-and-responsibility philosophy so often that when they suddenly invoke it for children's medical care, they look cynical and callous. With friends likes these, the free-market cause hardly needs enemies.
Imagine Bush talking about responsibility and the importance of not giving people incentives to leave private insurance for the government dole. What does he think his monstrously expensive Medicare drug benefit accomplished? Economists warned of this at the time, but he was more interested in political gain than freedom and responsibility.
This only scratches the surface. His signature No Child Left Behind Act further shifted responsibility for education away from parents to distant bureaucrats in the central government. That was too much even for some conservatives.
He has supported virtually the whole constellation of corporate-welfare programs, from farm subsidies to energy-company tax preferences to ethanol privileges to Export-Import Bank favors to "defense" contracts that have nothing to do with real defense. Working people who are told to take responsibility for themselves might justifiably wonder why big corporations and agribusinesses shouldn't do the same.
Such inconsistency -- dare we say hypocrisy? -- does grave damage to the cause of freedom and the free market. When politicians selectively apply the principle of self-responsibility, they discredit it. Their motives are suspect in many people's eyes -- and they should be.
This has a profound effect on the political system. Nonideological, middle-of-the-road voters, who tip the balance in many elections, are likely to think the worst when they see a politician push energy, "defense," and farm bills that transfer huge amounts of taxpayer money to wealthy individuals and companies, while opposing health coverage for children in nonwealthy families. Voters tend not to like hypocrites, and such politicians give the free market a bad name. It begins to look like a cover for helping friends.
case for freedom is to win people over, it must be made clearly and consistently.
Trying to shoehorn it into a program of corporate welfare is not only
absurd, it is also sure to lose.
Gary D. Barnett is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc., in Missoula, Montana
Tibor Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at Chapman Universitys Argyros School of B and E and is a research fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and Hoover Institution (Stanford). He is an advisor to Freedom Communications. His most recent book is Libertarianism Defended, (Ashgate, 2006).
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.