The First Casualty Is Choice
posted at 6:03 pm on December 10, 2009 by Doctor Zero
In the conclusion to his excellent indictment of the sheer arrogance of ObamaCare, Robert Tracinski of TIADaily.com writes:
That is the final and perhaps most compelling reason to kill this bill: the sheer arrogance of the whole enterprise. It is the arrogance of stampeding an unwilling public toward a monstrous 2,000-page piece of legislation while admitting that it still has huge problems, but promising that it will all somehow be fixed later on. It’s the arrogance of selling us a bill that expands government spending by hundreds of billions of dollars while telling us that it will reduce the deficit. It is the sheer unmitigated gall of appointing a bureaucrat to run a government-controlled insurance market that takes away all of our health choices-and then calling this bureaucrat the Health Choices Commissioner.
The Orwellian splendor of the “Health Choices Commissioner” is consistent with the tendency of the President and his allies to promote the “choices” that will come with a government takeover of health insurance. This is insulting nonsense. When the government takes over anything, choice is the first casualty.
Government is defined by its ability to exercise compulsive force. This is its only resource. It has money only because it compels the payment of taxes. You are not allowed to choose which government agencies you want to pay for, or select a special discounted Libertarian Plan if you don’t want the full Trillion Dollar Deficit Platinum Membership. Its monopoly on compulsion means government’s every action involves the reduction of choices. You don’t have to force people to do something they freely choose to do.
Government sounds ominous and sinister when described this way, but we should remember that some restriction of choice is desirable. You cannot choose to murder your annoying neighbor, or drive at ninety miles per hour through a school zone. By ruling some actions out of bounds, and constructing a system of laws, society enhances the freedom of the law-abiding. Your daily menu of meaningful choices would be greatly reduced in a state of anarchy, where you were subject to the whims of gangs and warlords, and would be taking a grave risk by placing the slightest trust in neighbors and trading partners.
When government exceeds its just boundaries and begins exercising direct control over the economy, the choices available to its citizens inevitably suffer. High levels of taxation drain citizens of the single greatest instrument for implementing their will: money. Money is the force multiplier of free will. It provides you with a fantastic range of options. Money transforms the time you spend laboring at your job, and submitting to the needs and directives of others, into a resource that makes your leisure time vastly more productive and enjoyable. When government absorbs huge amounts of money from the population, it reduces their options for entertainment, travel, and countless other aspects of their lives.
Because money is so versatile, we experience the loss of choice through taxation in a gradual way, making it relatively painless. Payroll tax withholding is also a potent sedative. You barely feel the possibilities being drained away from you. The essential lesson of the Obama Administration is that this kind of painless energy drain is over. The ambitions of socialism can no longer be fulfilled by draining tax money from the middle class in mosquito bites, while the heavy-duty vampire attacks are reserved for the Evil Rich. ObamaCare is not an initiative to raise taxes and subsidize health care for the desperately poor. It’s all about commanding the economy and its citizens.
The cavalier disdain of Obama Democrats for the staggering cost of their health care plan is instructive. Fiscal solvency is not a matter of concern. Constitutional objections are literally laughed off. The goal is control, and that is the opposite of choice. Every aspect of the Democrat health care proposals has been about penalizing choices disagreeable to government, as in the concept of taxing “Cadillac” health care plans, or levying fines against people who don’t purchase government-mandated health insurance. Refusing to buy health care is a choice… and if ObamaCare passes, that choice will be ruled out of existence, converted into a crime comparable to exceeding the speed limit.
The defenders of government-run health insurance might say their plans will provide a smaller range of better choices to Americans. How would we ever know? Government is never held accountable for what lost treasures lie on the roads it forbids its citizens to take. It always insists on comparing its performance to phantasmal disaster scenarios of its own design, rather than the superior results that could have been achieved by free citizens without government interference. The State always measures its judgment in “jobs created or saved.” Only the happy recipients of “free” government money are counted when describing the “success” of the Cash for Clunkers program. Questions about what might have happened without the avalanche of government spending are not permitted.
The true value of choice can only be measured against the vast, chaotic, glorious sweep of possible futures that spill from the achievements, and mistakes, of free men and women… who have a collective gift for coming up with unexpected solutions, and meeting each others’ needs, in ways the architects of calcified government programs can never understand. Whatever the other merits of government-run health care, enhanced “choice” will not be among them, and anyone who tells you otherwise is playing you for a fool. If the statists get what they want, they’ll spend the rest of your life telling you not to worry your little head about all the choices that died under the weight of the Senate votes Harry Reid has been desperately scrambling to purchase with billions of your own dollars.