August 05, 2009

Libertarian Universal Healthcare?

I am, primarily, a Libertarian when it comes to my view of the limits imposed on the government by the Constitution. Now, I'm not quite so hardcore as some of my brethren who suggest that any power not expressly given to the government is automatically forbidden to it, but I'm also not really gleeful about the thought that the US Government spent just short of $3 trillion in FY 08, which, all told, amounts to roughly 20% of the US GDP.

Here's the problem, the status quo, for any number of reasons, simply doesn't address the health-care needs of the citizens of the US. Your average libertarian will point out that it isn't the job of the government as enumerated in the US Constitution to look after the health of its citizenry... but the counterpoint that an unhealthy citizenry leads to an unhealthy country and whatnot isn't really something that can be overlooked. Also, the fact that between entitlement programs and private expenditures, is currently at 17% of the GDP and is projected by some to rise to 20% means that it's something that the government ought to be cognizant of, at the very least.

Leaving the role of government aside, I'm always very suspicious of anything whose cost is growing at an disproportionate rate. For instance, the cost of education grows at a rate much steeper than inflation for reasons that nobody seems able to adequately explain other than by noting that external financing for education is on the decline. Likewise, I'm very suspicious that the cost of healthcare is rising at a rate disproportionate to the rate of inflation... though anecdotally, I'm told that the age distribution in the US is trending towards the older end of the bell-curve, and I suppose that makes some sort of sense up to a point.

In the end, it seems to me that the arguments presented by those who want the government to fix this problem is that any problem of the scale of double-digit percentage of the GDP needs to have some sort of government involvement. Whether that's the case or not is really a moot point, especially at this point with the extent to which the government already has its nose in this between hospital regulations, the FDA, Medicare/Medicaid and the VA medical system.

So since we already have the government inextricably involved in US healthcare, what is a Libertarian to do? Pragmatically speaking, I have to point out that there are certain functions in this system that I don't trust the private sector with. For instance, as poorly as the FDA handles the drug part of its assignment, given the impact of the relatively few bad drugs that have gotten through the system, I'm not sure anyone really wants to let the private sector handle drug screening. And much as Libertarians love to hearken back to the glorious days where there were no income taxes, I'm pretty sure nobody wants to return to the days before the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. And if you do, I'll bring you some radioactive soda, blindness-inducing makeup and a miracle diabetes cure that just might kill you to help you think it over.

In essence, my argument tends to run something to the nature of the fact that one can't trust big business any more than one can trust big government, and it's generally helpful to have them keeping an eye on one another. I'm really not sure how to make this dovetail with a Libertarian viewpoint simply because most Libertarians I know are so unswervingly fixated on the problems with a large government that they're really not providing me with realistic solutions to the actual problems that government currently addresses. At least, that's my thinking.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at August 5, 2009 02:28 AM | TrackBack