Andy Kreig | Indy Week

Andy Kreig 
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Re: “Obamacare: a symptom, not the disease

To paraphrase the Bible, by observing the fruits of something we can know the quality, and correctness, of the “soil” from which those fruits grew (Matthew 7:16-20) . In this case the “something” in question is ideas, and Bob Geary provides us with some strange fruit indeed in his opinion column “Obamacare a symptom, not a disease”. The roots of Mr. Geary’s column seem to be made up of equal parts loose association (to put it mildly), a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of the political system the founders created, and a blithe dismissal of the consequences of abandoning that system, which is what Mr. Geary seems to want.

Mr. Geary tells us that in considering Obamacare that also observing the wealth and slave ownership of the founders are in order. How so exactly? How these two issues are connected is not really explained but just used as jumping off point for another tiresome moral denunciation of 18th century men that had to make very important decisions for a new nation, by a 21st century man who enjoys the benefits of the political system they created. Moreover, without all the Bob Gearys of the world around to remind us, ad nauseam, that the founders owned salves I suppose we wouldn’t know anything about them since that fact is clearly the most significant thing about them and is the most useful bit of information we can glean from their life and thought, but I digress.

Did you know that President Kennedy and Dr. King cheated on their wives, or that Malcolm X was once a pimp and a small time crook? But again I digress.

Mr. Geary’s misrepresentation of history begins with “ the government these men devised is replete with "checks and balances" designed to deter democracy—rule by the majority—while protecting the rich and their special interests. Slave owners were the ultimate special interest.” This is only partly right and Mr. Geary’s use of quotation marks around “checks and balances” (indicating, I assume, his cynical contempt of the concept) says volumes. The government the founders established did in fact deter democracy and this is a good thing because they recognized that the pure democracy that Mr. Geary so pines for would constitute a majoritarian mob rule where the rights and liberties of the minority would constantly be under threat by the majority.

The concepts of majority and minority don’t just refer to demographics but also to whatever group holds political and social power at a given time. An example of this type of democracy, without the checks and balances, or the rule of law, that Jefferson, Madison, and the other slave owning founders constructed, is horribly illustrated in the numerous pictures, taken in the early 20th century, of African American men hanging by their necks at the hands of an angry white mob that decided what they apparently felt was in the public’s interest and successfully “reversed the founders order.” The bloody excesses of the French and Russian Revolutions also come to mind and an examination of that history will show that those upheavals did not result in any marked improvement in the wealth and healthcare of the poor in those nations.

Given Mr. Geary’s skewed ideas of good government it comes as no surprise that the second half of his article is devoted to justifying and defending government coercion. The founders owned slaves, but thankfully they did not make laws forcing others to buy them out of a hubristic sense of promoting the “public good.” Using Mr. Geary’s reasoning, such a law would have certainly redressed the wealth imbalance between slave owners and non-slave owners (which included free blacks). Then again, it’s hard to see how such a law would have increased the wealth of poor and working class 18th century Americans, given that a slave was not really “free” labor. Slaves cost money in food, clothes, and shelter, so while such a law would have been an impressive symbol of economic egalitarianism the reality would have been that people all ready struggling would have had a further financial strain put on them while also perpetuating an immoral and economically toxic institution.

This is exactly the problem with Obamacare, or its official Orwellian double speak name “The Affordable Care Act”. There is a very rational reason why many young people do not purchase health care. They’re young. This means that they are usually pretty healthy and don’t have a lot of money and now they will have even less. It’s hard to understand how the young or poor will be help by being forced to pay for something that they otherwise would not, or could not, have purchased. Moreover, it’s unclear how Obamacare will remedy any of the current problems that Mr. Geary cites about the current state of health care in America.

Saying that “All Obamacare does is insist that insurers accept your money even if you have a pre- existing condition.” is like saying that “all” a nuclear bomb does is destroy a city’s buildings when detonated over it. We have yet to see all of the pernicious economic and social effects of this sweeping set of regulations. Furthermore, it is unclear how shifting the healthcare monopoly from one set of special interests (insurance companies) to another (the government) will result in any net improvement in the affordability or quality of healthcare. Economic activity does not operate in a frictionless vacuum and the costs imposed on insurance companies and medical providers will be paid for in the form of decreased, or lower quality, services, or no service at all as many companies and providers will decide to leave the business altogether. Like in the hypothetical slavery example above, a bad situation will be made worse.

The principles formulated by the founders were not crafted into the Declaration and the Constitution so that rich people would be left alone, they were promulgated to make sure that everyone would be unmolested by government power. The only “special interest” protected in those documents is the individual. Those good ideas have provided the fertile soil for so much positive change since then and Obamacare’s strange fruit would represent a step backward.

Posted by Andy Kreig on 11/24/2013 at 11:15 AM

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