Let us not waste another breath responding to the mock outrage with which progressives react to accusations such as Sarah Palin’s “death panel” remark. Whether ObamaCare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board should correctly be described as a “death panel” or a “cost-reduction system” is actually a stale semantics debate, given that when they are not acting outraged, leftists explain their real intentions quite clearly. Cutting to the chase, the proper question to ask is, “Why are progressives willing to condemn the old and infirm to death?”
A man drives up and down the highway looking for hitchhikers. Whenever he finds one, he stops to pick him up. He kindly warns the hitchhiker about the dangers of hitchhiking, and explains that he always stops for hitchhikers because he does not feel comfortable leaving them at the mercy of some strange driver. Then, once he has the hitchhiker securely in his car, he kills him.
Do we describe this driver as a Good, albeit confused, Samaritan trying to protect hitchhikers from the dangers of the highway?
Okay, that one is too easy. Let us suppose that instead of a single crazed killer, there is an entire club – The Friends of Hitchhikers Society – that has as its mission the total monopolization of the hitchhiker pick-up industry, in the name of protecting hitchhikers from the dangers of life on the highway. Up and down the roads they roam, thousands of them, trying to get to all the available hitchhikers before any non-Society member picks them up. And they do not kill all of them. Sometimes they faithfully drive the hitchhiker directly to his destination. Other times they drive him where he wants to go, though only after a circuitous, time-wasting trip.
When they are low on fuel, however, and fear they will not be able to reach the desired destination, they just kill the hitchhiker – after all, they would not want him back out on the highway, endangered by all those unreliable, selfish drivers.
This group could not simply be described as homicidal maniacs. They would have to be regarded as something far more complex, and in a way more sinister. Operating in accordance with a perverse logic of their own, and seeking to sustain their preferred “highway safety” conditions through a cryptic system of rules which they perceive as somehow “just,” “objective” and “fair,” they would have to be seen as a kind of death cult.
What does this nightmare scenario have to do with government-controlled healthcare? Consider the following remarks from Taro Aso, the deputy prime minister in Japan’s new socialist government, made during a government session on social security reform:
Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government…. The problem won’t be solved unless you let them hurry up and die.
A few years ago, when Aso was Japan’s prime minister, he spoke similarly:
I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor…. Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I’m paying more in taxes.
In the U.S., former labor secretary Robert Reich offered an audience of cheering young people the following example of what an “honest” presidential candidate would say about health care:
We’re going to have to, if you’re very old, we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you maybe going for another couple of months. It’s too expensive…so we’re going to let you die.
And of course the more prominent apostles of the death cult’s moral code are merely reflecting the white papers and scholarly assessments of the “experts,” as exemplified by Michael Lind’s eminently “moderate” critique of the issue of health care rationing at Salon, back in October 2012. The talk among some Obama administration officials, such as “car czar” Steven Rattner in a New York Times op-ed, about the need to ration care for the weak and old, is insufficient, argues Lind. (Both Rattner and Lind are members of the leftist New America Foundation.) Rather, Lind suggests that while rationing “may be defended in some cases” – Rattner’s op-ed begins, “We need death panels” – the most comprehensive solution is for government to set and control all prices for healthcare throughout the public and private spheres, as has been “tried and tested” in “all other advanced countries.”
Thus, rationing care is just one very sensible part of a multifaceted solution; the value of denying basic property rights and voluntarism, however, must not be neglected. See how reasonable all of this can be made to sound, if only one ignores the logical perversity at the center of it?
As that perversity is so pervasive in today’s public discourse on healthcare, perhaps it has become somewhat obscure. Let us state it clearly: the advocates of government-controlled healthcare wish to create a legal monopoly on the provision of treatment to the sick, and then to deny treatment to some on the grounds that “we” cannot afford to offer treatment to everyone.
When Robert Reich says “we’re not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life,” he is beginning from the assumption that “we” – i.e., the government – are the only possible or legitimate source of “that technology and those drugs.”
When Taro Aso, trying to shame the elderly citizens of his highly honor-based society, says “I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that [treatment] was all being paid for by the government,” he is beginning from the assumption that all treatment will and must be provided by the state.
If you or I had offered to help someone get medical treatment, and then found that some of the costs were beyond our means, we would say, “I’m sorry, I can’t afford this; you’ll have to find other means of providing for your needs. I dearly hope you succeed.”
When progressives believe that some medical treatment is beyond their (i.e., the state’s) means, they say, “Sorry, you have to die.”
Beginning from an inhuman premise – namely that no individual has a right to self-preservation, but rather is to be preserved entirely at the discretion of the state – they follow a train of reasoning that seems quite natural to them, and which leads to a conclusion that is entirely logical, if you accept their initial premise.
By creating an ever-thickening web of “social programs” designed to supplant self-reliance and familial responsibility in the minds and hearts of the people, the progressives gradually engender the habitual, almost instinctive acceptance of the ultimate implication of dependence, namely that the lord who giveth may also taketh away.
If the “we” in Robert Reich’s “honest” presidential speech referred to “we, your children” – as in “It’s too expensive; we’re going to let you die” – everyone would recognize the disgusting brutality of the sentiment and the speaker. And if Taro Aso were speaking to his own father, saying, “You should wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that your treatment is being paid for by your son,” we would regard him as a repulsive character of the first order.
The reason these men and others of their ilk think they can get away with passing such lunatic rants off as “hard truth” is that they believe their years of propaganda have inured the broad public to their unstated premise that in the case of healthcare, “we” can only mean the state. As soon as you deny their premise, their reasoning collapses – as does their mask of “objectivity.”
If a government healthcare “board” is unable or unwilling to provide life-preserving treatment to patients judged to be a drain on the socialized system, then these patients must, in the name of the right to life, be allowed to pursue treatment by other means. And this, in turn, means that such “other means” must not be outlawed or restricted in such a manner as to prevent patients from pursuing them freely. In short, the need for rationing (i.e., rationing the days remaining to human beings), cost-reducing “advisory boards,” or death panels arises only when government has effectively established a monopoly in the healthcare market.
This brings us back to my imaginary Friends of Hitchhikers Society. Like the progressive advocates of government-controlled healthcare, they are seeking to monopolize all access to a service, and then to use that monopoly as authority to decide which of their patrons will be allowed to live, and which forced to die. The difference, of course, is that the Friends of Hitchhikers cannot entirely prevent their potential victims from taking rides from other drivers, or prevent other drivers from picking up hitchhikers. In other words, they cannot establish a true monopoly.
Only the state can do that. And having done so, it becomes increasingly bold in taking liberties with its monopolistic control of medical treatment. Just look at the development of “end of life care” throughout the socialized medical world. (I have explained this here.)
Socialized medicine, the Mount Olympus of progressivism, does not merely run the risk of leading to “death panels.” Death panels are, in a sense, its raison d'être – specifically in the sense of being the perfect fulfillment of the perverse logic flowing from its initial, anti-human premise.
Progressivism is a death cult.
(This article appeared originally at American Thinker.)
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