Nannyism is bad, even when it’s good. Suppose, for example, that Obamacare — as finally enacted by Congress — miraculously obtains the following impossible results:
- No one who had insurance before Obamacare will find the cost of his insurance rising because (for example) the law stipulates that insurers must ignore pre-existing conditions and must cover certain previously uninsured conditions.
- Moreover, such mandates and other restrictions (e.g., caps on premiums) will not drive insurers out of business and necessitate the establishment of a government-run insurance program, one that would effectively control drug prices, drug research, and fees for various medical services. Nor would the government-run insurance program be subsidized by taxpayers.
- Everyone who is forced to buy insurance (or, alternatively, pay a tax penalty) will find that the additional cost is offset by insurance benefits.
- The costs of subsidizing those who cannot afford insurance will be defrayed by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” in Medicare, Medicaid, and various other government programs — “waste, fraud, and abuse” that has heretofore been tolerated because it is a natural concomitant of government programs and cannot be eliminated without eliminated the programs themselves.
- Insurance subsidies will not be extended to illegal aliens, whose addition to the rolls would burden taxpaying citizens, even though Democrats relish the thought of converting those illegal aliens to Democrat-voting citizens.
- The prices of various drugs and medical services will not change by more than they would have in the absence of Obamacare. That is to say, the extra demands generated by government mandates and the addition of some 47 million persons to the insurance rolls will somehow be met with additional supplies of drugs and medical services, despite the disincentives created by government control of drug prices and fees for various medical services (via the government-run insurance program).
- There will be no rationing of medical care by government or government-approved bodies — no “death panels” — even though government control of medicine will choke off the provision of non-approved drugs and medical services.
- The federal government’s budget deficits will not become larger than they would have been in the absence of Medicare. Nor will federal spending on Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security swell to well more than 50 percent of GDP in a few generations, thus — in combination with necessarily higher taxes and the usual accretion of regulations — giving government almost absolute control of the American economy.
- Because the federal government’s deficits will not rise any more than they would have in the absence of Obamacare, further tax hikes (above those already in store) will be unnecessary. It will especially unnecessary to further bleed “the rich,” whose incomes are an especially important source of funding for the business start-ups and capital formation that yield economic growth.
- The federal government’s almost-absolute control of the American economy, accompanied inevitably by various social dictates favoring certain groups, will not complete the work of undermining true social cohesion (which is attained through voluntary associations), personal responsibility, and entrepreneurial initiative.
- America, in short, will not be driven into the ranks of economically stagnant, morally bankrupt “social democracies” on the European model.
Given that those miracles occur — because Americans who care about such things have been promised (more or less) that they will occur — what could be wrong with Obamacare? Why are tens of thousands of Americans taking to the streets to protest it? Don’t they know a good deal when it’s offered to them?
Could it be that there are still millions of Americans who know instinctively and through observation (if not education) that those miracles will not occur? Could it be that those millions of Americans understand all too well that Obamacare will be just another well-intentioned program that paves our way to financial and bureaucratic hell?
Or could it be that millions of Americans value true liberty, the kind of liberty that is assured by the observance of social norms within a framework of government-protected negative rights? Is it possible that millions of Americans value true liberty and all it entails: the opportunity to make one’s own way in life, to make mistakes and learn from them, to choose from among alternative goods and services (including medical ones), and to choose even where the resulting choices may not be the “best” ones according to the calculations or preferences of academicians and bureaucrats?*
There’s the answer: Millions of Americans — even after decades of nannyism — simply want liberty because it is of value to them, in and of itself. (How unimaginably retro!) They prefer to decide for themselves what’s good for them, and are tired of having academicians, politicians, and bureaucrats make those decisions. In a phrase, they prefer liberty to nannyism.
The Perils of Europeanism
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
A New (Cold) Civil War or Secession?
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Fascism and the Future of America
Selection Bias and the Road to Serfdom
Beware of Libertarian Paternalists
Monopoly: Private Is Better than Public
The Price of Government
Why Is Entrepreneurship Declining?
The Commandeered Economy
Rationing and Health Care
Law and Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
Parsing Political Philosophy
* It is true, for example, that the portion of GDP going to medical goods and services has been rising, in part, because Americans want, and can afford, more and better medical goods and services. It is also true that prices of medical goods and services have risen, in part, because of government policies: the subsidization of consumption through Medicare, Medicaid, and the tax-favored treatment of employer-paid health insurance; the restriction of supply by the FDA and various licensing agencies, as discussed here, here, and here.)