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Don Ruzicka: Health care's journey from free market to socialism

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' healthcare bill which represents the party's long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell leaves the chamber after announcing the release of the Republicans' healthcare bill which represents the party's long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

In order to understand this issue, it is critical to understand the social and political forces that are in play and to know the facts surrounding the journey that began in 1965. We cannot simply ignore the reality of what has happened over the last half century and have any hope of finding a way back to a health care system that will work for everyone. Almost no one currently involved in this discussion remembers or, in many cases, was even alive when free-market health care actually existed and was operating smoothly at low cost in this country. We seem to have forgotten that the delivery of health care and the offering of health insurance to indemnify against the risk of incurring medical expenses are free enterprise, for-profit businesses, and not government agencies or charitable organizations.

There has been a gradual transformation from an attitude or philosophy of self-reliance and personal responsibility to one of entitlement and reliance on whatever government is willing to provide for political purposes. Another related discussion on what government is constitutionally authorized and economically capable of doing is for another day. We are constantly admonished about our collective need to have compassion and charity for the less fortunate among us. We are shamed into accepting government solutions to provide affordable, quality health care because, as a society, we are failing to make sure “there are no poor among us.”

This, of course, is nonsense. It is well documented the American people are the most charitable on earth. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1951 edition, defines charity thus: 1. Divine love for man; Act of loving all men as brothers because they are sons of God. 2. Good will to the poor and the suffering; Almsgiving (anything given gratuitously to relieve the poor), etc. I used this dictionary because it pre-dates the plague of political correctness. Charity is an individual virtue, and I can find no example where government fits into any honest definition of charity. Government “charity” is more accurately described as coercing involuntary contributions from some to distribute to others. This is simply redistribution of wealth through taxation. The irony is that government has succeeded only in creating more poor among us.

Secondly, a truly free society involves risk and inevitably rewards for those who take personal responsibility to become educated and then use the opportunities and resources of a free enterprise system to improve their economic position. In so doing, they also create economic opportunity for others. The government’s only responsibility is to ensure a level playing field and to protect against unfair and illegal business practices, not to guarantee success. Inevitably, there will be those who, for whatever personal or societal reasons, do not fare as well and suffer poor economic results. Freedom is hard work that offers unlimited rewards along with the risk of failure. Failure is simply one milestone on everyone’s road to success. Ask anyone who has succeeded at anything.

A look at socialism will explain why we are struggling with the current system. Socialism, as defined by that same dictionary: “A political and economic theory of social organization based on collective or governmental ownership/control, and democratic management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods.” Socialism is a creeping cancer that incrementally contaminates the body of our free-market system, veiled in charity and directly conflicting with free enterprise. Ludwig von Mises, a world-renowned conservative economist, author of the Austrian System of Economics, and founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Economics, said, “There is no third system between a market economy and socialism. Mankind has to choose between those two systems … unless chaos is considered an alternative.”

This is the chaotic canvas that our current health care system is painted on.

Don Ruzicka has 43 years experience as an insurance agent/independent broker and is a pioneer in health insurance medical savings accounts and free-market health plan designs.