Ayn Rand Ridiculousness
Atlas Shrugged and Today's Healthcare Controversy
October 16, 2007
"While Atlas is 50 years old, it contains many timeless truths that are just as relevant today as they were when it was first published.
"Take the realm of health care. Most Republicans and Democrats are proposing forms of socialized medicine--under euphemisms like 'universal health care,' 'national health insurance,' etc. Everyone talks about how to protect patient's 'right' to health care--but no one talks about the rights of the doctors that create this value. This is a deadly evasion that one of the characters in Ayn Rand's novel, Dr. Thomas Hendricks, an eminent surgeon who quits the field, eloquently explains in describing his decision:
'Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything--except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the "welfare" of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only "to serve." . . . I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind--yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands?'
"Countless outstanding doctors have already fled the field because of the sort of government coercion Dr. Hendricks describes," said Dr. Brook. "Anyone who truly cares about the state of American medicine should learn from Ayn Rand’s character: we must liberate the providers of medical services and protect their right to practice medicine on their own terms and as they judge best."
And I match screed for screed with this:
Ah yes, those poor brain surgeons, “enslaved” -- “ruled by” those dang politicians. Under the Duff plan, the docs will be as independent as ever. They can practice or not practice as they see fit. The rich, may they always endure, will pay whatever the docs they think are best want to charge.
Universal Health Care isn’t going after the docs; it’s after the insurance companies. Just as many docs these days refuse to take Medicare patients, those as self-aggrandizing as Rand’s Dr. Thomas Hendricks would have the right to select “my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward.” They just wouldn’t take patients from the National Health Insurance roles.
The docs who chose their profession for their fascination with the science and their love of humanity would still make a lot of bucks … perhaps not as much as hedge fund whizzes, but enough to live mighty fine lives. Those who chose to pursue the difficult path of medicine strictly for the gold would also still be just fine.
The big deal is the elimination of for-profit health insurance companies – which make their money by denying coverage or refusing to take certain patients. Tens of thousands of their current employees could go to work for the government insurance plan and reclaim their souls by making honest judgments on whether to pay claims. The millionaire health insurance CEOs and other top management types would have to seek exploitive employment elsewhere. Horrors!
Most significantly, that alleged crowd of "outstanding" docs who have “fled the field” are those in fear of malpractice suits because of their actual incompetence or negligence. Perhaps malpractice insurance is a bit high, but who’s to blame? Is it the dreadful plaintiff bar or the strong cases they pursue? Cut off the wrong leg, mess ups the wrong brain part and whammo! docs are busted. The law protects the screwed. Maybe some juries are overzealous, but they are barely a balance to the mighty corporations doin’ the screwin’, if you know what I mean. What if you had a Medtronics defibrillator and you just found out the wires were bollixed? Would you sue? Not if “tort reform” had cut you off at the pass. So you would pay the extra 28 grand for a replacement… or just die. If you are a middle class wage earner… die it is.
Either we are “our brothers keepers” or we’re not. I think the Golden Rule is good policy, not just left wing politics. It’s good for business, for general pursuit of happiness and for world leadership. Ayan Rand-ness is “ugly Americanism.” It won’t wash in a world connected by the Internet to be selfish assholes. Er… self-centered libertarians… er, Ayn Randys.
And since that we know that there are about 90,000 cases of “hospital super bug” diseases year in the U.S. and that the hospitals are barely doing the minimum to stop it, what do you think about “the world’s best medical system” now? Should there be a governmental response? New standards, with teeth? Not if you are an Ayn Randian. Just let “the market” handle it. Heck, if you don’t like the current hospital system, just go find another one.
"When there is no policeman on the beat the greatest beneficiary is not the taxpayer who is relieved of the cost of maintaining the police officer, but the thief." David Cay Johnston.
I love this debate.