Free Markets, Free People

Liberal Blogger: Slavery and the Health Care Crisis

If ever there was a text book example of a false premise wrapped in an absurd ‘moral’ analogy, Glenn Smith at Firedoglake provides it:

The gravity of America’s health care crisis is the moral equivalent of the 19th Century’s bloody conflict over slavery. This is not hyperbole, though the truth of it is often lost in abstract talk of insurance company profits, treatment costs, and other cold, inhuman analyses.

Today’s health system condemns 50 million Americans to ill health and death while guaranteeing health care to the economic privileged. It cannot stand.

About 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. That’s more than a third the number of lives lost in battle during each year of the four-year Civil War.

Heh … you have to love the attempt to wave off this hyperbole by simply declaring it isn’t hyperbole. But I would hope that it is evident to any rational thinker that the attempt here is to equate those who resist the intrusion of government into the realm of health to those who fought to retain the institution of slavery.

This is, instead, a plain old rant against capitalism and the free market cloaked in this absurd moral equivalence Smith invents. Seeing the liberal goal of government run health care being battered by real world realities, he’s decided he has to turbo-charge his argument for such change by defining down the horror of slavery in order to find a moral equivalence he can use as a bludgeon on the dissenters.

Don’t believe me? How about this:

Members of Congress without the moral clarity to recognize this equivalence will be condemned by history. Their spinelessness and lack of will when confronted with the power of the insurance industry is just as morally bankrupt as the American congressmen who bowed to Southern slave-owners.

The morally compromising efforts to pass health care reform that insurance companies might like is as insane as the compromises over slavery.

Or this:

The health insurance industry earns its profits from the denial of coverage and benefits. It’s not so different from the Southern plantation owners who earned their profit from slave labor. The latter had their economic justifications for their immorality. So do the insurance companies.

Of course, this sort of nonsensical thinking muddles important concepts that underlie the inalienable rights of man. Slavery was a violation of man’s right to his own life. Health care insurance is nothing more than a tool that helps pay for a person’s health care. Health care is not “unavailable” to those who don’t have it. More importantly, health care is not a right.

Whereas slave owners physically denied slaves the freedom to pursue their lives, insurance companies do not stop anyone from pursuing their own health care.

But – they have to pay for it because it entails the use of the time, abilities and services of others. That is what people like Smith really object too. Read the nonsense in the paragraph above and that’s clear. And, as many extremists like to do (like those who claim, for instance, that those who don’t agree on AGW are akin to Holocaust deniers), he chooses the most inflammatory but false “moral” example he can choose to demonize his opposition, counting on the dearth of critical thinking these days to win their point.

Unfortunately, it is more successful than I’d like to admit, which is why it is important to refute it immediately when it crops up.


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16 Responses to Liberal Blogger: Slavery and the Health Care Crisis

  • The health care debate must be taking an extreme turn against the proponents to see such an attack upon those who oppose it.  The more desperate the situation, the more strident becomes the voices from the left.  This is actually a good sign because if they are reduced to this level of debate (If you can call it that) then the voices of reason in DC must really be turning against the Administration.

  • Wow. Maybe the war on terrorism is slavery as well.

    The arrogance of the Left never ceases to amaze me.

  • 50 million uninsured and only 18,000 deaths due to being uninsured,  In 2004 there was 194000 deaths related to healthcare errors.  Sounds like it’s safer to be uninsured.

  • The CBO said that for $1.6 trillion we can have 43 million without health care.
    Besides there is plenty of real slavery in the world today that just seems to invoke a blind eye .. historical condemnation be damned.

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  • Wait, I thought the denial of gay marriage was the moral equivilant of slavery?

    I can’t keep up with these moral outrages

  • It’s about the money. According to a Kaiser Foundation post in 2007 using OECD date, the US spent $5400/capita covering those who sought care while all the other countries spent less to cover everybody. Finland, for example spent $2100.
    Why do we want to spend more under the current system to get less than other countries have? If something isn’t done about the excess cost growth in healthcare, by 2050 Medicare will need 18% of GDP to pay benefits. Recent average tax collections have been around 20% of GDP while the last 6 or so years it’s been just over 18%.
    More and higher taxes are coming, why not get value for the money? Nationalized health care in other countries yields overall health outcomes and life expectancies at least as good as or better than the US. Why do we overpay by so much?
    Hint: it ain’t slavery.

  • It seems to me that the better analogy would be with Tsarist Russia: the billions of people without decent health care who are DYING in the streets even as I type this are the equivalent of the mass of the Russian people who were groaning under the murderous autocracy of the Romanoffs and their courtiers.  Congress has a moral imperative to end this horrible system, to stage the health care version of the October Revolution.  “Peace!  Bread!  Low co-pays!”

    And we all know how well that turned out for the Russian people, don’t we?

    Come to think of it, Smith may be making a better analogy than he knows.  After all, <i>slavery</i> might have ended after the Civil War, but black Americans continued to live in the virtual chains of Jim Crow for another century, with their basic rights and dignities grossly proscribed by a “benevolent” government.  So, our benevolent government might “emmancipate” us from the “slavery” of the health care insurance industry, only to toss us into the Jim Crow system of government health care.

    “We shall overcome… sooooome daaaaayyyyyy!”

  • I love the people who says we shouldnt pay for heathcare, ask then if they think doctors should be paid for for their services, then ask them to try to explain those two opposing viewpoints.

  • I found the source for the  claim that 18,000 people die from lack of health care insurance.  It is a 2002 study from the Institute of Medicine.  However, there is no link to the actual study, only a press release.   But, if you follow through with Google searches, we find it was essentially a meta study (those are always suspect) based on two other studies.  One was from
    “1971–87 data on 25- to 74-year-olds from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (Franks, Clancy, and Gold 1993).”
    The second was:
    “The other used Current Population Survey (CPS) data on 25- to 64-year-olds from 1982 to 1986 (Sorlie et al 1994)”
    This study appears to be wlrse that useless for today’s disucussion.


    • Thanks for the links. I couldn’t get farther than the link to “The Body”. After reading the Urban Institute link I too came to the conclusion that the study was lacking in reliability.

  • First, if anyone who is uninsured needs medical attention, they can go to a hospital emergency room and receive treatment regardless of their ability to pay.  My (well insured) mother recently went to Arlington County Hospital with a heart valve problem and sat in the ER with a crowd of pregnant illegal aliens.

    Second, the Institute of Medicine survey found 40 million not 50 million had no health coverage.  The number of deaths is “estimated” and the ranges are pretty broad (e.g., 360 to 600 deaths due to undiagnosed breast cancer).  As Dr. John Von Neumann famously said, “There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

    Third, the 18,000 annual deaths include 30 million people with jobs who could buy insurance but chose not to do so.  Congress could mandate that everyone buy family health insurance and solve 85% of the problem without taking a penny from taxpayers. 

    Fourth, the War of the Rebellion (Civil War) began on February 7th, 1861 and ended on April 9th, 1865.  620,000 soldiers died in that conflict, more than the total of all of our wars before or since.  The number of civilian deaths is unknown. In the South, they were considerable as a result of the Union’s destruction of the food supply.  According to the 1860 census, America’s population was 31,443,321.  The lack of health insurance is hardly comparable to the great unpleasantness from 1861 to 1865.

  • Wouldn’t a stronger moral equivalence argument be that for the same reasons slavery is abhorrent – that it unjustly deprives individuals of liberty – so the proposed healthcare ‘reforms’ should also be viewed as abhorrent?

  • And those systems cover everyone… if by cover you mean 6 months for MRI’s, 3 years for hip replacements, etc. And that assumes they don’t decide you’re not feasible to treat at all…..

  • Congress could mandate that everyone buy family health insurance and solve 85% of the problem without taking a penny from taxpayers.
    Well, except the taxpayers forced to do that. And of course, what enumerated power allows that mandate is a tricky question.
    At least for those of us who like to pretend that enumeration of powers means anything at all…

    But my question is, I suppose, why firedoglake posts are even worth mentioning? As near as I can tell, nothing not-barking-insane ever comes from that sludge-pit anyway. Does someone actually take them seriously as a font of potential policies, thus making their mouth-noises important?

  • Today’s health system condemns 50 million Americans to ill health and death
    I have yet to see a health system that will keep everyone alive.