The anti-lib­erty lobby

Those who claim the right to oth­ers’ la­bor would fit in with slave­hold­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Richard W. Rahn

Why do so many pro­pose poli­cies that un­der­mine the never-ending quest to cre­ate a gov­ern­ment that en­sures lib­erty and pro­tects per­son and prop­erty, as en­vi­sioned by the Amer­i­can Founders? Is it out of a de­sire for po­lit­i­cal power or ig­no­rance of the con­se­quences of their pro­pos­als?

This past week­end, there was a seg­ment on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio, where the re­porter asked a num­ber of peo­ple who iden­ti­fied as Democrats what their party stood for. Sev­eral re­sponded, “It is a work in progress,” and oth­ers pre­sented a few, feel-good, non­op­er­a­tional gen­er­al­i­ties re­quir­ing more gov­ern­ment spend­ing — but all agreed that they must op­pose Pres­i­dent Trump, for what­ever rea­sons. No one men­tioned lib­erty. In fair­ness, if a group of Repub­li­cans had been asked what their party stood for — many of the an­swers would have been equally in­co­her­ent. Most Repub­li­cans used to stand for a more limited gov­ern­ment and lower taxes, yet many Repub­li­can sen­a­tors are now talk­ing about sup­port­ing a health care “re­place­ment” that would leave in place many of the Oba­macare taxes.

Sen. Bernie San­ders keeps re­peat­ing that “all Amer­i­cans have a right to health care” — nice ap­plause line, but what does it mean? There is no such right men­tioned in the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence or the Con­sti­tu­tion. Health care is not a free good — some­one has to pay for it. Ask your­self — who should pay for your health care? And in or­der to fo­cus your an­swer, name the spe­cific per­son, not a use­less gen­er­al­iza­tion — such as, the “rich.”

Do you have the obli­ga­tion to pay for some­one else’s health care? If so, how much and why?

There is an in­sa­tiable de­mand for health care, par­tic­u­larly as peo­ple get older. No so­ci­ety is rich enough to pay for all of the health care peo­ple want. Thus, health care must be ra­tioned in some man­ner — and the only choices are by price, by form of treat­ment, or by queu­ing. Those who say health care should be ra­tioned by price — as we do with restau­rant meals and most other things we buy — are ac­cused of be­ing mean to the poor. Those who say that ra­tioning should be done by form of treat­ment — e.g., be­yond some age, the tax­payer will not be re­quired to pay for hip re­place­ments or a heart trans­plant — will be ac­cused of be­ing un­fair to the older pop­u­la­tion or those in se­ri­ous need. If ra­tioning is done by queu­ing — that is, wait­ing in line for a cer­tain op­er­a­tion (be­cause of a scarcity of doc­tors with the nec­es­sary skill or scarcity of the re­quired fa­cil­i­ties) — it is claimed this is un­fair to those most in need.

Mr. San­ders and his sup­port­ers say we should in­crease the taxes on the “rich” to pay for more health care and all of the other pro­grams they think should be con­sid­ered rights. Who are these “rich,” and how did they be­come re­spon­si­ble for oth­ers’ health care? I have a good friend who made con­sid­er­able money in business on his own and is prob­a­bly worth some tens of mil­lions of dol­lars. A cou­ple of years ago, I re­ferred to him as be­ing “rich.” He strongly de­nied it and said that he was “com­fort­able” but to be “rich” you needed to have more than a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars.

In some places in Africa and Asia, there are still tens of mil­lions who sub­sist on less than two dol­lars a day. By their stan­dards, the av­er­age Amer­i­can on wel­fare — who has a color TV, dish­washer, air-con­di­tioned apart­ment and plenty of food — is “rich.” The point is that “rich” is a rel­a­tive term — and there will never be enough rich peo­ple to pay for all of the de­mands of those who think some are en­ti­tled to oth­ers’ in­come. The 13th Amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits “in­vol­un­tary servi­tude” and slav­ery. At what point does a tax on some­one’s la­bor — where the pro­ceeds of that tax are largely used to pro­vide in­come or ser­vices to oth­ers — con­sti­tute “in­vol­un­tary servi­tude”? At var­i­ous times, many coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, have tried to place very high tax rates on the “rich” or oth­ers — and it al­ways fails. The “rich” with­draw their tax­able la­bor by tak­ing more leisure time or move to the shadow econ­omy, or to where they are more lightly taxed. Those who think they have the right to the la­bor of those they re­vile, i.e., the “rich,” have the same men­tal­ity of the slave­holder who also thought he had the right to oth­ers’ la­bor.

Lib­erty is not only be­ing de­stroyed by tax­a­tion and reg­u­la­tion; it is also be­ing de­stroyed by for­mal and in­for­mal speech codes, par­tic­u­larly on col­lege cam­puses. Those who would seek to im­pose lim­i­ta­tions on the free ex­pres­sion of oth­ers are ac­tu­ally re­veal­ing they have much of the mind­set of King Ge­orge III of Eng­land at the time of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion — who also be­lieved that speech he did not like was im­per­mis­si­ble.

Un­for­tu­nately, name-call­ing by politi­cians and oth­ers who can­not think be­yond Stage I (that is, the con­se­quences of any pol­icy pro­posal) and ex­press se­ri­ous ideas in a way that res­onate with peo­ple is not new. Our fore­fa­thers did not re­volt against the Bri­tish to get “free” health care or cell phones, but to ob­tain lib­erty — which they be­lieved was worth fight­ing for.

Most Repub­li­cans used to stand for a more limited gov­ern­ment and lower taxes, yet many Repub­li­can sen­a­tors are now talk­ing about sup­port­ing a health care “re­place­ment” that would leave in place many of the Oba­macare taxes.

Richard W. Rahn is chair­man of Im­prob­a­ble Suc­cess Pro­duc­tions and on the board of the Amer­i­can Coun­cil for Cap­i­tal For­ma­tion.


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