Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Health Reform Shows The Real Need For Liberaltarianism

I've done plenty in this blog on health care and on the liberaltarian project (the attempted meeting of the minds between liberals and libertarians) and as major health care reform grows seemingly closer and closer, I can't help but think that a real opportunity has been missed to further an ideological relationship or at the very least, further a more open dialog between liberals and libertarians.

I recently read a comment on a libertarian blog that liberals don't understand that libertarians do in fact care about the poor and downtrodden, but simply don't believe in using government as a mechanism for charity. That statement is true to an extent, but in some ways, such a draw-a-line-the-sand type arguments have the negative effect of of leaving free markets and individual choice on the sidelines. Libertarian purists can argue over the outer limits of the role of government, but the fact of the matter is that a majority of Americans accept the social welfare role of government in some form or another. To be influential in a major policy debate like the one on health care you can't be in the business of openly advocating the abolition of the social safety net.

What does this mean for health care? Most importantly, it means coming up with market-based approaches to deal with the litany of complaints about our health care system. Reducing health care costs? That's an easy one for those of us advocating market oriented reforms. The simplest way to reduce costs is cut out the middle men, something none of the reforms on the table actually do. Coverage for the uninsured? Let's cover them, but let's do it in a fair and economical way. Why not health care vouchers, where people are able to make their own choices about costs. This is essentially what we have with the food stamp program, so why not do the same for health care?

Mandates, public options, and buy-ins are all bad ideas, but they're particularly bad in that they don't directly address the real concerns that have been raised. Republicans and prominent members of the conservative opposition haven't addressed this, choosing instead to focus solely on opposition. It's a mistake, because 1- Our health care system is a mess already, in a large part because of government and 2- Even if you can quibble about the numbers of uninsured, it does suck that there are people out there who are priced out of an already bloated health care system.

As refreshing as some aspects of the tea party movement have been, the truth is that it's fallen short in the practical idea department. Saying no to more lousy big government is all well and good, but what can we do about the lousy big government we've already got? That's the tough question and that's where this whole notion of liberaltarianism comes in to play. Make the focus on markets, on individuals, and on lessening regulatory burdens and the shrinking of government will follow.


Anonymous rose said...

If you polled liberals asking them what the single biggest cause of the problems with health care in America is, I'm certain they would overwhelmingly choose corporate greed. And for most of them, they would strongly believe that. It's a non-negotiable faith.

I realize many liberal economists have some more substantive beliefs, but if 80% of liberal voters think that profit motive is the problem, then that's a non-starter for any kind of compromise between liberals and libertarians. I don't see any way around it.

12:55 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

Well, there are some liberals out there who have some understanding of markets and have some faith in the profit motive and the question is, how many? It's a potential political movement if you can siphon enough liberals and conservatives into that way of thinking.

4:16 PM  

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