Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where Libertarians And Liberals Can Agree

Glenn Greenwald, in a post on the progressive divide in the health care debate comments on the similarities of outrage from the right and left:

But the objections over the mandate are largely identical -- it's a coerced gift to the private health insurance industry that underwrites the Democratic Party. The same was true over opposition to the bailout, objections to lobbying influence over Washington, and most of all, the growing anger that Washington serves the interests of financial elites at the expense of the working class.

Whether you call it "a government takeover of the private sector" or a "private sector takeover of government," it's the same thing: a merger of government power and corporate interests which benefits both of the merged entities (the party in power and the corporations) at everyone else's expense. Growing anger over that is rooted far more in an insider/outsider dichotomy over who controls Washington than it is in the standard conservative/liberal ideological splits from the 1990s.

And from earlier in the same piece, Greenwald on corporatism:

The health care bill is one of the most flagrant advancements of this corporatism yet, as it bizarrely forces millions of people to buy extremely inadequate products from the private health insurance industry -- regardless of whether they want it or, worse, whether they can afford it (even with some subsidies). In other words, it uses the power of government, the force of law, to give the greatest gift imaginable to this industry -- tens of millions of coerced customers, many of whom will be truly burdened by having to turn their money over to these corporations -- and is thus a truly extreme advancement of this corporatist model.

Greenwald, the liberal, can sound just positively libertarian at times, can't he? The debate between progressives boils down to those who accept corporate power to further progressive goals and those who who do not. Once again, allow me to present the idea of liberaltarianism. Libertarian and market-based proposals could improve competition and lower prices. Combine this was a voucher program that gives options to the millions who are currently uninsured and you have a market meets social welfare solution that forces the entirety of the health industry to meet the needs of consumers rather the corporate health interests as they exist today.

Of course, one of the biggest problems of health reform, whether you're a free marketer or a single payer supporter, is the general resistance of the public to change. For all our systems problems, millions upon millions of Americans are happy with their health insurance- They're happy that it's provided by their employers at seemingly no cost (or little cost) and they're happy they don't have to worry about medical bills. In a way, you could say that for many Americans the system we have is a form of corporate socialism, where employees are shielded from costs but avoid the specter of government rationing. The idea that individuals should be shielded from health care costs rather than make these financial decisions for ourselves is ingrained in our pysche, cutting across the political spectrum. It's why it's difficult to argue with the notion held by many on the left that it's morally wrong for individuals to be responsible for their own health care costs. Seeing as it's the system we have now, you're got an uphill battle if you're asking people to imagine the world so differently.

But just listen to the unhappiness that's coming from some segments of the left. As Greenwald says, whether you call it a government takeover of the private sector, or a private sector takeover of the government, you're really talking about the same thing.


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