I was recently corresponding via e-mail with a good friend of mine, David Mills, about Market Anarchy. For those of you who don't know, David Mills is the author of the #1 best-selling atheist book in the world: Atheist Universe.
David Mills, like 99.999% of all Americans (including, until recently, myself), was for the most part only aware of left, right, and center as the main political ideologies. As an atheist, David rejected the religious right and considered himself a liberal democrat. This political alignment is very common among American atheists, and even I was a self-professed liberal for a number of years. In fact, I've only been a Market Anarchist for less than a year!
Well, one thing led to another, and I am now going to post our e-mail correspondence, slightly edited for the sake of clarity and brevity.
First off, David states that he believes in socialized medical care, in reference to some off-the-air discussions we had during a recent Hellbound Alleee Radio Show recording:
Until I started reading your blog, I was among those who knew absolutely nothing about anarchism -- and I do mean absolutely nothing. I thought anarchists simply like to throw rocks through windows. I do think that anarchism is indeed more misunderstood than atheism. There is definitely a powerful need for a popularly written book explaining and endorsing Anarchism.
Off the air, I made a comment to you that I considered myself a socialist. What I meant was that I believe the United States must do something about the millions of people with no health insurance. Conservatives always call this "socialized medicine," so that's why I used the term. My wife owns a group health insurance company, so socialized medicine in the United States would totally put her out of business. So I have mixed emotions about a lot of these issues.
Of course, David's mention of socialized health care got me to write an incredibly long reply. I will now post my reply to David, edited a bit to reduce it's long windedness:
It is not a surprise to me that until recently you knew absolutely nothing about anarchy. Until about a year ago, I too knew nothing (absolutely nothing) about anarchy. I, too, thought that anarchists were just violent radicals that wanted chaos and the destruction of society.
It is rather strange to think that there is a worldview (anarchy) that is even MORE misunderstood than atheism! But it is true. I sometimes reflect on, and am amused by, the realization that I, through honest inquiry and independent analysis of the "facts" as I see them, ended up choosing the most extreme or misunderstood religious and political worldviews possible!
I had no idea that your wife owns a group health insurance company. But guess what? I actually work for a Group Dental HMO insurance company! What a small world this is. Perhaps you’ve heard of us... I work for a company named "Guardian".
While I certainly understand and appreciate your concern for people, and your desire to see that they get proper access to medical care, being a market anarchist, I must say that I do not believe a socialized system of healthcare is the answer. It may seem strange to you to hear (or rather read) this, but I believe that the answer to the problems in America's health care system can only be answered by a complete deregulation of the insurance and medical industries, as well as a complete dismantling of the welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid systems.
I know that may sound crazy to you, but I sincerely believe that this is the superior answer. Allow me to compare Canada's socialized healthcare with America’s relatively free-market healthcare:
In Canada it is illegal to operate a private insurance company or healthcare practice. No Canadian pays for any medical service when they have the service performed. Instead they all pay into a national, socialized healthcare system based on taxes. Canadians pay more than half of their income to the government, and a large chunk of that goes to their nationalized healthcare system.
Rich Canadians come to America to have their medical services performed. What that means is that when a Canadian can afford it, they sidestep their "free" tax-funded government healthcare system and pay extra to have services performed in America. In essence, they are paying for the service twice: once through taxes, and once through their wallets.
The reason that rich Canadians go to the US to have services performed is because the US system provides a superior quality of care, both in services rendered and waiting time for those services. These strengths of the US healthcare system are a direct result of its (relatively, compared to Canada) free-market framework.
I am now going to use an analogy to help illustrate why a free market with private companies will outperform a monopolistic tax-based system in any given market. My personal analogy of choice is the soft-drink industry:
Imagine for a moment that all private soda manufacturing in the United States was made illegal and all carbonated drinks were to be manufactured and distributed solely by the US government. Furthermore, the US government would promise that when you go to pick up your soft drinks at the distribution center, you don't pay a dime. Instead, you were taxed beforehand for the soda based on the amount of money you make. The government would only produce flavors of soda that get a 50% +1 vote in a "Soda Election".
Would you rather have a government socialized soda-production system, or would you rather have privatized competing manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi? Which system do you think would produce a better tasting product, with better availability, at a cheaper price? This analogy could be applied to any industry, from gasoline to automobiles to clothing, and of course the healthcare industry.
Is it everyone’s right to have a soda? Is it everyone’s right to have medical insurance? Is it everyone’s right to have an automobile?
Or, rather, is it everyone’s right to be free to obtain soda if they choose? Rather, is it everyone’s right to obtain medical insurance if they choose? Rather, is it everyone’s right to obtain an automobile if they choose?
Only recently did I learn the distinction between positive and negative rights. A negative right says "I should be free to obtain insurance if I desire," while a positive right says "I should be given insurance." The difference may seem small or subtle, but it is all the difference in the world between freedom and slavery.
David, I happen to have no medical insurance, and I want it that way. Strangely enough, I work for the Dental portion of an insurance company that provides all kinds of coverages, including medical, and I deliberately chose to not have medical coverage. During my time at being uninsured, I once became sick (with strep throat) and required emergency care. And you know what? I am still glad that I had no medical insurance during that emergency. The amount of money I paid in cash for my treatment pales in comparison to the amount of premium I would have paid had I been insured for the past few years.
The reason I can do this is because I am young and relatively low risk. Obviously, as I grow older and (hopefully, eventually) start a family, I will acquire health insurance for me and my family.
But here is my point: The "choice" of the consumer is paramount. The "consent" of the consumer is paramount. I should not be forced to pay taxes for health insurance any more than I should be forced to pay taxes for government soda pop.
I want to reiterate that I certainly sympathize with your desire to see people have access to the medical care that they need, just like I sympathize with the desire to have access to quality carbonated beverages. But I do not sympathize with the desire to forcibly provide financial coverage to everyone regardless of whether they want it or not, just like I do not sympathize with anyone’s desire to force everyone to pay for government produced soda.
So David, when you think of a national socialized medical system, think about me, and my desire to not have medical coverage at my current age and health. Yes of course, being uninsured is a bit of a risk, even for a single 27-year-old American male like myself. But shouldn't I be free to choose to take the risks I want? Shouldn’t I be able to say "no, I would rather keep those insurance premiums to myself and do what I want with them, and if I have a medical emergency, I will pay for it myself or get a loan or ask family members for help"?
In other words David, don't you think that those who do not desire insurance coverage should not be forced to purchase it, just like those who do not drink soda should not be (and are not) forced to purchase it?
Like you David, I was a liberal for quite a few years. For most of my life, the only choices I was aware of were left, right, and center. When I was first introduced to market anarchy last year, I was very resistant. Although I was definitely a supporter of capitalism and a free economic market of exchange, I also believed that taxes were good and that a government of some kind was necessary.
It took me nine months of intellectual wrestling inside my head to have a "breakthrough" of sorts and realize that the "burden of proof" that we so heavily rely on in atheism also applies to any positive claim, including the claim of the necessity of government. It is the statist, or the supporter of government, who must meet the burden of proof to prove that government is indeed necessary.
But the statist cannot meet that burden. A government is not necessary for people to obtain soda pop, nor is a government necessary to provide medical services (remember how Canada's rich pay twice just to have medical services performed in American hospitals?), nor is a government necessary to provide law and order. Without getting too deep in the "law and order" claim I just made, I would like to say that it is a very popular practice nowadays for private parties with disputes to go through private arbitration rather than a state or federal court, as it is less costly, less time consuming, and produces judgments that are very fair. In fact, private arbitration is flourishing in America today, and many - if not most - contracts that are agreed upon by privately dealing entities include private arbitration clauses.
People should always be 1) free to choose what services and goods they will purchase, and 2) free to start providing any given good or service they want. This includes medicine, soda, laws, security, and leadership, and everything else you can think of.
The Government removes freedom of choice from the consumer. The Government also removes freedom for a person to provide services and goods as they see fit. With a socialized nationalized healthcare system, you only have one monopolistic service provider (the government), and you cannot purchase a competing product if you are dissatisfied with the service. You cannot even choose to not purchase the government’s product at all! They force you to buy their product, and the 50% +1 of customers who disagree with you will force their idea of what the product should be down your throat.
After David read my e-mail, he sent me this reply:
If you haven't done so already, I do hope you'll post on your blog the message you sent to me below. It was great!!! I learned more about anarchist theory and practice in the last ten minutes than I've learned in the last 47 years. I was especially fascinated by your relevant points because, as you know, my wife owns a group health insurance business (http://www.aba1.net).
She of course is completely against socialized medicine since it would absolutely put her out of business. I found all the points you made incontrovertible. The freedom of choice issue was, to me, the most convincing of all. I also was stunned to realize that you could come out financially ahead, without insurance, even if you suffered some medical expenses during that time period. This is a subject you should write more about and share with me -- and others as well.
Thanks again for the fabulous message,
It looks like I am now both an atheist and a Market Anarchist evangelical.