The Reganism of the 1980′s saw a political turn to the right. Economist Milton Friedman endorsed this change in the 1980′s with the famous TV series “Free to Choose.” Paul Krugman, in his editorial in the New York Times on Friday, argued that “Free to Choose” is really a platitude for “Free to Die.” He referred to Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.” The crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
“Freedom” and “choice” are just words that can easily be manipulated into political jargon by those who may not have the voters’ best interest at heart. Choice is an interesting concept. Yes, there is always a choice. If a robber holds a person at gunpoint, that victim has the choice not to hand over their money and die, but that is not a choice a typical rational person would choose.
Most people do not have the privilege of choice. With regard to health care, very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.
Sometimes freedom and choice are, in fact, mutually exclusive. We live in a free country. In my opinion, to be free is to be able to reach one’s potential without having to worry about basic survival entities such as food and healthcare.
(Photo by seiuhealthcare775nw under a Creative Commons license)