I was asked this question during a discussion on healthcare. My position of course, is that like all goods and property in any economy, healthcare is a commodity not a right. The questioner was a mixed-economy type (despite initially seeming to agree in principle to property rights.)
Despite repeating that private healthcare “doesn’t work” (even though the closest we’ve come is the USA where the level, quality, technology, price, and waiting lists are the best in the world (although this will change thanks to Obama), and ignoring the fact that socialised medicine has disastrously failed in every country it’s employed, e.g. the NHS), I suspect he was becoming exasperated by my rational clear objective logic and the inability to resolve these issues to their natural conclusion: does a man have a right to his own property or not? What level of responsibility to we have to other people, and why?
Unfortunately, many who support a mixed-economy (or full blown socialism) – try to justify it with emergency life-boat dilemmas such as “what if a young girl needs your money to treat leukaemia?” or “who picks you up from the roadside if there are no NHS ambulances?” I believe the tendency to think of these specific hypothetical extreme scenarios is an example of how people are rarely used to thinking in terms of principles: moral truths that are the basis for all other truths, and incidentally, all political systems.
So that latter question was thrown at me and I didn’t immediately have an answer. Of course, it’s not necessary to invent answers to every single question to know that a principle is true and should be applied consistently.
The beauty of thinking in terms of principles is that it opens your mind to consider new fresh possibilities, which is markedly different to how controlled markets stagnate. So I gave the question some thought for about five seconds and came up with this: if healthcare was privatised and there were multiple providers competing for your custom (not to mention that this would drive prices down and drive innovation, research, and technology), there would probably be multiple ambulance services (which would increase the number of ambulances in the country by who knows how many fold!), and any one of them could assist you in an emergency whether you were a member of their company or not. However, they would cross-charge your provider for the cost to them. Compare this to how a cash machine (ATM) works. You can use any ATM in the country, in fact, in the world (almost) – whether it’s your bank’s machine or not; banks cross-charge each other because getting money to you is of benefit to all parties (and you end up paying nothing). I imagine this is exactly how it would work in a non-State-controlled healthcare market. (Incidentally, you often have to pay for NHS ambulances in Britain anyway! And you have to pay for scripts in England if you work full time and therefore already pay into to the NHS. Ironically, if you don’t work and don’t contribute, you pay nothing – but such is the unjustice of socialism.)
The other assertion that needs pointing out was that whilst the NHS service is admittedly poor, “it works”. In this case he meant that at least an ambulance turns up and you don’t have to worry about it. Of course, we could all counter with NHS horror stories where this did not happen. A few years ago, a friend of mine tripped over a wall and broke his hip; he was in a lot of pain. The ambulance took over half an hour to come. If he had fractured his skull instead, he would be dead now.
The point is that it took me five seconds to think up this possible solution; who knows what professional businesses and free enterprises could come up with when the government leash is taken off and the free market allowed to blossom.