Men with guns

Men With Guns

by digby

One of the fun things about having Rand Paul elected to the Senate is that the country gets to see a hardcore libertarian unapologetically argue his beliefs. Here's Rand giving a classic freshman dorm room "men with guns" argument in a hearing yesterday:

With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

If there's anyone arguing for free health care, point me his way. That sounds good to me! But I don't actually think that's happening. I think Rand got a little bit overexcited.

Certainly, none of this has happened with Medicare, which every American over 65 has a right to already. In fact, I think that even in places that have universal single payer, physicians are allowed to practice outside of it. Rand could simply say he doesn't accept insurance of any kind and only treat wealthy people who can pay out of pocket. Or he could only accept certain kinds of patients with particular illnesses. Just because people have a "right" to health care doesn't mean that every physician would be required to treat every patient. It sounds as though he's confusing health care reform with Good Samaritan laws.

Of course he knows how the system works since he always collected several hundred thousand dollars a year in Medicare reimbursements. Which is fine. Just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean you can't make a profit at it. People do it all the time. But it's a little bit smarmy to launch into lectures about "slavery" when you've made millions off the cotton crop over the years.

The point is that nobody forced him to take those Medicare patients. But when he did, he willingly signed a contract that required him to give a service for the fee he collected. The "men with guns" only appear when you fail to fulfill your side of that contract, and even then it's after you've killed someone maliciously or committed fraud. (Or if you've lost a law suit and failed to pay up, a no-no even in libertarianland.) The "men with guns" do not show up if you refuse to sign the contract in the first place.

Moreover, most of the regulation in the medical industry comes from peer review not the "men with guns." Of course, Rand didn't believe in that either, so he started his own personal medical society to accredit himself. Unsurprisingly, no men with guns came after him for that either. What's surprising is that he had any patients.

BTW: I do think people should have a right to water and food. (And no I don't ant to get into any arguments about how water and air are commodities like anything else --- been there done that.) Using that as his examples of outrageous usurpation of individual rights tells you a lot about how he thinks.