Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ronald Reagan on Libertarianism

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy.

From Interview with President Reagan, published in Reason July 1975

One of the American public's worst misconceptions is that libertarianism calls for no laws. As I explained in my review of Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, Mr. Friedman himself stated the need for government: "The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the 'rules of the game' and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on." See

Thus, anyone who states that libertarianism means anarchy or no laws is incorrect. Libertarianism merely means that you agree that interference with your ability to lead your life as you see fit--assuming your actions do not interfere with others' freedom--should be reduced as much possible.

More on government debt and the money we pay to the government: Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General (2002-2008), says that "75 cents of every tax dollar that you contribute [to health care] is spent on chronic disease, much of which is preventable" (The Commonwealth magazine, June 2008, page 44). Mr. Carmona singles out smoking and obesity as two of the largest scourges of health. One issue with having universal health care is how we regulate chronic disease--does an obese man get a free gastric bypass, or a free diet book? I wish I knew the answer.

One way to reduce the burden on a national healthcare system is to have government workers use the old, pay-as-you system, while non-government workers use a separate, heavily subsidized health care system. This way, only government workers would pay healthcare premiums out-of-pocket through HMOs or some other private programs. With most government workers not being "at-will" and therefore harder to terminate, they are best positioned to budget and pay monthly premiums to private hospitals. This type of carve-out is not unprecedented--postal and other federal workers, for example, do not get the same federal retirement benefits private citizens do because federal workers don't pay certain taxes. With more than 1.8 million civilian employees, the Federal Government, excluding the Postal Service is the Nation’s largest employer. If you add in local and state government, teachers, professors, and other government workers, you would have enough members to incorporate into a private hospital system. In fact, you could probably leave the current HMO/PPO system intact, and then work with existing hospitals to provide free health care to private citizens or invest in new hospitals. The out-of-pocket and insurance reimbursement system would shift to government members rather than private citizens, who are the ones most required to be healthy so that they can be productive and pay taxes to sustain the government.

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