Medicare for All Americans—The Balance of Power.

The eternal and most essential question for political scientists is how best to achieve and sustain a good balance of power between the governors and the governed. Let’s sort out the implications of ceding to the government the power to control healthcare.

Governments with too little power are unable to create sufficient structure (lawmaking, judicial systems, police, defense, rights protections, etc.) to facilitate human flourishing or stave off anarchy, chaos, and misery. Governments with too much power become tyrannical, which, until the tyrants are toppled, first impede and ultimately destroy human flourishing by the vast majority of the population. Moreover, too little power in the hands of the people ultimately leads to the governors aggregating too much power.[i] Too much people power leads to mob rule (e.g., democracy, something akin to a group comprised of five wolves and four sheep voting on what’s for dinner). A good balance keeps tyranny at bay, preserves human rights, facilitates advancement in standards of living, promotes morality, and can facilitate sufficient freedom for people to pursue happiness. Bad balances deliver the opposite, e.g., Mao’s China, Lenin’s and Stalin’s U.S.S.R., Hitler’s Germany, Chavez’s Venezuela, Kim Jong’s North Korea, etc.

Ceding some powers to the government, e.g., the power to collect taxes, set speed limits, incarcerate people after they have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair trial of a non-trivial crime, etc., is necessary and appropriate and most people gain much more opportunities to pursue happiness than they lose as a result of ceding that much power. History has shown that as potentially dangerous as ceding such powers is, prosperous and good societies can be sustained with the government having a great deal of power.

On the other hand, history has also shown that ceding too much power to the government is a sure path to disaster. The amount of power that can be safely ceded depends on, among other things, the charter of the people being governed. In general, the greater a people’s work ethic, self-reliance, honesty, prudence, capabilities, civility, political and economic astuteness, and wisdom, the greater the amount of power can be safely ceded to their government. A sad, but true reality is that people who, as a group, are too lazy, dependent, dishonest, low skilled, uneducated (or miseducated or mal-educated, which are typically worse than uneducated), and/or gullible will not be able to fend off tyranny even if those people luckily found themselves ruled by a non-tyrannical government.

America was fortunate to have been founded by knowledgeable, moral, civil, civic-minded and, wise men—despite many of them having some ideas and practices that, by today’s standards, are considered to be deeply immoral. America’s founder and second president, John Adams, sagely said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” As a governed people become less moral/virtuous, they become less able to prevent their ever more government from becoming tyrannical.[ii] Consequently, the character of the people affects the location of the tipping point for ceding power beyond which disaster is inevitable.

Given that reality, it is best not to broach the edges of a country’s tipping point. Sadly, however, history cannot reveal where a country’s tipping point is. One reason for that is that the character of the people greatly affects how much power they can safely cede to the government and how the character of a people will change over time cannot be reliably predicted.[iii] Even if America’s populous today has sufficient character to cede as much power to the government as they currently have, the amount already ceded can become too much if their character changes for the worse. History does tell us that the more the people demand the government adopt more collectivist policies, the less virtuous the populous will become.[iv]

A country having people with sufficient morality and civility to run and sustain a democratic republic is rare in human history. As imperfect as the results of America’s democratic republic have been [hopefully, humans will devise a better system someday], it has enabled human flourishing in greater quality and quantity than all other systems yet devised. Having the history to sustain a democratic republic as long as America has is a blessing. Sadly, having a good enough history to enable people to flourish is as rare as it is precious.

Nobel Laureate in economics, Douglas North, observed that the reason many countries are unable to escape the mire of corruption and poverty (despite the availability of the knowledge, resources, and people wanting to help) appears to be that they and their ancestors did not have a history that engenders the ethics and mores necessary to envision, establish, and run a country as a capitalistic democratic republic (which, for the time being, is the best alternative humans have devised). When asked what a poor country could do to get out of the vicious cycle of tyranny, corruption, and poverty, North ruefully responded that they would need to get a new history.[v] Even if the country miraculously obtained a new history similar to the one gifted to America, it could squander that beneficial gift if it replaced the wise and good ideas of their new-found past with hip, new bad ideas, i.e., that hip, new idea of the 60s (1867 to be precise), socialism or MFA (although it could work for a while as it has in some developed countries because America has subsidized their freeloading[vi]). America squandering its historical blessings would damage both Americans and essentially everyone else in the world. Such squandering would be immoral.[vii]

Because of the pain, suffering, and lost opportunity to thrive that result from ceding too much power to the government is so devastating, ceding enough power to the government to approach the edges of a tipping point would be reckless and dangerous.

The Constitution created a governmental scheme designed to help the people keep the government from becoming tyrannical. The scheme’s checks and balances between the three branches of government, division of power between federal government and the states (enumerated rights, the 10th Amendment, and the power to appointment Senators), the electoral college, congressional super-majority vote requirements for especially important matters, the Bill of Rights, and the people’s power to hold politicians accountable has worked for a long time to keep tyranny at bay. Leftist politicians and judges have already repealed much of that framework and emasculated much of what is left. As a result, the government is already more tyrannical than the founders believed to be prudent.

Compelling cases are routinely made that the U.S. federal government has too much power already,[viii] i.e., that the people and states no longer have sufficient power to keep federal officials in check. The best course for the people to take at this juncture is to trim the powers of the federal government. MFA would be a gigantic step in the wrong direction. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to identify a greater ceding of power than empowering federal politicians and bureaucrats the power to provide, delay, or withhold the healthcare needed to relieve suffering or the saving of everyone’s life.

MFA is a collectivist’s dream. In practice, that dream eventually becomes a nightmare. As William Easterly observed, “…I’m just drawing on a lot of the recent academic literature which is kind of exploding literature on value and culture and economic looks at very, very long run trends and data. And the basic idea that emerges from that literature that’s relevant to this discussion is there’s this kind of vicious circle between a history of autocracy and collectivist values.” The circle is vicious because (1) autocracy suppresses much of that which enables human flourishing, and (2) adoption of collectivist values typically, if not inevitably, leads to more autocracy.[ix]

Ceding that gigantic and ominous power would, at a minimum, be one giant leap toward, the tipping point to tyranny. That leap could easily land well beyond the tipping point, thereby ensuring that our children and grandchildren will have a much worse life than we have had. Worse, as discussed in “Medicare For All? At What Cost To Us and The Rest Of The World?,” if America, fails, so goes the world.


[i]  A topic that will be sorted out in an upcoming post.

[ii] Watch “Socialism Makes People Selfish.”

[iii] Compare the dependency on the government of Americans in 1920 to today.

[iv] Watch “Socialism Makes People Selfish.” Note that the rise in virtue signaling (which is the opposite of virtuous) is a sign of the decline in virtue by the American people.

[v] See or listen to “Morten Jerven on African Economic Growth.”

[vi] Id.

[vii] Consider the thousand year stagnation after the collapse of the Akkadian Empire (“1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed”), the “Dark Ages” after Rome collapsed, and “Everything You’ve Ever Seen About Cuba Is A Lie.”

[viii] Foundation for Economic Education, Café Hayek, Reason Foundation, and Amity Shlaes’s “Coolidge” provide copious examples.

[ix] As William Easterly put it, “…I’m just drawing on a lot of the recent academic literature which is kind of exploding literature on value and culture and economic looks at very, very long run trends and data. And the basic idea that emerges from that literature that’s relevant to this discussion is there’s this kind of vicious circle between a history of autocracy and collectivist values.”

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