Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Is Healthcare a Commodity pt. 2

These animals bite! In my last post about the state of healthcare in America (is healthcare a commodity), I tried to narrow down the discussion to the problem at hand. Reforming the way we get healthy, stay healthy, and pay for it ultimately has nothing to do Republicans vs Democrats. It is not a matter of the government wanting to have control over a lucritive industry. Nor, as The Astute Bloggers cast it, does this debate warrant a warning over a government power grab.

This debate regarding the ‘how to’ for America’s healthcare system has one question at its center. Is healthcare a commodity? As suggested in my previous blog: “the simple answer is that healthcare is a right to the extent that we can afford it, and it’s a commodity to extent that we can’t.”

This is the most fundamental hermeneutic that a capitalist nation can use to tease out the nature of the unalienable rights as declared unanimously by the founders of this country. It’s been a long time since these so-called unalienable rights have been taken seriously, so perhaps it is worth the time to quote them here: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It becomes necessary to ask a follow up question at this point: insofar as healthcare is a right, how is it that this right is left in the hands of private sector? Capitalism assumes that the private sector has every right to provide access to healthcare for the sake of profit. But surely, profit cannot be allowed to function as the guarantor of rights accorded to citizens by the United States of America. Ken Terry tackles the issue of private vs public sector on his blog where he quotes Obama as saying: “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care … then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?”

What is needed to help focus this conversation is a refresher on the principal of Emergent Socialism. As stated in the prior blog: “Let the principle of the ’social’ guide what we decide to declare worthy of our subsidization. Let’s not be afraid to socialize what inherently lends itself to socialization, and let’s not be afraid to pull the plug on things that are not inherently social.”

Rights like life and liberty are inherently social. If they are to be guaranteed as rights, they cannot be left willy nilly to the private sector whose duty is not to serve and protect, but to circulate capital (i.e. accumulate capital). There are, of course, elements of the healthcare system that do not fall under the public interest. There are also aspects of it that are beyond the capacity of the government to guarantee. Beyond these points, healthcare is a commodity not a right.

What remains then is not to argue over socialism vs free market, or Republican vs Democrat,–but rather to determine to the best of our ability where do draw the lines between right and commodity. It is here, at this most fundamental level, that we can avoid the hyperreality that has taken over American politics, and get back to exercise of our civic duty.