Warner Todd Huston
Left-wing hyperbole: know what healthcare is just like? Slavery
By Warner Todd Huston
June 24, 2009

See, we know that it isn't wild-eyed, hyperbole to say that slavery is "just like" our current healthcare debate because Glenn W. Smith of the extremist left-wing site Firedoglake helpfully tells us that "this is not hyperbole." See? Conflict solved. I'm glad we settled THAT one, I have to tell ya.

Unfortunately, one would have to cast aside all ability to think intelligently to be assured by so casual a disclaimer. It most certainly is hyperbole to claim that our current healthcare debate is "just like" slavery but not only does Smith indulge in such hyperbole, he also employs some of the sloppiest arguments I've seen with any debate for quite a while. On second thought, there isn't much by way of "debate" in this thing because Smith just assumes the concept as a matter of fact and goes from there. There is no attempt to plum the logic of the principle at all.

Let's get to Smith's send up... er, I mean premise.

    The gravity of America's health care crisis is the moral equivalent of the 19th Century's bloody conflict over slavery. This is not hyperbole, though the truth of it is often lost in abstract talk of insurance company profits, treatment costs, and other cold, inhuman analyses.

    Today's health system condemns 50 million Americans to ill health and death while guaranteeing health care to the economic privileged. It cannot stand.

There is no explicit cause and effect between not having healthcare coverage and dying. After all, healthcare insurance is a rather new thing in man's history. If there was a distinct cause and effect, we'd never have had in past human history any such thing as a 90-year-old person. They'd have been "condemned to die" because of lack of healthcare insurance long before their 90th birthday.

But this is just the sort of sophistry that Smith employs to "prove" his case. It gets steadily worse with each new paragraph.

    About 18,000 Americans die each year because they lack health insurance. That's more than a third the number of lives lost in battle during each year of the four-year Civil War.

"Because" they lack health insurance? And, has there ever been any sensible moral correlation to deaths in war and those that occur in the general living of life? If so, why does the left get more outraged over the small number (comparatively) of 4,000 U.S. combat deaths in Iraq while virtually ignoring the tens of thousands that die every year in car accidents? To be consistent with Smith's premise, one should expect to see the deaths in Iraq barely mentioned by the American left over a sort of "holocaust of the highways" — to use their sort of rhetoric. And yet?

Smith develops his nonsense still further:

    Members of Congress without the moral clarity to recognize this equivalence will be condemned by history. Their spinelessness and lack of will when confronted with the power of the insurance industry is just as morally bankrupt as the American congressmen who bowed to Southern slave-owners.

Wow. So, not having healthcare insurance is exactly the same as being forced into chattel slavery? You've really got to be kidding me?

To punch up his spittle-specked claims, Smith throws around some historical references about the things that led up to the Civil War then claims that the current debate is just as "morally compromising" as the Dred Scott decision and the Missouri Compromise.

Sadly, for all his huffing and puffing, Smith does not bother to actually prove his case through an investigation of the actual underlying reasons that slavery and healthcare might be the same. He merely states it as a fact, takes it as a given and moves on to his other partisan yacking points.

For instance, how is slavery "morally equivalent" to not having healthcare insurance? Does a lack of healthcare insurance equate to being forced to the servitude of another? Can one not be healthy without insurance? What rights do the two states have in common? In what way does a lack of healthcare take away the individual's right of action? What right does not having healthcare insurance deprive you of? Is healthcare a right in the first place? (It isn't, of course, as I recently discussed.) To one devoting any reasoned thought to the issue by engaging in any deeper look at the differences between not having healthcare insurance and slavery, one must quickly conclude that the two bare no relation one to the other.

Obviously, Smith knew he was headed off the deep end or he wouldn't have felt compelled to explain to everyone at the outset that he wasn't heading off the deep end. This is, though, a perfect example of the demonization of the opposition so endemic with the far left. You see if you don't agree with Smith and his ilk, why, you want to murder people.

No, the sad fact is that all these weighty questions that Smith claims to be discussing are summarily ignored in order to promulgate his blindly partisan assumptions. He simple-mindedly sums his point up this way:

    Condemning Americans to premature death and ill health so some can earn profits is the moral equivalent of slavery. Some may find the comparison extreme, others distasteful. But history will record it as a fact.

Ah, and there we have it, right? This whole thing is just another excuse to bash the left's hated capitalism, just another excuse to claim that capitalism is akin to murder.

But again, is it impossible for a person to have health without health insurance? If so, how did anyone have good health before the days of the health insurance policy? Certainly it is a false dichotomy to claim that without healthcare insurance Americans are "condemned to death." It is hyperbolic and simple-minded, for sure. But these are the absurd ends these people are driven to in order to excuse a takeover of nearly 20% of our economy and to excuse their desires to place our very lives into the hands of uncaring, medically untrained government bureaucrats.

In this debate, there certainly are important questions to ask. The status quo is not serving us all well, and the role of government in addressing the whole issue is an important debate. But this sort of foolish resort to the nonsensical such as that wallowed in by Smith shows that the left is not up to the debate. It is sad, but Smith's piece is a perfect example of the lack of intellect behind the left's healthcare debate today.

In the end, the only "slavery" we find in Smith's piece is his enslavement to the shallow thinking of the far left, his bondage to the left's healthcare talking points, and his enthrallment to anti-capitalist notions.

© Warner Todd Huston


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Warner Todd Huston

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