Rights vs. Profits

The medical field should be the most capitalistic industry of all.

As the health care debate rages on, certain words like "rights" seem to carry a torch for humanity that immediately squelch any opposition.  After all, America is all about "rights," right?  Other words, like "profit", have become signifiers of evil that capitalists must try to avoid supporting, for fear of appearing greedy.

Lost in all of this is that physicians are providing a service, as are insurance companies.  Doctors must endure years of intense training in order to sufficiently assist their patients, and insurance providers must possess large amounts of capital in order to carry the risk of covering those that happen to become sick or injured.  In no other industry do we demand free or government assistance for services or amenities we consider "necessary" to our comfort, safety, or survival.

I live in the brutal heat of Phoenix, Arizona, where summertime temperatures routinely hit 115 degrees.  Emergency personnel responded to over 700 cases of heat stroke last year.  In this climate, it is an absolute necessity to have access to air conditioning in homes, cars, or places of business.  It is most definitely a matter of life and death.  However, when the a/c goes out, the government doesn't step in to make the repairs or cover the bills.  Instead, we have a myriad of competing technicians who have spent considerable time specializing in cooling repair, and we pay them out of our own pockets.

Such dangerous temperatures and over 300 days of sunshine here in the valley also make residents very susceptible to sunburn and, thus, skin cancer.  Once again, this is potentially a life and death issue.  However, I don't see the government stepping in to buy my SPF 30 when I want to lounge by the pool.  Don't I have the "right" to such health coverage, particularly when sunscreen could be considered preventative care?

But maybe I'm the using the unusual heat of Arizona as an extreme example, so let's examine another region.  I grew up in the Midwest, where winter temperatures routinely dip below zero.  A heated home is, once again, a matter of life and death.  How can electric and gas companies possibly live with themselves for profiting off humans' need for warmth?  Shouldn't the government offer free heating in those cold climates?  Or what about the winter coat industry?  No one can survive walking to school on a winter morning or shoveling a sidewalk without a heavy jacket.  In this life and death matter, where is the federal government to purchase parkas?  North Face coats for everyone!

And these "rights" to services and products are not just regional.  What about auto mechanics?  For some, cars are an absolute necessity, particularly in a sprawling metropolis like Phoenix or Los Angeles.  In order to get to work, go to the store, or visit family or friends, we need cars.  Therefore, the logic of the left would have us believe that mechanics should either offer their services for free in providing for the common good, or the government should cover the bill when our fuel pump goes out.

Or what about food?  Don't we need milk, bread, eggs, and vegetables?  Don't Americans have the "right" to such basic, healthy products for our general welfare?  But I didn't see Mr. Obama swiping his credit card for me the last time I was in the check-out lane.  And those evil dairy farmers and tomato growers should be ashamed of themselves for exploiting Americans' critical health demands for calcium and vitamins.

All of a sudden, our "rights" become pretty pervasive.  There are a lot of things we need to survive, and many more required to live safely and comfortably.  That doesn't mean we need the government involved in each of them.  I rather like the fact that doctors need to go school for a long time to become experts.  I like that air conditioning repairmen and auto mechanics are willing to become licensed and do the dirty work that I don't want or know how to do. 

I like that farmers use their knowledge of soil, livestock, and climate to provide nutritional goods that I could never grow or produce myself.  Therefore, I'm happy to pay for such services.  And if I think a hospital, or a technician, or a grocery store produce department is overcharging or underperforming, I go somewhere else.  That's the market.  And I don't need the government to figure that out.

Politicians and commentators on the left speak of health coverage as a human right and decry doctors and insurance providers for profiting off of the afflictions of Americans.  But if a service can be so freely given, both its inherent and market value are greatly diminished.  Those that invest time, training, funds, and risk in themselves and their careers deserve to be compensated.  And if it's my life that is saved, they can have all the profits they want.