1,935,960 Minutes Later: The Free Market’s Failure to Uphold the Right to Health From Day One

Correction: Bad math strikes again.  Please read the comment  submitted by Tyler, he correctly points out that my math in the title is wrong.  The number of minutes should be 116,157,600.  I decided to leave the post title as is (so this correction comment will make sense), but change it in the text.  And I have to admit, 116 million minutes is way more dramatic to the point! Now, on to this serious topic:

The United States Constitution will celebrate its 221st Anniversary on June 21, 2009.  It was ratified on June 21, 1788.

The Preamble of the Constitution declares,

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

On June 21st, 116,157,600 minutes will have passed since it became the law of the land.  That is how long the Free Market System has had to figure out how to create a health care system so that every single American can live the healthiest life possible, out of which directly flows “the general Welfare, secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” for each individual citizen.

At the time of the official first census in 1790, the population of the United States was 3.9 million people, of course, not counting all the people they didn’t count.  Health insurance did not exist, although it had been conceived by an English doctor in 1694. Health care, prior to the modern age had been almost exclusively fee-for-service.  Today, after 221 years, the Free Market System has sucked up such huge chunks of the health care market into its for-profit maw, 50 million Americans cannot only not afford the fee-for-service for a visit to the doctor, they can’t afford insurance either.  And that appears to suit the aims of the Free Market System just fine.

In their minds they have succeeded.  They are the American Disease Industry.  Pain, suffering, disease, chronic medical conditions, a public clamoring for relief.  Pills, pills, procedures, tests, pills.  Newer, always newer.  Cutting edge–procedures must always be cutting edge.  Americans grows unhealthier by the year.  That’s the growth part of the plan.  It makes no difference that millions can’t afford care.  That’s a problem for the non-profits to handle.  How they must smirk in their Board Rooms at the not-for-profits.  Unfettered by any meaningful regulation of their industrial juggernaut, they know they are the medical messiahs of the modern age.  They have the advertising campaigns to prove it.  The drugs must flow.  All hail the Free Market System.

So, 116 million minutes later this system is anything but free.  It is an engine for unfettered greed exercised by a few, distorting every good potential of free enterprise into power for themselves, privilege for themselves, and domination over all others.

It is a great business plan.  With one exception.  The American Disease Industry made one critical error.  They cured too many diseases.  And over the past forty thousand days or so, here and there, now and then, individuals realized they could be healthier.  And Americans have this thing about talking to each other.  Freedom of speech and all that.  But more importantly communications technology, advancing at a rate unprecedented in history.  Radio.  Television, Telecommunications, Satellites, computers, cell phones, fiber optics.  The Internet.  All over the world, people just like us were figuring this out.  They got healthier as we got sicker.  That had to change.  It’s not the American way.

We the People figured it out.  We could be healthier.  We wanted to be healthier.  And we didn’t want to continue to be the serfs of the American Disease Industry.  And we realized:

The Unfettered Market System, led by those who duplicitously espouse it as the purest manifestation of the Ideals of this Preamble, has failed utterly to fulfill its demands, to ensure without exception the rights it promises to every citizen to live in this “more perfect Union.”   These rights are not mere constructs of a clash of cultures in which Capitalism and Socialism battle for supremacy to the destruction of the other.  These rights are virtually what define us as human.

The Unfettered Market System has driven us back to the epoch of tyranny, to that moment before the Constitutional Clock began, not for the blessings of Capitalism, where profit flows like a great current feeding the abundant life in the ocean of time, but to a new and insidious feudalism, crushing the very People for whom that Preamble was written, the ones whose blood was shed in sacrifice for the Blessings of Liberty, under an economic millstone of debt, disease, subservience and corruption.

The Constitutional Clock still runs, no longer the notch of gears, but with the seething quantum foam of Cesium atoms.  So, too, We the People no longer will tolerate our rights being ground away by the Houses of Greed, old and festering, oppressing us as they did to untold generations for under the banner of the Divine Right of Kings, Robber Barons or faceless Global Megacorps.

We are people of the Light, riding the very photons that power the universe, shrinking our globe’s girth to micronic seconds, a web of bioluminescence that no tyrant of institution or government can control.  We the People, knowing we are the stuff of stars, knowing we are of a Most Splendid Spark, knowing within our minds is the brilliance of a pulsar, knowing within the form that makes me, me, and you, you, that our right to Life is the right to Health.

116,157,600 minutes into this great constitutional experiment called the United States of America, we claim our right to health.  And this minute is as great a victory over tyranny as the very first one!

8 thoughts on “1,935,960 Minutes Later: The Free Market’s Failure to Uphold the Right to Health From Day One

  1. It seems like you’re too quickly sloughing off the points made above regarding the utterly fettered and regulated nature of our health care system. The US system is only based on capitalistic principals in the sense that capitalism has come to mean “mixed economy”. Any sort of governmental intervention will introduce imbalances in the free aggregate choices of society which will flow out to all its parts.

    Current prices of health services are incredibly higher than laissez-faire market clearing levels due to artificially stimulated demand. There are many governmental incentives for people to engage in health services with no thought for cost or even necessity, which bids up rates for everyone.

    Further, when health care is thought of as a fundamental right, it becomes arbitrary to say that lack of hunger is not a right, or that shelter is not a right, or gainful employment, or any of the many other necessities of life. That’s a shortcut to the hell of forced equality, where everyone gets to enjoy the lowest common denominator of existence.

  2. Ken– So, let’s do a little thought experiment. Right now, health care is not a right, that is, a Constitutional right. We all have the right to go out and purchase health insurance, although technically that is not an enumerated Constitutional right. But, we’ll treat it as a commodity, because that is how it has been largely regarded. For our thought experiment, let’s pretend you have two brothers.

    We’ll start with you. Let’s assume that you work for an employer who offers health insurance, so you can access medical care any time you need it. You pay a monthly premium through your payroll and a copay when you visit the doctor, which is the same dollar amount regardless of whether you have a case of the sniffles or a major bacterial pneumonia that requires antibiotics. So you have purchased your right to health care, partly through your employer, partly through your premium and copays. Except it really isn’t a right, because what you really have done is purchased a “product” that permits you access to health care as long as you meet the conditions to use that product, and you have no say whatsoever over what those conditions are.

    Now, let’s look at your two brothers. Your first brother, the geek, got a scholarship to MIT, earned a PhD in software architecture design, was immediately hired by Philips, and has lived the past 15 years in The Netherlands, where health care is a right, and despite his having to have a heart valve repair, has never received a medical bill. Yes, his taxes are higher than yours, but he can’t be refused treatment, even for pre-existing conditions, and six months after his surgery, he celebrated his recovery by buying a new Mercedes E-class, for approximately what he would have had in medical bills had he lived in the U.S. and HAD insurance. Chances are he doesn’t think his “right to freedom” has been diminished, like you do.

    Finally, let’s look at your second brother, the one voted most likely to finally solve all umpteen levels of Warcraft. He works at the local carwash and has worked his way up to a whopping $10.00 per hour. He gets no benefits. He takes the bus to work but has to walk the last couple of blocks. One fall day, there’s an early freeze, and as he’s crossing the street a driver skids into him and your brother receives life-threatening injuries to his head. The driver has no auto insurance and is driving on a suspended license (this is not absurd; it happened to my wife a number of years ago, although, fortunately she was driving rather than walking and was not injured), so there’s no insurance money to pay for your brother’s huge medical bills. You could sue the driver, but that will take years, and likely he has no assets.

    Here are the questions you have to answer:

    1. Does your brother have the right to be treated for his life-threatening injuries? He has no money to pay for his medical care.
    2. Are you willing to let your brother die so that you do not “lose [my] right to freedom by being forced to provide health care?”
    3. If you believe unequivocally that neither you nor your brother have a right to health care, then are you willing to pay for his medical treatment out of your own pocket to save his life, even though the treatment costs will easily exceed $250,000?

    What is your answer, Ken?

  3. If health care is a right, then obviously somebody is going to lose their right to freedom by being forced to provide health care.

  4. You might want to start reading the following article: http://www.mises.org/story/2946
    Then type in “healthcare” in the search box and start reading. There is nothing wrong with “free market” healthcare policies when they are allowed to work. We have had nothing but government interference since LBJ. Give me a break.

  5. t13– I don’t think it’s a matter of ignorance. I’ve worked in health care for 13 years and studied organizational theory as part of my doctoral dissertation. If I got too wound up in my rhetoric, I apologize; it’s the latent preacher in me that occasionally sneaks out. Health care is regulated, both at the state and federal levels, but that’s not what I am talking about. The health care industry, particularly those sectors that are for-profit, such as big pharma, health insurance, the AMA, hospital corporations, medical supplies manufacturers, high-tech device manufacturers (MRIs, CT scanners, etc.), have historically held to a business model that maximizes profits and resists regulatory interference. There are clear parallels, in my opinion, between them and the financial industry, and we have been painfully living with the consequences of the collapse of the global financial system. I’ve seen one article just in the past week suggesting that the medical industry could be just as fragile, but has been flying under the radar hoping to escape notice, but that’s another topic.

    I use the term “free market system” in the sense that the United States’ economy is based on capitalist principles, in which entrepreneurial for-profit enterprises are generally a good thing. That does not mean that the overall delivery of services is not controlled by state and federal regulations to protect the common good, from the individual all the way to the population as a whole.

    The health care industry (and it’s interesting that we refer to it as an “industry” as if they are manufacturing health as a tangible product) is one element of the free market system. I use the term “unfettered” admittedly in a derogatory sense. They spend a lot of money to lobby our politicians to short-circuit regulatory legislation, with the clear intent of maximizing the dividends of their shareholders, and minimizing the services their customers are paying for. The companies work very hard to be “unfettered.” But in this tension, distortions have appeared that threaten the common good. The primary distortion, in my opinion, is that these companies, on whom we rely for products and services that support our medical and health needs, have raised their prices (and yes, I’m well aware of the waste issue) so high to meet the profit demands of their shareholders, they have created a huge rationing system, accessible to the rich, but inaccessible to at least 50 million (in terms of insurance cost) Americans, imposing on the rest of us to bear that cost indirectly, but also effectively forcing us into this rationing pool by denying treatment through pre-existing conditions and high deductibles. So, as a nation, each generation, we get sicker. They want to keep the status quo. But, I contend, they have crossed a line, and now their recalcitrance is a violation of my constitutional rights to have access to health care at a reasonable price, so I can be as healthy as possible. I thought it was far more creative to frame this issue as the number of minutes that have passed since the Constitution was ratified for Big Health Care to figure this out.

  6. Free Market system? That is really funny. I’ve worked in health care for 12 years and have yet to see how anyone can consider it part of the freemarket. There is nothing unfettered or free about healthcare whether it is state or federal controls. What profound ignorance you display.

  7. Tyler–

    Thanks! You’ve once again confirmed that my decision not to pursue a career in anything related to even simple math was a gift to the whole world! On top of that, 116 million minutes is much more dramatic to make my point. It’s interesting, though, that you are the first person to catch the error!


  8. your math is off here.

    60mins/hour x
    24 hours/day x
    365 days/year
    525,600 minutes per year

    multiplied by the (roughly) 221 years since this document was enacted,

    and you get:

    roughly 116 million minutes. thought you should know.

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