Surgery Center of Oklahoma Blog

November 1, 2011

Wanna Be Libertarians

Filed under: Uncategorized — surgerycenterok @ 7:27 am

Know people with whom you agree on most things but just can’t believe some of the stuff that they do believe?  Everyone loves freedom, don’t they? Well….until it affects their pocketbook!  Some people believe in “social” freedom but are not fans of economic freedom because an increase in tax rates, for instance, isn’t likely to affect them very much if at all.  ”Soak the rich,” they would say!  This is the granola-eating, pot smoking college professor earning an income that is probably not going to be phased by a “soak the rich” kind of tax.  This type of individual can’t believe that a rock star with no formal education (and therefore not as brilliant) can make 100 times what they do in the ivory tower teaching harpsichord performance.  Ludwig von Mises wrote a little book about academicians with earning envy called, “The Anti-Capitalist Mentality.”….I highly recommend it.  Funny thing is that if this college professor gets his economics right and understands the importance of property rights….PRESTO….he is a libertarian!

Then there is the friend who gripes about paying taxes all of the time and is all about having a smaller government but “DON’T TOUCH THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE!”  Or the old fellow who is all about small government except, “DON’T TOUCH MY MEDICARE OR SOCIAL SECURITY!”

“I am all about freedom until the local river floods our community.”  ”I believe in freedom until a hurricane hits our town.”  ”I think that freedom is a great idea but look at all of this tornado devastation and think how FEMA can help.”  Know anyone like these folks?  When I was recently in Washington I ran into some folks from Joplin.  I asked them what they were there for.  They said, “FEMA payments.”  I said, “for or against?”  ”FOR,” they said!  Oh.

Physicians are typically conservative fans of small government (not all, but most).  Well….if you guessed that they are until it hits their pocket book you go to the head of the class!  I can hear the conversation in the doctor’s lounge…”….this government is out of control…spending way more than it takes in.”  Then, five minutes later…”…if I don’t get an increase in my payments from Medicare, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”  Or the guy who says, “..we need laws to keep these (audiologists, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, optometrists) folks from seeing patients.”  ”But we need less government….well…ok….unless it affects my pocketbook!”  Or,”…I know our taxes are high but the government has to fund medical research!”

When I was in Washington, D.C., someone asked me what I thought about the proposed Medicare cuts.  To be honest, I didn’t even know what they were talking about.  I stopped taking federal money in 1994 and one of the bonuses was never having to worry again about what some bureaucrat in D.C. decided my services were worth.  I asked how much the proposed cut was going to be.  He said 5.9% per year for 3 years.  He was testing me.  He wasn’t ready for what I said.  I said,”  …cut it 100%.”  ”Get out of the way and let us deal with patients directly and give the market a chance to respond with some ideas for managing the risk.”

I don’t think many people are born with a libertarian philosophy.  Most people, I think, develop government cynicism from experience and make their way towards the freedom philosophy.  So many folks are almost-libertarians….what I call libertarian wannabe’s.  They lack only the smallest fraction of faith in free markets and peaceful dealings to get them there.  I believe that as more and more people realize that the government has failed us in more and more ways that they will cross the line, shed their shackles and embrace a less conflicted concept of freedom.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.

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