The Quest for Security of Privilege
I’m rereading F.A Hayek’s “The Road To Serfdom“. In Chapter 9, where I currently find myself, Hayek is discussing security and freedom. This seems timely, considering the conversation occuring on Doug’s post The Right Direction on Health Insurance Reform.
In this chapter of Hayek’s classic work, he discusses the quest for security and how it impacts the freedom of the individual. Beyond that, he shows that as we increase security for one segment of the population, the insecurity of the other segments necessarily increases. This applies whether we are discussing securing certain levels of income, specific jobs, or social benefits like healthcare. The basis of this is very simple. As one group has their jobs, for example, secured by society, then other groups are left to compete in a smaller market for jobs. Further, those people are going to be more significantly impacted during economic cycles than they would be if a larger pool of jobs and employees were in the free market. The more security you provide, the larger the group that has that security, the more insecure will the unprivileged groups become.
You can read the chapter yourself (here’s an online version of the book) if you like. The bottom line is that the only way to avoid this problem AND provide security of position or income or privilege is to provide perfect security to everyone. To do this requires taking away all liberty. I leave it to the reader to follow the logic on this. So, your option, if you wish to provide security, is to remove liberty.
Hayek has this very insightful thing to say about the quest for economic security (as well, it applies to security of position and privilege) on page 143 (of the 50th anniversary edition):
Thus, the more we try to provide full security by interfering with the market system, the greater the insecurity becomes; and what is worse, the greater becomes the contrast between the security of those to whom it is granted as a privilege and the ever increasing insecurity of the underprivileged.
This is precisely what has happened with healthcare in this country. As I pointed out in my post Specific Healthcare Changes, our supposedly free market healthcare system is massively regulated and subsidized. The effect of the tax subsidies, regulations requiring specific health insurance minimum standards, healthcare welfare and so forth is to create security and privilege for a subset of the population. This has, necessarily, increased the insecurity of those that do not have that security through the action of the government. If you wish to provide the most security to the most people, you have to stop providing privileged security to a subset of the whole. Or become a serf.
When the government controls all of your decisions about, and ability to get, healthcare, you have lost your freedom. You may retain the illusion of freedom by being allowed to vote in elections, or choose which doctor you will see, but you have no true freedom. Are you truly willing to sell your freedom for the illusion of security? Because even that security is an illusion. It is only secure so long as someone other than you decides it should be.