I still have yet to see the movie Atlas Shrugged, but the book sprung to mind when I was reading the news this morning. In The Wall Street Journal, Arthur Laffer and Steve Moore reported on the National Labor Relations Board’s actions against Boeing, which has dared to move some production capabilities from Washington state, a compulsory union state, to South Carolina, a right-to-work-state. Moore and Laffer explain that Boeing admitted one of the reasons behind the switch to South Carolina was because Boeing couldn’t “afford a work stoppage every three years,” which the NLRB claims is evidence that the move is really “retaliation” against worker unions.
Then Drudge has this headline “Rand Paul: Right to Health Care Is Like Believing in ‘Slavery’.” I fear most seeing it will take this of evidence that Sen. Paul is a crackpot extremist. But the actual quote from the Senator explains the logic: “With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery.”
Slavery is a loaded term to be sure, but there’s something to the dynamic he is describing. How can I have a “right” to something that I have to claim from someone else? Does that mean that someone else is required to provide for me? And what if they don’t want to?
It’s a useful exercise to think of what a “right” to health care means if all of the doctors in the country decided that they’d rather be artists (didn’t Nancy Pelosi say that one of the great things about the new health care law was that people would be free to pursue their dream jobs?). Who would I go to claim my deserved allotment of health care? How would we induce people back into the medical profession? Are we going to offer them more money, or are we going to force them?
This is already happening in medicine. As Hadley has written, we face a big doctor shortage. Many doctors are already refusing to take Medicare and Medicaid patients because reimbursement rates are below their costs. What happens once policymakers make accepting government insurance a condition of receiving medical licenses? How long will doctors be willing to work for too little compensation?
The same goes with Boeing. The government is essentially commanding this company to do business in a state because the people there deserve the jobs. Yet what if Boeing were to close? Obviously this is a huge, successful company and it doesn’t want to have to close, but the government should recognize that Boeing does not simply exist for them to manipulate. People built and run this company, and they could choose to take their talents elsewhere and just shut the place down.
In Atlas Shrugged, the economic leaders decided to go ahead and go on strike. We shouldn’t expect anything as dramatic as Ayn Rand outlines, but we should recognize that there is this danger of government over-reach, and that little Atlases are shrugging all the time.