Repeat Three Times: Liberty is Possible
Several thoughts occurred to me as I was writing the latest article on Irish healthcare, regarding how libertarians can spread their message. In a previous post, When Everything is Political, I noted how little real awareness there was of the magnitude of government power, and I proposed that we firstly need to be drawing attention to this again and again, so that people might have a decent basis from which they could begin to understand our positions.
When it comes to healthcare, my proposed strategy would involve bringing attention to two simple facts.
1. Broach the subject by describing how the Irish healthcare sector is a socialist, centralised system. As Damien Kiberd writes in today’s Sunday Times, where he argues for the introduction of market mechanisms through universal private health insurance:
As things stand, the state is everywhere in health: it employs up to 120,000 health workers, it picks up 95% of the annual tab for healthcare, it controls the pace at which health services are supplied by means of its budgetary processes and it owns the largest health insurer.
2. Once we have established that the current system is in fact socialist, we need to gently introduce our alternative. Probably the easiest way to do this is to note the fact that a non-statist healthcare sector, whether or not it is desirable, is certainly possible.
Most people have never considered the possibility of a non-statist healthcare sector, and many of them will have an immediate emotional reaction to the idea, so a strong combination of caution and patience is well-advised. Always bear in mind that the virtue of governmental healthcare is one of the great collective fantasies, and that undermining it can be no less explosive than undermining any other form of myth.
The gentlest way to move on may be to find agreement that there is no metaphysical, supernatural or religious reason which would prevent the government from getting out of healthcare. Argue that the space-time continuum would not be torn if government healthcare spending was cut radically, and that the Earth would continue to spin about its axis even if the Health Service Executive ceased its activities. This is a highly cautious strategy but can perform a useful function by introducing the ideas in a non-threatening way as proposals which, despite being outside of the mainstream, actually could be executed.
At this point, if you think your audience is genuinely open to the discussion, you are free to describe whatever arguments for liberty you like the most, with a reasonable chance of success. However, I would contend that you’ve already accomplished something if you get this far. Now your audience knows something about the current reality, and they know that liberty is possible. And that is probably a lot more than most people.