is a pressing issue in American health care that warrants at least a modicum of
airtime from radio talk show pundits—a softheaded lot that continues to spin
the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a textbook failure of state meddling
in the marketplace.
they do not earnestly care, the free market mouthpieces on talk radio – who shamelessly
misinform their listeners about the government’s role in economics – continue
to wrongly attribute the turmoil surrounding Obamacare (in states like Arizona
and Tennessee) to a much larger failure of government.
is always the same old story that floods the airwaves: The market fails because
the state refuses to recognize its role in relation to free market exchange,
and it fails not only to know its place but also fails to act accordingly.
all irony, however, it seems that radio’s reactionary tub-thumpers and free
market warriors feel no need to address a basic precept of capitalist
enterprise, namely that the state creates the market (which is partly why
genuine anarchists would never prefer the tyranny of markets to the tyranny of
the state). As Robert Reich notes, “Civilization … is defined by rules; rules
create markets, and governments generate the rules.”
consider, for example, the elemental things without which capitalism would
struggle to perform as it does: property, the rule of law, contracts, and even
bankruptcy. Now, consider the fact that nature holds no place for industry, markets,
or the rule of law, which facilitate property rights and ownership. Indeed, such
things are not essentially natural, an idea that Thomas Hobbes indicated
centuries ago in his book Leviathan.
is a specific interpretation of Obamacare that radio does not talk about. That
is, by being passed into legislation, the Affordable Care Act effectively became
a mechanism that created millions of new customers and secured an even broader
base. So why does Obamacare have a freshly painted target on its back?
it seems logical that one response might entertain the fact that insuring some
people is riskier than insuring others. Another response to the same question might
broach the fact that capitalist enterprise in the US does not want additional
competition in any sector, let alone private insurance. No, what capitalist
enterprise wants is monopoly, and so they never interrupt the pundits who argue
the same old subterfuge: The government is a threat to the market, a threat
that makes us all less free!
what private insurance wants is less competition and a different kind of
government, but not the elimination of government altogether. The Affordable
Care Act, it can be argued, is a kind of litmus test for the free market agenda
that currently runs roughshod over public needs. Moreover, it reveals that the
state truly has no serious desire to interfere with the monopolistic aspirations
of private industry, nor does it desire to directly compete with private
Representative Raúl Grijalva, of Arizona’s 3rd
congressional district, has recently observed the effects that private
insurance companies are having on “affordable health care.” He writes,
Recent news of Aetna’s departure from most Affordable Care
Act marketplace sent shockwaves throughout our country. One of the places the
impact was felt most strongly was my home state of Arizona, where nearly 10,000
people in Pinal County may be left without a single marketplace plan. News that
Aetna had threatened in advance to leave the exchange system if it didn’t get
its way in a merger deal is infuriating for Arizonans who are now completely
vulnerable as a result of their ploy. It highlights the systemic problems of
relying on only for-profit insurers to supply our nation’s health care, and
re-opens the debate surrounding a public option for health care.
a word, the masters of industry for private insurance share much in common with
the class of capitalists that Adam Smith describes in his work, The Wealth of Nations: “All for
ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to
have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”
the radio continues to make waves about a fictitious governmental war on
private interest, a war that does not exist (though, if it did, it would look a
lot like total deregulation and unfettered capitalism), the state benefits from
the same message, too: Big brother gets to sit on his hands and do nothing for
the most vulnerable. Meanwhile, private interest continues to monopolize.
Mateo Pimentel is an Axis of Logic columnist, living on the US-Mexico border. Read the Biography and additional articles by Axis Columnist Mateo Pimentel.
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