Some Considerations for Black Market Healthcare

DrRich | May 5th, 2010 - 8:33 pm

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DrRich recently finished a four-part series describing our government’s attempt to prohibit individual Americans from spending their own money on their own healthcare. He believes that any open-minded person who reads this series, what with its numerous, well-documented and specific examples, related in DrRich’s own engaging and erudite prose, will become convinced that our government is very serious about, and much dedicated to, affecting this harmful prohibition.

DrRich’s critics have insisted that he is simply making too much of this. Our government, they insist, whatever its tendencies, will not really act in this way, for the simple reason that Americans would never put up with such limitations on their individual freedoms. And in fact, DrRich fundamentally agrees with his critics, at least to this extent: Americans – many of us, anyhow – just won’t put up with it.

Where he quibbles is in the specifics. DrRich’s critics insist that our government (presumably, taking American character into account) would never actually try to limit the freedom of Americans in such an egregious way. In contrast, DrRich (having carefully demonstrated for his readers that the government will indeed use every means at its disposal to make it illegal, infeasible, or both, for Americans to spend their own money on their own healthcare), finds, sadly, that the many Americans who “won’t put up with it” will find themselves having to act counter to the wishes of their government. That is, Americans who insist on exercising their natural right to become “the proper guardians of their own health,” will have to do so extra-legally.

To say it even more bluntly, Americans wishing to enjoy the individual liberties which our Constitution promises us will, in this instance, need to engage in black market healthcare. DrRich has talked about this before, but finds this a propitious time to discuss it again, and to offer some words of wisdom and caution to anyone who might be inclined in this direction.

Black markets develop naturally whenever a society’s controlling authority attempts to prevent its citizens from acquiring an otherwise available good or service which they very much want (or need). In fact, it is a law of nature that, wherever a group of people exists who badly desire a certain product, and another group of people exists who very much want to provide that product, there is no force in the universe – governmental or divine – which can keep those two groups from engaging in commerce.

To see what is likely to happen when the government institutes its healthcare prohibition, we ought to think about what happened when that same government instituted its alcohol prohibition (i.e., Prohibition). The 18th Amendment (one of the big triumphs of the Progressive Era, and one which, quite typically, relied for its ultimate success entirely on a fundamental change in human nature), went into effect at midnight, January 1, 1920. By noon that day, an entirely new industry had sprung up. This industry – the alcohol black market – eventually employed hundreds of thousands of Americans in various capacities, such as distillers, alcohol “re-naturizers,” bootleggers, rum-runners, speakeasy proprietors, accountants, individuals who today might be called “lobbyists,” and various species of “muscle.”

DrRich’s own dear grandfather, who had only recently arrived from Eastern Europe to work in the steel mills, found more profitable employment instead, through the ’20′s and into the Great Depression, as a gun-toting rum-runner. Each weekend he filled the hidden tank under the back seat of his big Buick sedan with 250 gallons of prime home-made spirits, and would place DrRich’s young grandmother (wearing an impressive hat)  next to him, and seat their three innocent little children (among them DrRich’s toddler mother) over the hidden contraband in the back – the very picture of a happy young family out for a Sunday drive – and in this guise would make his deliveries across northeastern Ohio. DrRich will never understand why, at the end of Prohibition, Grandpa ended up as a laborer for the city street department, instead of the filthy-rich Ambassador to England like his fellow bootlegger, Joe Kennedy. (But on second thought perhaps it is better this way. If Grandpa had ended up like Ambassador Kennedy, DrRich today would be spouting the Progressive mantra, like all those other guilt-ridden souls burdened by unearned wealth.)

In any case, the government took great issue with the new industry that had been created, overnight, by Prohibition, and attempted to end the new black market by employing the ultimate expression of any sovereign authority – the legal exertion of violence. (The enforcers, it happens, were Treasury Agents, the very same enforcers who now will be ensuring compliance with certain mandates being imposed by our new healthcare system.) This effort on the government’s part led to an organized response, and resulted in the maturation of American organized crime. (Interestingly, this organized crime effort happened to be centered in Chicago, a happenstance which resulted in a persistent and evolving thugocracy within that city, whose ultimate ramifications – some say – are now affecting current events on a much broader scale).

When its concerted application of force against the the bootleggers failed to end the black market, our government turned to applying a different kind of force, this time to the consumers. The recalcitrant consumers of illicit alcohol were, after all, guilty of failing to change their behavior, despite all the heroic efforts which were being made to educate them about the pitfalls of demon rum.  The understandable frustration this caused finally led our government resort to deadly force against the obstinate public itself. Author Deborah Blum has recently documented how the U. S. government caused poisonous substances to be added to the alcohol supply, an act that is estimated to have eventually killed 10,000 people. The chief medical examiner of New York City at the time called this action “our national experiment in extermination.” And in 1927, the Chicago Tribune said, “It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.” It was partly the revulsion against such official atrocities that forced the end of Prohibition in 1933.

DrRich relates this little-remembered episode merely to illustrate the lengths to which our government will go when its attempts to control human nature through legislation fail. It is worth keeping in mind as we conjure up ways to establish what he hopes we will not need, but fears we’ll not be able to avoid, namely, a black market in healthcare.

Black market healthcare will not be for the faint of heart. But then, no great human endeavor ever is.

In his next post, DrRich offers some concrete suggestions for black market healthcare.

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