A recent Courier-Journal editorial, lamenting University of Louisville Hospital’s financial inability to provide indigent-care for all non-Jefferson County residents, demonstrates a logical fallacy that so many mainstream political pundits commit – equating government with society.
Those committing this all-too-common flaw in reasoning imply that if there’s something wrong in society then government intervention is the only possible solution. The heroic leap in logic is obvious when isolated, but still smuggled into all manner of political debate.
No one understood the difference between the coercion of government intervention and voluntary social cooperation better than Milton Friedman:
The fundamental principal of the free society is voluntary cooperation. The economic market, buying and selling, is one example. But it’s only one example. Voluntary cooperation is far broader than that. To take an example that at first sight seems about as far away as you can get — the language we speak; the words we use; the complex structure of our grammar; no government bureau designed that. It arose out of the voluntary interactions of people seeking to communicate with one another. (Free to Choose, Part 1)
Why must the lack of healthcare for the indigent necessitate government intervention? What about market solutions, like easing AMA-enforced restrictions on the entry of new physicians into the healthcare profession? What about other purely voluntary solutions, like through the charitable giving of religious or ethnic institutions? Sadly, after decades of the Great Society crowding out this sort of voluntary cooperation, the common view prevails that it’s not my responsibility to look out for my neighbor — it’s the government’s!
To find sustainable solutions to these genuine societal ills, we must learn from great thinkers like Milton Friedman — we must take more individual responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors, and remember that there’s a whole lot more to society than the government.
Milton Friedman’s message will be heeded loud and clear at Freidman Day, July 29th, at the University of Louisville. Click here to RSVP.