All the talk about Ayn Rand recently, because of the release of Part 1 of the new film version of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, has really brought back some memories. Now, as I mentioned in this post, I didn’t read the entire Atlas Shrugged, mostly because I just don’t read fiction — I’m a non-fiction guy. But I have read a goodly amount of her other non-fiction writings, including her shorter “pamphlets,” such as The Fascist New Frontier, a comparison of John F. Kennedy’s proposals and policies with those of European fascist governments.
And I recall another similar one to do with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, but I can’t remember what it was called, maybe the Great Fascist Society. I no longer have any of those, unfortunately. And also, there was one that discussed the doctor as being a slave of the collective, or of the State. I can’t even find a reference to that particular one on the Internet, although that had been a continuing theme in several of Rand’s works.
And I also no longer have the audio cassettes that I had decades ago of Ayn Rand’s lectures from the “Ford Hall Forum.” Those were probably the most enlightening lectures I had ever heard. Here’s a good one from 1961: “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.”
I was never part of the “Ayn Rand Cult,” but my thinking was influenced by Rand, as far as recognizing the rights of the individual, the right to own and control one’s own life, and the right to be free from the aggression of others. And also as far as recognizing the dangers of collective power over the individual, and the dangers of the State.
But Rand sure made her point of how modern society has enslaved doctors, through socialized medicine, in Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal and in her fiction, particularly Atlas Shrugged. Of course, it will only get worse with ObamaCare.
Here is a quote from Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal provided by a website called The Independent Individualist:
Businessmen—who provide us with the means of livelihood, with jobs, with labor-saving devices, with modern comforts, with an ever-rising standard of living—are the men most immediately and urgently needed by society. They have been the first victims, the hated, smeared, denounced, exploited scapegoats of the mystic-altruist-collectivist axis. Doctors come next; it is precisely because their services are so crucially important and so desperately needed that the doctors are now the targets of the altruists’ attack, on a worldwide scale.
Because doctors apparently provide a “service” that is supposedly vital to a society (but not nearly as much as is often claimed), the society that has become so collectivized such as ours has claimed ownership of the doctor’s medical practice, his business and livelihood, and has made the medical doctor literally a slave of the State. That is why, because of that perverted aspect of society and its socialization of medicine, that especially ObamaCare is driving many American doctors out of the business and to an early retirement.
I’m sure that many websites and bloggers have been quoting from Atlas Shrugged recently, but here is an important oft-quoted passage of Dr. Hendricks speaking:
I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I could not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, but ‘to serve.’ That a man’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness at which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind—yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in the operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.
Beyond merely the resentment of good doctors who do not like being made slaves of the State, and who will thus leave the profession because of ObamaCare, those who do not mind being servants of the State, who like the idea of dependence on government to take care of them and their livelihoods, and who are more easily bendable to the will of government bureaucrats, are the ones who will be attracted to medicine, and thus the quality of the doctors and of medical care will fall.
Another reason for the decline in quality of medical care will be because the doctors’ and nurses’ pay will be determined by the government bureaucrats, and not by markets. As economist Yuri Maltzev wrote,
Irresponsibility, expressed by the popular Russian saying “They pretend they are paying us and we pretend we are working,” resulted in appalling quality of service, widespread corruption, and extensive loss of life. My friend, a famous neurosurgeon in today’s Russia, received a monthly salary of 150 rubles — one third of the average bus driver’s salary.
The idea that the doctor has been made to be a slave of the State, while is accurate, is a bit too harsh an assertion for many people to hear or take seriously. Many people prefer to think of the doctor as a “servant to their patients.” But I like what Ayn Rand said in response to that, that the doctor and patient are “traders”:
Doctors are not servants of their patients, they are traders like everyone else in a free society and they should bear that title proudly considering the crucial importance of the services they offer.