In his recent column, Matthew Shaffer ’10 expresses his skepticism toward health care reform, expounds the glory of markets and defends the Tea Party movement. As I read the piece, I couldn’t help but disagree with almost everything he said.
He begins by asserting that people are inclined toward progressive ideas because they are shortsighted: They can feel the sting of current evils, he says, but are further removed from the intangible evils of tomorrow. But Shaffer seems to forget other draws of contemporary progessivism such as evidence-based policy. From environmental and consumer protection to regulatory and health care reform, progressives are about pragmatic solutions. The reason people trust health care reform is because of the tremendous mountains of evidence from both within the United States and overseas which demonstrate that so-called socialized medicine is cheaper, more inclusive and of higher quality than alternatives.
It isn’t a matter of trusting the government’s intentions; it’s a matter of gauging the facts and thinking critically.
Shaffer waxes poetic about the prowess of the free market and tells the cute anecdote of Albany, where a prosperous economy was ruined by legislative corruption and government intervention. That’s great, but I have a better one: the Enron Scandal. Freed from the control of government surveillance, Enron illegal accounting practices defrauded investors and led to the then-biggest bankruptcy in American history and the California energy crisis. Seven years later, the same lack of oversight by regulatory agencies caused the second biggest economic downturn in American history, a financial crisis that would only have gotten worse had it not been for — you guessed it — government intervention.
Regulation does not have to mean domination. Even progressives aren’t arguing against the unrivaled benefits of competition. It’s merely that the competition needs to be fair.
The American people want a government that protects their liberty and their right to pursue happiness. They want autonomy, agency and the ability to exercise their freedom. You’re not really free when the weight of medical bills drives you to bankruptcy. Ultimately, greater control by government won’t turn us into “serfs,” but widespread inequality and lack of accountability among the most prosperous will keep serfdom alive.
More than 200 years ago, the founding fathers promised to guarantee the American people a better life by establishing a government that would provide for the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty and was dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.
I say we stick to that.
The writer is a senior in Davenport College