Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reporting health care hoaxes to the White House

There was a fury amongst conservative and libertarian groups recently when the White House put together a campaign to have Americans send in information about health care reform that didn't jive with their views.

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

First, I should state me annoyance with those of my fellow libertarians that blew this whole thing out of proportion (I was less annoyed with the conservatives, because their nonsense does not reflect back on me). Implications were made by many individuals that the government was getting people to tattle on their neighbours, family and friends, drawing comparisons to Orwellian policies. While I cannot guarantee that the government was not proceeding toward such a program, there was certainly no proof or logic to suggest that it was. The White House has a tough task of selling the people on its plan, and certainly would want to keep on top of all the arguments against it, so as to rebut them and persuade people to accept the initiative.

But we mustn't overlook the very fact that there is too much disinformation to keep track of. (I actually believe a lot of it is not disinformation, but in fact valuable information for the people, but that is a moot point, at least in this post.) Why are there so many points of contention being raised by the various people in opposition? Why does the White House need to concern itself with every chain letter and blog post? Why can't the people tell real information from disinformation?

The answer to these questions and more: the draft of the proposed bill posted by the Senate Health, Education, Labour and Pension Committee is a 615-page PDF! (summary) This excludes all the other pages that are adopted into the bill from other acts, where amendments and revisions are made. Compare this to Ron Paul's "Audit the Fed" Bill, HR 1207 which is less than a page and for which the amendments to existing law apply to only one paragraph of the US Code. That is a bill you can read.

The government knows the health care bill is unreadable! It knows that ordinary citizens cannot tell truth from fact because they wouldn't even know where to start. And it knows that the people are dissatisfied with the current system. All it needs to do is offer an alternative, and put forth some arguments against opposing points. These arguments needn't be rational or honest, because the people will not be reading the bill, and the media will validate their existing viewpoints according to the viewership, not challenge them. All they need to do is keep together a coalition of the majority--that is, those who are dissatisfied with the current system--who will cheer for reform. As Hayek wrote in Road to Serfdom, "It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program...than on any positive task."

While I'm glad that the White House has ended its appeal for so-called tattling, it doesn't address the real issue of unintelligible legislation. The real solution here is to have bills that people can read.

Or better yet, the government could just get out of the way and let the free market operate.

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