(Week 22 - Monday, Jan. 5 / 2009)
In the last column I talked about how, from a national (macro-economic) perspective, universal health care could be readily monetized ("paid for") to any extent deemed desirable within the limits of material and human resources available to provide it, by the issuance of money directly out of the US Treasury. The very notion that there is a national health care crisis because of a shortage of money is contrary to any real economic logic. That this idea even exists, and has moreover gained an iron grip over our culture's economic mindset, is largely attributable to the fact that our thoughts have been so taken over by the notion that our money supply must be borrowed into existence at "interest" from a private banking system that we have lost the ability to think in any other terms.
Let me state this emphatically so there can be no confusion. THE VERY IDEA THAT THE NATION IS LIMITED IN PROVIDING HEALTH CARE TO ALL ITS CITIZENS DUE TO A LACK OF MONEY IS AN ABSURDITY. This country possesses the macro-economic ability to issue its own money and thereby provide the circulating media necessary to finance its own health care to whatever extent is deemed appropriate. The task that remains, then, is to issue such funds in a quantity and mode that is optimal to make them accessible in the micro-economy to the people who need health care and the people that can provide it. This is essentially a matter of good monetary management.
The real limit to health care, then, is the availability of the material and human resources to meet the need. Such resources do entail a material and human cost in their development, but from a macro-economic (national) perspective the work to develop and employ them is something to be monetized (money issued on the basis of such activity). It is never a monetary "cost." That we are suffering as a society over a supposed lack of funds to take care of people is tragic and unnecessary. We will not, I suggest, resolve the cost-of-heath-care crisis until we wake up to that.
All this said, a caveat is in order. The assurance that health care services can be offered readily to all members of the society without any serious monetary impediment has the potential to be an immense blessing, but also carries with it a danger. The conscious taking hold by our society of our monetary prerogative unleashes a power into human affairs that has not been fully present heretofore. That is, the very ability for society to "monetize at will," so to speak, anything it decides to do up to limits of its material and human capabilities means, among other things, that we could created a "medical monster" that would have a virtually limitless powers for good, or oppression. A medical establishment could be conjured that would assume vast control over people's body's and minds, and, in a manner of speaking, "put everyone on meds." Increasingly, misgivings are voiced concerning the supposed intrusiveness, abuses and inappropriate influence of the medical system we already have, even by professionals within the system.
That said, I think one would find it difficult to deny that the medical discipline has provided many benefits, including extraordinary life-saving services. Regardless of how corrupted one might think the medical system has become, it is hard to imagine any but the most fanatical detractor (or perhaps most extraordinary person) turning down critical intervention at their own point of crisis.
My purpose in bringing this up is not to join the debate over the vices or virtues of this or that medical regime, but to suggest that such matters ought to be decided on their actual merits, free of being influenced unduly by the imperative to grow the medical economy to service the "interest" payments on bank-issued money.
Within a society that fully recognized its own power to provide the funds for any type and degree of health services it so chose, whether directly (as in a government paid system), or indirectly (as in insuring through public policy that there is enough money in circulation to enable people to manage their own medical finances), the possibility of developing diverse health regimens that are taken on their true merits and available to everyone who could benefit from them would at last be realizable.
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The complete set of columns from this series is posted at the following websites.