The Hon. Dr. Peter Phelps MLC explains how socialised Medicine is responsible for destroying personal responsibility and creating the nanny state:
What is the connection between a tax on alcopops, increasing the health insurance penalty, banning solar beds and restrictions on smoking? They are all a consequence of the socialist medical system in Australia. Most people say that they like Medicare, but do they really understand its consequences? Let me put it plainly. Medicare offers moral justification for the Government to interfere in your life. How does it work? Medicare allows for medical treatment at no direct cost to the patient. People might not like to admit it, but health is a market and, like all markets, where there is no cost there is no price signal to influence behaviour. What does that mean? It means that, in the absence of a price signal, there is no reason to behave in a healthy manner. People can be as dissolute as they like and pay no personal cost for their actions—this has consequences.
The first consequence is the failure to provide any incentive to do the right thing. You might as well go out, get drunk, get into fights, smoke crack cocaine and have unprotected sex—after all the Government will pay your medical bills, not you. But this leads to the second consequence: governments do not have money of their own. They take it from people in what is generally called taxation, but it might just as appropriately be called legalised theft. To pay for the medical consequences of the indulgences of person A, governments must raise funds from person B. "Ah", I hear you say, "but they also raise funds from person A." That may be true, but the question is: Do they raise enough taxes from person A to entirely cover their medical costs? If the answer is yes, then why do we need socialised medicine in the first place? Why not just let everybody pay for their own expenses? However, if the answer is no—which is more likely—then we have the situation where those who live healthy lifestyles are compelled to pay for the cost of those who do not.
As I said in my maiden speech, why do socialists believe that a rational market will pursue virtue, when virtue is punished and wickedness and indolence are rewarded? As medical costs rise, taxes must also rise and all governments hate the political consequences of raising taxes. So the Federal Government seeks to defray the health costs by forcing people on above average incomes to pay an additional amount of pseudo-taxation. People are compelled to either subsidise the private health sector through private health insurance or face a higher Medicare tax. Either way they are being forced to subsidise a system which, if they take care of themselves, they may never need to use. I do understand the plight of those who have chronic biological medical conditions and simply cannot fund their own medical costs. This is an instance where market failure legitimately calls for government intervention, and I am happy to contribute to such. But I am totally unsympathetic to those who have consciously adopted, and continue to maintain, destructive lifestyle choices that necessitate my subsidising their medical care at great expense.
Aside from the purely fiscal considerations, there is a much more insidious and dangerous problem caused by socialised medicine. Governments now run what are euphemistically called lifestyle campaigns, purportedly to make us healthier and because they care about us, but really they are to reduce the net demand for health services. We are told to stop smoking, stop drinking, exercise more, not use drugs, not to eat fast food, put on sunscreen and make sure our kids do not get fat. When that fails, as it inevitably does because there are no price signals limiting demand for health services, out pops the authoritarian hoof and governments start banning stuff. Members will recall that I have spoken of the petit Fascism of the scientific community in relation to man-made global warming. But that same strain also emerges in some sections of the medical community: The mentality of not just "we know what's best for you" but "you must do what we say". It is the idea that adults are children who cannot be left to their own devices.
This desire to run our lives dovetails nicely with government's desire to reduce medical costs. So they play off each other, mutually supporting, mutually reinforcing. The net result of all this is a massive loss of liberty and a destruction of the right to freedom of action by individuals. The ability of people to make their own mistakes, to pay and learn from them, has disappeared. We are now little children who must be told what to do in our lives. Who is to blame for this lamentable state of affairs? We are. We, the Australian people, who thought we could get something for nothing and found that the laws of economics are just as immutable as the laws of gravity. My fellow Australians wanted a system of so-called free medical care and they got it. Are they now prepared, as a direct consequence, to let government run their lives, rather than as they see fit?
Peter Phelps is the Government Whip in the New South Wales Legislative Council, and is a former long-term staffer in the Howard Government. He has a PhD in Australian History.