"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ayn Rand On Healthcare

Ayn Rand, writing some 50 years ago in her masterpiece of political philosophy—Atlas Shrugged—makes some uncannily astute observations about the future of American society. While only a weak sampling of the profundity found in other passages of this epic novel of a nation's devolution into senility, the following quotation on health-care is timely in light of the issues facing the US. The heroine of the novel asks the greatest surgeon living why he suddenly quit his practice and went into hiding.

“I quit when medicine was placed under state control, some time ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation?... the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would 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 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 the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' [...They] proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with 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 that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims... Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life 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.” --Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. New York, Signet Classics. 40th edition 1957. pg. 692

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