When I was a child I remember watching the Republican convention with my dad in 1968 (I believe) and hearing a speech that was rather incendiary (goes to show you what having 3 channels only will force you to watch). My dad dismissed the speaker with a “Oh, he’s one of those “John Birchers.” I had a chance to catch Paul Ryan’s speech last night and for some reason I thought back to that quality time I spent with my dad.

I was disappointed in Congressman Ryan’s characterization of “Obamacare” as an “new entitlement” rather than the health care system reorganization that it actually is. I was even more disappointed in the disingenuousness of his claims regarding the effect of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare as compared to the intent of the House of Representatives as announced in the “Path to Prosperity” budget that he is given credit for authoring. What mostly caught my ear, however, was his description of life in “Obama’s America”:

None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers—a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

Healthcare access has been a poorly and erratically funded entitlement ever since the founding of this country, as has public education. I guess in a sense people have moved from the entitlement of a delivery in a controlled environment to the entitlement of public education for a long time so perhaps we are contemplating a move in another direction.

This prompted me to look into what Ayn Rand would consider to be appropriate for health care delivery, as she seems to be providing at least as much influence over Republican thinkers today as the John Birch Society had in the 1960s. I found the essay (famous, it turns out): Health Care is not a Right, penned in 1993 by Leonard Peikoff, and here is the gist:

[It’s as if there was a right to haircuts and] haircuts are free, like the air we breathe, so some people show up every day for an expensive new styling, the government pays out more and more, barbers revel in their huge new incomes, and the profession starts to grow ravenously, bald men start to come in droves for free hair implantations, a school of fancy, specialized eyebrow pluckers develops — it’s all free, the government pays.

So, how does that translate to healthcare?

Under the American system you have a right to health care if you can pay for it… Some people can’t afford medical care in the U.S. But they are necessarily a small minority in a free or even semi-free country. If they were the majority, the country would be an utter bankrupt and could not even think of a national medical program. As to this small minority, in a free country they have to rely solely on private, voluntary charity. Yes, charity, the kindness of the doctors or of the better off — charity, not right, i.e. not their right to the lives or work of others. And such charity, I may say, was always forthcoming in the past in America. The advocates of Medicaid and Medicare under LBJ did not claim that the poor or old in the ’60’s got bad care; they claimed that it was an affront for anyone to have to depend on charity. But the fact is: You don’t abolish charity by calling it something else. If a person is getting health care for nothing, simply because he is breathing, he is still getting charity, whether or not President Clinton calls it a “right.” To call it a Right when the recipient did not earn it is merely to compound the evil. It is charity still — though now extorted by criminal tactics of force, while hiding under a dishonest name.

Yes, I think I can see a line between President Obama’s vision regarding healthcare and those who follow Ms Rand.