07.15.2010 0

Is Donald Berwick a Conservative?

By David Bozeman –

President Obama’s recess appointment of Donald Berwick as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has triggered protests from conservatives, angry over such socialist-leaning comments as “excellent health care is by definition redistributional.” But among his defenders is Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, writing on July 7th that conservatives should rejoice this appointment, given Berwick’s history of advocating for greater patient say in the health care process and stressing long-term preventative measures to bring down costs.

These and other fevered defenses of Berwick sound a death knell for the future of inexpensive, market-based health care in this country, because they presuppose an issue of competence and efficiency overriding a basic question of government’s role in routine medical procedures. His most controversial quote, that the decision is not whether we will have rationing, but whether we will ration with our eyes open, belies the original claims of Obama-care advocates that there would be no rationing. But then liberalism must typically camouflage itself to gain a foothold.

Now, the party line, expressed by bloggers and readers is that, “I would rather have these decisions made by a man of Dr. Berwick’s caliber than by a greedy insurance company.” Berwick, you see, advised us, “Please, don’t put your faith in market forces.” America’s health care system, it seems, “runs in the darkness of free enterprise.”

To starry-eyed liberals, his reputation — multiple Harvard degrees and honorary knighthood in the British Empire for consulting on the formation of their National Health Service — trumps the logical question: why should any third-party bureaucrat wield such influence in day-to-day doctor-patient relationships?

Any Washington reformer who eschews the profit motive is conferred greater moral standing by liberals and the media over corporate executives in Omaha and Chicago who actually lose profits and positions by mistreating their customers — providing there is competition for them to run to. Not if Dr. Berwick has his way.

The first rule of business, of course, is that the customer is always right. But Americans will never have the chance to vote as consumers for Dr. Berwick, who says he is “romantic” and “in love with” Britain’s National Health Service. The British and Canadian models certainly have their defenders, even in the US, but debate typically descends into dueling statistics, because any system of nationalized health care is merely about engendering dependence and exerting control over docile masses.

As author and columnist Mark Steyn has brilliantly noted, ObamaCare is just a foundation to be molded and built upon over time, the tip of the proverbial socialized, centralized iceberg.

That is why Dr. Berwick’s “love” for Britain’s NHS is not mere hyperbole. His animus to capitalism is real, and no federal institution should attract any citizen’s love or fawning praise. The active citizen should hold a healthy degree of skepticism because government feeds on its own bloated opinion of itself.

Puffed-up rhetoric about the evils of capitalism builds layers of bureaucracy that, once entrenched, have to answer for nothing beyond their own benevolent intentions.

Dr. Berwick’s passion eerily evokes the final four words of George Orwell’s 1984, a short sentence dubbed by some the epitaph for our western world founded on individual autonomy, freedom of association and capitalism: “He loved Big Brother.” For President Obama, at least, Berwick is just the right choice to carry out his leftist agenda.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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