By Ben Cohen
Editor in Chief
On last week’s edition of ‘Real Time’ with Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson assailed his co-guest Paul Krugman for his views on mandatory health insurance. Carlson accused the renowned economist for wanting to enforce his ideas about health care onto the population. “It’s authoritarian, you’re using the power of the government to force people to do things they don’t want to do because you think it’s best for them”, he argued.
Put in those terms, Carlson’s argument is a matter of freedom vs government tyranny. But really, it is an argument that hides the talk show host’s disdain for democracy.
Carlson is a libertarian with strict views on what defines freedom. Neatly packaging his argument to include social programs, Carlson’s ideology labels popular movements as ‘anti freedom’. According to the libertarian doctrine, universal healthcare, social security, education are all attempts by the federal government to interfere in out lives and force us to give up the freedom to choose what is best for us.
However, this is a typical misdirection tactic used by the right to confuse people into ceding their rights to private and corporate power.
Extensive polling has consistently shown that a significant majority of the population want socialized medical care. If put to a vote tomorrow, the U.S would have mandatory healthcare for all of its citizens. It is also a fact that Carlson acknowledges.
“It‘s another way of saying that socialized medicine—which I believe Americans want—they say they want,” said Carlson on his MSNBC show recently. “A “New York Times” poll a couple months ago, they want it. They‘re willing to pay for it.”
“I‘m not sure they understand the abridgements to their freedoms they‘re going to have to face if they get it,” he continued.
“Socialized medicine takes away your freedom”.
The enlightened Carlson and his conservative comrades like to lecture everyone on the ills of government while extolling the beauty of the free market. Private power, they argue, is more cost effective, more efficient, and best of all, more profitable. It’s also pro freedom, because the government does not have anything to do with it, and if you don’t want healthcare, why should you have to have it? If you do, corporate America will provide it (if you have the money of course).
It does not take a genius to work out the inherent flaws and massive hypocrisy in this stance. Having corporate medical care is no more ‘free’ than having government health care. In fact, it is radically less so. The private power Tucker Carlson and his friends want us to trust with our healthcare are not democracies, and they are certainly not accountable to us.
Kaiser Permanente and Blue Cross of California don’t care if its members overwhelmingly want them to provide cheaper service. They don’t care if we think they should fund certain treatments or extend coverage to those who cannot afford it. They are business models built on profit, not people. Tucker, for some reason, does not seem concerned about this.
Unlike corporate tyrannies, the government is something the people have power over and can change if it does not represent their interests. Popular social programs develop through ground movements that force the government to represent their interests, not those of private power. Social security and programs like Medicaid came about after massive popular pressure. They are accountable to us, and we can change it with a vote. This is what we call ‘Democracy’- the power of the people to choose how they would like to live.
Despite his professions of love for democracy, Tucker Carlson clearly does not believe in it. By equating freedom with monetary individualism, Carlson is obscuring the fact that people still believe society has a responsibility to others. They want to contribute to a system that provides a safety net for everyone in society. Right wing Utopias of individual, self-interested consumers work only if the people want it. And unfortunately for Tucker, they don’t.
A graduate in Politics and International Relations from the
University of Sussex, Ben Cohen is a boxing journalist for
Secondsout.com and Boxing Monthly. He is the founding Editor of The