Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A beginner's guide to libertarianism

I haven't been following the American healthcare debate particularly closely, mainly because some of the details are so incomprehensible to an outsider's eyes that it's often difficult to fathom what the hysteria is about. However, it was startling today to notice the conservative blogger Dr Helen Smith describing a group of doctors as 'traitors'. I could only assume they must have done something that at least bordered on being unprofessional, but following the link to the New York Post (ahem) it transpires that they had simply sat, listened to, and applauded an Obama speech in which he set out his views on reform. Oh, and they were encouraged to dress up in white coats as they did so to denote their professional status for the cameras, and they happily obliged. And that's it.

Does this shocking behaviour breach the Hippocratic Oath? I don't have the full text to hand, but I'm guessing not. Do these doctors' political views breach the American constitution? If there was even a 0.1% chance of that, I'm guessing we might just have heard about it by now (ad nauseam, in fact). So the 'treason' we appear to be left with consists of free citizens expressing honestly-held and constitutionally-legitimate political opinions, and doing so in their own free time. The alternative course of action for them, which Dr Helen would presumably have preferred, would have been to allow themselves to be browbeaten into keeping their mouths shut about their true opinions. A decidedly peculiar position for a self-styled 'libertarian' blogger to hold. But then again, this is the Paul Staines school of libertarianism we're talking about.

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