Human Nature and Why Socialism (and Socialized Medicine) Won’t Work

It was 2010 when I wrote the following…that was pre-Obamacare.  Did his plan even have a name back then?


The Affordable Care Act.

I sometimes forget that’s the actual name.  I’m supposing the doubling of my insurance premiums has made health care more affordable for somebody, somewhere.  As for me, I’ll have to pay nearly $12,000 before my insurance kicks in a dime.  My health care is not more affordable.  Is yours?

The following is my take on why neither Hillary nor Bernie can solve the problem.


Love your neighbor as yourself – the second of the Great Commandments and the theoretical basis of socialism.

Human nature, on the other hand, tends to think of the self first. Until the human spirit attains perfection (and follows the first Great Commandment), this element of human nature will remain the primary motivator within our relationships and actions.

Take work for example. On the surface, it sounds great to say everyone should work the same number of hours, get paid the same, and reap the same benefits. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

But what about the person who is born blind? Or your 90-year-old grandmother? Or your husband with a bad back? Or your pregnant wife? The list goes on and on. And what about the person who puts his whole heart into the job and accomplishes twice as much as someone who simply doesn’t care? Will the hard worker put forth the effort forever if there is no reward?

If it took every member of society working 20 hours per week to make things run smoothly, as soon as a few are not working at all, the others will need to work more, but not for themselves. How many extra hours would you like to work for the benefit of someone who is not working? Probably very few.

But what if you want to work extra hours to buy a boat or a bigger house or a fancy car? If you work more, are you depriving someone else their allotted work hours? Is your extra income from your hard work taxed at a higher rate? Most people who have to work 3 or 4 times as long to make only twice as much decide that the extra effort just isn’t worth it.

And what about the 20-year-old who’d rather live on next to nothing at the beach? Is it his right to work only enough to eat and get by? If you’re happy living in a tent, should you be forced to work enough to afford better? What about the pursuit of happiness? Plenty of people are miserable in their jobs already. Is it only fair that the rest be miserable as well?

The same drawbacks that apply to work also apply to socialized medicine. Everyone should receive the same health care. It sounds fair, doesn’t it? Why should a businessman have access to unlimited care when the fast-food worker does not? But then, why does Congress not want the same health care program that welfare recipients receive? Apparently they believe they are more deserving. Well, are they, or aren’t they? We’re all human beings after all. But maybe Congress thinks they work harder than welfare recipients do. Perhaps they think they deserve more. Perhaps welfare recipients need some sort of motivation to better themselves. Why try harder if everyone gets the same? Why save your money for back surgery if it’s free anyway.

And what about braces? If the rich kids can afford them, don’t the poor deserve them as well? If I have to work extra to pay for 5 other kids to have braces in addition to my own, I guess I’d decide they could all do without. Who has the motivation to work extra for the sake of everyone else? In a nutshell, no one. And that’s what will happen with health care. Socialized medicine may equalize what everyone receives, but the inevitable result is a lower level of service for everybody.

If I said everyone should receive the same groceries, you’d probably think I was crazy. But everyone needs to eat. Food is even a greater necessity than health care. But if the government were in charge of food distribution, would we be eating ground beef or filet mignon?

For better or worse, human nature and self-interest are here to stay. Love your neighbor as yourself. Can the two thoughts be reconciled? When people are forced to work for the benefit of others, it is no longer love. Human nature – that’s why socialism will not work, and I see no answer to the conflict on this earth.

Copyright © 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker

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About Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

CYNTHIA J KOELKER , MD is a board-certified family physician with over twenty years of clinical experience. A member of American Mensa, Dr. Koelker holds degrees in biology, humanities, medicine, and music from M.I.T., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She served in the National Health Service Corps to finance her medical education.
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7 Responses to Human Nature and Why Socialism (and Socialized Medicine) Won’t Work

  1. KF says:

    Healthcare-for-the-human-fund, You are so on target!

    If we continue to be paid according to what the Government “feels”
    is our worth, we’ll all be poorer.

  2. Chris MD says:

    It is a sad truth that socialism sounds wonderful, but fails miserably in practice, for the reasons already set forth. It would be an ideal system to put in place for a society of ideal people. I have yet to see such a place, hence the “resounding economic miracles” of Cuba and North Korea, not to mention the former USSR. It is very common for young, idealistic folks to assume that given a “just” system, people will accept “from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” Then they experience some reality, and tend to fall away from this. Charles DeGaul famously said,”If my son is not a Communist at 20, I will disown him. If he is still a Communist at 30, I will disown him.”

  3. Pete says:

    Well said, Dr. Koelker… and very true. Winston Churchill once said of socialism, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery” and “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery” Socialized medicine will only drag down the quality of care for all, such that none but the privileged elites get excellent treatment, aka “the equal sharing of misery.”

  4. Healthcare-for-the-human-fund says:

    Why do you hate poor people so much? It is ridiculous that you think you deserve to be compensated for your hard work and sacrifice.

    • laura m. says:

      To: Healthcare for the human fund: You sound like a bunch of marxists, as anyone that’s promoting socialized health care/share the wealth agenda. Why not move to a socialist country that has socialized medicine? There’s plenty to choose from.

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