There is so much talk about options these days, and how they are imperative to individual freedom that one is almost tempted to embrace these crusades for freedom blindly. After all, who is going to go against freedom? Who can argue that freedom can exist without options? But whether the lobbying is for absolute lack of government regulation on business and finance or cutting social benefits or health care as a means of preserving individual freedom, these advocacies fail to define one important element of the argument: whose freedom, whose options?
A good example is the never ending debate on some kind of a national health care in the US, and the strong opposition to it on grounds such as ‘that it eliminates individual options, thus limiting freedom’.
Let’s look at this more closely: who does this argument cater to? Whose freedom is constrained by a universal health care? How many people in the US, or anywhere in this world, have the option to choose which doctor, which hospital to go to and the means to pay for them?
Definitely not the majority of people; so in absence of a national health care, what option does the poor have? How many options do the lower middle class or even the middle class have considering they have insurance only if they work? So many people are out of work these days, and many more are uncertain about the future of their jobs. These constitute the majority of the population; those who are not among the top %10 income earners, and those who will benefit from a nation-wide health care system.
The rich should have their options, and thus their freedom, right? And what about the rest, say the poor? What does freedom without options mean to them? I suppose they are always free to be deprived, to be unwell, to be shoved aside to make room for those with means. The western world has developed a two-tier system: socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. This is clearly demonstrated on austerity measures imposed on “not rich” population of Europe, on gigantic bail-outs for the banks, and corporate tax cuts in Canada and the US.
Those in power cannot convince themselves to leave the rich to suffer the consequences of their actions, but the poor is a different story. We seem to be getting closer and closer to “let them eat cakes” times by depriving the poor of options and persuading ourselves to be content with “let them have freedom”. But we are back to square one: can freedom truly exist without options?