What used to be called Decoration Day, now officially Memorial Day, is a uniquely American holiday that originated in the ashes of the American Civil War. It began as a way for Americans to honor and express appreciation for their fellow citizens who had given “the last full measure of devotion,” in the words of Lincoln.
MEMORIAL DAY AND THE SOLDIER’S SACRIFICE TO END SLAVERY
This included newly freed American negroes. Just released from the horrific nightmare of legalized, government-backed human slavery, experiencing freedom for the first time, the new freemen and freewomen wanted to honor and thank the soldiers who “gave their lives” so that this nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” might live.
Ending legalized, government-protected human slavery in the United States was the “new birth of freedom” Lincoln summoned at the end of the Gettysburg Address. If that newborn freedom ever fully grew, fully developed, and fully matured, it would mean the full equal protection of the full natural freedom and full natural property rights of each and every individual American—a goal that seems farther away today than when Decoration Days were first observed in the late 1860s.
Memorial Day is uniquely American because it points toward the unique American tragedy: Americans abolished slavery a mere two generations after founding a new nation. They made great efforts to reach the high standards of moral excellence set forth in the American Declaration of Independence. And it required Americans of different colors slaughtering each other in unprecedented and almost unimaginable numbers—all because some Americans rejected the high standards of moral excellence set forth in the American Declaration of Independence.
Memorial Day also highlights the fact that freedom is never free. Ever. It requires a vigilant defense, a willingness to stand against unjust, violent enemies. Sometimes American soldiers die in that effort. And it is fitting that we do our best to honor those who gave their lives as well as those who risked their lives so that we might live freely.
HONORING VETS WITH SOCIALISM?
We Americans are guilty of something very bad regarding our fallen soldiers and surviving vets. We pause once a year to observe Memorial Day, sure. And a separate day for Veterans. Yet all year round we betray our fellow citizens who put on a uniform and fought in our stead: While they were fighting for the cause of freedom, we transformed the United States into un-freedom, into a socialist state.
Even worse: In our unappreciative rejection of freedom and our easy embrace of socialism, we now offer our own vets nothing better than Venezuelan-style socialized medical care: the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs health system is the opposite of freedom. It is single-payer. It is owned, operated, funded, and managed top to bottom by government. It is the very thing of which Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, American progressives, and socialists the world over demand. For those of you who think socialism is hip, cool, futuristic, or fair, the VA is exactly the sort of thing you’re wanting.
The embarrassing, miserable failures of the VA are now infamous. It’s hard to know which is worse: waiting to receive medical care from the VA, or getting it! Maybe that’s why the current VA Secretary Robert McDonald joked about American vets waiting for VA treatment being like people waiting in lines for Disneyland rides?
When the VA identifies thousands of living vets as deceased and terminates their coverage—which is what continues to happen at the VA—it’s not clear if that’s gross incompetence or a blessing in disguise.
Yeah, it’s a horrible mess.
V.A. IS PART OF A MODEL, AND THE MODEL IS THE PROBLEM
But the biggest mistake we can make is to think these problems are unique to the VA. Or to Secretary McDonald. They’re not. The problems that plague the VA are endemic to all government agencies, programs, and efforts.
- These problems always appear when there’s no profit incentive, but there is an incentive to waste entire budgets of taxpayer money so that next year’s will be bigger.
- These problems always appear when no one is risking their own capital and there’s no real need to maximize the return on every dollar and every resource invested into an effort.
- These problems happen whenever there’s no competition, and therefore no need to increase efficiency or improve the level excellence because government bureaucrats get paid the same whether they help a few, hurt a few, heal a few, kill a few. Or worse.
FIRING BUREACRATS DOESN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF SPENDING OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY
If we are to honor our vets, let’s learn the lessons of the failed VA. This is not a matter of firing a Department head here or there, or creating yet more oversight committees. No, no, no! We can fire bumbling Robert McDonald today. We can fire dozens or hundreds of VA bureaucrats. The VA will still be a miserable single-payer mess of socialism tomorrow.
The lesson of the VA is that all government agencies operate without competition, without the discipline imposed by risking one’s own private capital, and without the incentive to increase profits by becoming excellent, retaining existing customers, and attracting new customers and greater market share.
Even in government organizations that are Constitutionally legitimate—like the United States military—there will still be waste, inefficiency, corruption, and cronyism. Because in the end, every government program means some people spending other people’s money. Government always means some people spending other people’s money because those in government don’t create new wealth. Those in government have to spend other people’s money to do anything.
That’s why we should minimize as much as possible what government does. We should eliminate every government agency, organization, and program that does not serve the immediate and only legitimate purpose of government: protecting the natural freedom and property rights of individual citizens. And then we should watch like hawks over the few government agencies that remain.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE FOR OUR VETS!
If we really want to honor our veterans, let’s abolish the VA health care system altogether. Our vets deserve better. Let’s offer to them a simple voucher redeemable by cash that can be used at any private medical provider. We owe them that much.
Let our vets shop around and choose health care from the best physicians, best technicians, and best medical experts they can find. That is, after all, what our vets fought for. It’s the same purpose for which our fallen soldiers gave their “last full measure of devotion.” A “new birth of freedom” in America.
Let’s remember that on Memorial Day. And let’s do something about it. Let’s do more than replace one bureaucratic head of a socialist government agency with another bureaucratic head. Let’s get rid of some of our socialist government agencies, beginning with the one that harms the very vets who ought to be honored: the VA.