Free Men and Slaves

According to Plato’s Athenian Stranger, there are two sorts of doctors, corresponding to two sorts of patients. On each side, there are “slaves and free.”

Slave doctors “acquire the art by following their master’s command,” “but not by following nature.” Generally, they are permitted to treat their fellow slaves. In doing so, the slave doctor neither “gives nor receives any account of each malady afflicting” his charges. Rather, “he gives his commands just like a headstrong tyrant and hurries off to some other sick slave.”

The results are not hard to imagine.

The free doctor, caring for “free men,” of course acts differently. Before seeing a patient, he “investigates maladies from their beginning and according to nature.” Next, “communing with the patient himself,” he “learns something . . . from the invalid” as well as from himself. “He doesn’t give orders until he has in some sense persuaded” his fellow that the measures to be taken are apt “to succeed in leading him back to health.”

Socialist societies often boast of their systems of “free” medicine. In such societies, however, neither doctors nor patients are free men. Unsurprisingly, healthcare falsely labeled as free tends to resemble that Plato calls fit for slaves.

Although medicine has not been without its problems in the United States, hitherto we have been blessed with sufficient freedom in general, and in this particular department, to make it possible for most citizens to seek and find medical advice resembling that of free practitioners advising free patients.

As with so many other elements of our former social contract, this blessing seems to be disappearing fast, as a coalition of government and corporate actors places health freedom in its crosshairs, and fires the ammo it has been quietly hoarding for many years.

Take Emily Jo, for example. “With an undergraduate degree in microbiology and biochemistry, Jo thought she had done her research” regarding certain experimental procedures being foisted on the public in response to a mostly manufactured “public health” crisis.

Mary Jo’s mistake, one echoed by many highly (or over) educated Americans, was to trust the judgment of certain regulatory agencies, professional organizations, and those under their influence.

As a result, she eagerly signed up her fourteen year old son for an injection she now realizes was wholly unnecessary. In consequence, her once vivacious boy was hospitalized for acute heart inflammation, and remains unable to engage in physical activity without instant exhaustion.

All this, to ward off what for virtually everyone of his age would amount to a case of the sniffles.

Meanwhile, the evil geniuses behind such criminal stupidities are threatening to bar children from school unless they receive similar injections. And millions of healthy Americans, for whom such shots are similarly not worth the risk, are being threatened with loss of employment, and other forms of social ostracism, unless they submit to a medical intervention whose benefits are at best debatable, and in many cases clearly outweighed by potential harms.

It is not my intention to fault anyone who, doing his best to consult sound medical sources, has decided that a particular procedure is right for him, or his loved ones.

Whether I would agree or disagree with that decision, the point is more fundamental: in a free society, medicine is administered by those who are able to reason freely about its merits, to those who are free to be persuaded one way or the other.

Once we establish that our population is to be treated as slaves, by professionals acting like slaves, it is but a tiny step to a world in which America is, quite simply, a society of slaves.

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