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War is big business in the US.
With a whopping $686.1 billion budget this year, the US Department of Defense far outshines any private business or other government agency in terms of spending.
Just take a look at this chart and you’ll see just how out of whack the government’s priorities are.
And as you can see, the DoD’s budget has grown by over $100 billion in less than 4 years. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d say that’s a bit higher than inflation, don’t you think?
Every time the US goes to war, government contractors not only get to line their pockets, but stuff them with taxpayer dollars. And they donate heavily back to the politicians that get them those contracts. Since it’s such great business, it’s no wonder the government almost always makes sure we’re at war with someone.
This kind of rent-seeking been going on for decades, even centuries. While many people are aware of the handsome profits that jet manufacturers and oil companies get from war, there’s one group that’s gotten on the action that no one expects.
By far the least talked about beneficiary of war has been the American Medical Association, also known as the AMA. How have they gone unnoticed for so long?
Picture the classic interest groups for war and note your immediate reaction.
Oil barons? A-holes!
Weapons manufacturers? Warmongers!
Bankers? Greedy SOBs!
We view all these groups as fat cats who ruin other people’s lives to get ahead. But the AMA? Just a friendly group of doctors and surgeons who want to serve the greater good.
But don’t be fooled. The people who run the show, the AMA, love war. Hindsight is 20/20. We can see exactly how war allowed a small group of people to dominate the way we receive health care today…
In the mid-19th century, organized medicine wasn’t really a ‘thing,’ at least compared to today. There were various schools of thought on what worked and the medical community was far more dispersed.
Doctors took house calls or emergency cases in their own homes and offices, and for that time period, it worked pretty effectively. Modern medicine was just beginning, and people were figuring out what worked on their own terms.
That all changed with the Civil War.
War requires centralization, coercion, enforcement and organization, which is why it’s so dangerous to freedom. As you can imagine, medicine was no exception…
Thanks to the Civil War, medicine rapidly became more organized and bureaucratized to meet the need for able bodies.
More than 600,000 deaths occurred during the war and beyond that a million more were injured and needed consistent care.
That was about five percent of the population at the time –you can’t cater to that from your home office!
And so, the US built huge amounts of hospitals to meet this new demand. Hordes of war victims, doctors and ‘surgeons’ moved into these new buildings, little centers for medical treatment to put the wounded.
Organizing so many new hospitals requires some sort of management and oversight, right? Luckily there was a group of people all too happy to oblige. Enter the AMA…
The AMA had existed before this mass building of hospitals, but it wasn’t a particularly strong body. It was more of a meeting ground for different schools of medical thought. Medicine wasn’t as advanced back then and everyone had their own opinion on what worked.
It first started out as an attempt to discuss ideas and educate each other on medical science, but it quickly turned to other ventures. The war had elevated the importance and need for efficient medical systems and the AMA was all too happy to oblige.
Over time the institution consolidated itself and leveraged their new authority to further entrench their power in the eyes of the government.
They pushed heavily for stronger licensing laws to restrict the number of doctors, under the guise of making sure only the ‘correct’ medicine was practiced.
Of course, a ‘coincidental’ side effect was it made doctors scarce and created a bottleneck for patients in need of care.
Not surprisingly, the demand and cost to receive said health care went through the proverbial roof.
By this point, the AMA was no longer a discussion forum, they were a money-making machine. Per usual, with money came power. And the AMA used this power to convince medical schools to raise their educational requirements.
Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? The reality is it was all part of the AMA’s agenda to reduce the overall number of doctors so the existing doctors could make higher profits.
Thanks to their strategically played moves the AMA continues to have a stranglehold over what we know as the American healthcare system. They’re the main reason why it takes so long for you to see your doctor –if you’re lucky enough to even have one.
When we try and understand our present, it often helps to look to the past.
Make no mistake, a small group of people can and have leveraged world events for their benefit.
If there’s one thing I know about institutions, it’s that there’s always a significant amount of self-interest involved. In fact, my yardstick for judging whether an institution is good is whether it could still benefit people if it was run purely on self-interest.
American health care is broken. Almost as long as the waiting list you’re on for that MRI scan, there’s a long list of people using the government at your expense.
This information is intended to help readers be more informed about their health options when speaking with a professional, but it should not be used alone to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. Be sure to speak to a qualified doctor before taking any action to make sure that your choices reflect your actual health situation.