- Del Meyer, MD - http://delmeyer.net -

Charity, Altruism, and Free-Market Medicine

by Madeleine Cosman

Charity is not altruism that requires one to sacrifice self for others. Charity is free market compassion. It cannot be demanded. It cannot be extracted. It cannot be centrally controlled. Charity results from volitional self-interest. Whoever gives charity gets reward. The giver feels good, enjoys gratitude of the receiver, believes that doing the right thing is virtuous. Charity inspires pleasing confirmation from others that doing good is doing well. Religious people store up good works on earth now for Heavenly reward later. Some people give charity for an income tax deduction.

Remarkably, charity resembles Adam Smith’s reminder that we do not get our dinner from the benevolence of the butcher, the baker, and the brewer but rather from their self-interest. Each exchanges value for value and in so doing expands the good. By working in one’s self-interest one also serves the greater community by making more product, more choice, more items for more exchange. By exchanging each has vested interest in peace and basic fairness and ethics. Self-interest is the key to perpetuating charitable achievements, just as it is for capitalism.

Just as achievements and products of the free market are close to infinite, so is true charity. Markets work best when uncoerced, unregulated, and rewarded. Likewise, charity.

Charity may be the only 100% coverage. Free market medicine cannot be 100% coverage because a truly free system allows some to elect not to be treated, not to be helped, and recognizes that some are beyond help. Charity inherently has the same limitations: some potential receivers will refuse help and some help will not help. Charity stimulates ingenuity. Charity initiates innovation. Because charity is rewarded, unlike altruism which is coerced, charity expands and inspires.

Dr Madeleine P Cosman, Esq,
President, Medical Equity, San Diego 92029