El Jefe brings a chicken to the doctor

Sometimes I wonder if John McClaughry is serious, or if he’s just trolling us all.

I don’t comment on his opinion pieces very often, because he’s so far beyond the pale that it’d be kind of like commenting on an alien civilization. One that considers Ayn Rand a creeping pinko.

Well, this time I’m pretty sure that El Jefe General is under the bridge, snickering. Because his latest effort, dutifully posted by VTDigger, betrays a woeful ignorance of our history. Or at best, a view of our history through coke-bottle-thick rose-colored glasses.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 1.01.59 PMIn it, El Jefe calls for a return to those Good Old Days when health care was a matter of mutual aid instead of government intervention.

We’re not talking the days before Obamacare, or the days before Medicare. We’re talking pre-Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Because as we all know, FDR ushered in the decline and fall of True America. Take it away, El Jefe…

Health care a century ago relied largely on “friendly societies,” that first appeared in the UK as early as 1793. These were self-governing mutual aid societies that promoted ethical behavior, healthy lifestyles, and “the temperate interchange of social feeling” for the afflicted. They also provided medical care, sick pay, and funeral arrangements for members and their families.

… In the U.S. clones of the friendly societies began to appear in the early 1800s under the name “fraternal organizations,” exemplified by the Odd Fellows and the Loyal Order of Moose. These lodges established orphanages, hospitals, banks, schools, retirement homes, newspapers and insurance companies. They sponsored “lodge practice,” where the local lodge members selected and employed a doctor.

Ah yes, the Good Old Days, when all you had to do is join — freely, without a hint of coercion — with your fellows to ensure that all your needs would be met. McClaughry bemoans the repression of these free movements at the hands of the medical establishment, insurance companies, and, of course, the Big Bad Government.

El Jefe paints an attractive picture. Too bad it’s conveniently incomplete. If you were subject to the tender mercies of a “lodge doctor,” before the days of medical regulation and licensing, your life and health were probably in the hands of a quack or a well-meaning tradesman with little or no training.

Let’s just imagine a “lodge doctor,” even a well-intentioned one, trying to cope with the complexities and marvels of modern medicine. (Hey, let’s put him in charge of Ebola containment!)

For more, let us turn to one of my favorite texts: “The Good Old Days — They Were Terrible!” by noted historian/archivist Otto Bettmann, founder of the Bettmann Archives. Published in 1974 and still in print, it’s a breezy, compact deflation of cherished myths about the olden times. Many of which are dearly held by El Jefe.

“The country doctor of old… was actually no more than a venturesome prescriber. Because his diagnosis was based on guesswork his therapy was totally unreliable. Sometimes it cured — often it killed. …general practice in the United States was backward, commercial and often fraudulent.

“The lack of education and proper licensing exposed the sick to hordes of ignoramuses masquerading as doctors. More a trade than a profession, medicine attracted not the sons of the elite — who preferred law or theology — but mediocrities who saw a chance to get rich quickly.” 

Many of America’s “medical schools” were little more than diploma mills, offering a sheepskin after a few months of training.

“Doctors had little professional prestige; indeed many were considered ‘crude, coarse and ignorant, contributing to social butchery by keeping their patients ill.'”

This was American medical care during John McLaughry’s Golden Age of unfettered liberty. Considering all of that, I guess it’s no wonder that John’s little boys’ club, the Ethan Allen Institute, hasn’t hired its own lodge doctor.

Honestly, McClaughry’s essay makes Sue “chicken to the doctor” Lowden look like Anya Rader-Wallack.


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