By Peter O’Brien

Senior Fellow, London Center for Policy Research

Well, we’ve had the first round of debates among those who wish to run against the incumbent president. As is normal, much time was spent discussing what specific programs each would institute to the benefit of various groups in society. Students are offered loan forgiveness, everyone is offered health care, some talk about a guaranteed income, etc.

But, while the talk focused on benefits to this or that group, no one talked about the real cost.

Certainly, there’s a cost in dollars. One idea that found traction among the small crowd on stage was comprehensive medical care for all illegal immigrants – which was estimated to cost some $660 billion over the course of ten years.

The Center for Disease Control states that per capita health care expenditures for 2016 equalled $10,300. So, if we use the figure of 11 million illegal immigrants, that works out to $113.3 billion per year, not $66 billion per year; or $1.13 trillion over ten years. But, if you use figures from the 2017 Yale study on illegal immigration, there are between 17 million and 32 million illegal immigrants in the country, with their best estimate being a bit more than 22 million. 22 million people receiving health care at $10,300 each gives $226.6 billion annually, or $2.266 trillion over ten years. This, of course assumes no more folks show up (and no inflation or increase in the cost of health care). Is that likely if we make health care free for all illegal immigrants? In any case, the number the candidates were bandying about is at best just one-half the real dollar cost, and probably much less, when added up over the course of a decade. But who’s counting?

And, as the supply of medical care will have a hard time matching demand, there will be places where people won’t receive adequate medical care and will get ill. Or die. That’s a real cost too.

But there’s another cost, one no one talks about when we start talking about government funded health care, government funded education, government funded housing, government funded everything. Perhaps it’s passé. But what are you when your house is paid for by someone else, your school is paid for, your food is paid for, you’re given spending allowances by someone else? You don’t earn it in the strict sense of the word, it’s just handed to you. When you’re a child you’re treated this way. And you have to obey your parents. When you’re an adult and you’re treated this way, will you have to obey the people who are paying all your bills?

You know, there’s a community where everyone has a place to sleep, three meals per day, they are clothed, they have medical care. Furthermore, everyone is treated equally by those who provide all these services. That place is a prison. Everyone is treated the same. Everyone has basic needs met. And everyone is completely controlled, as tightly controlled as if there were a horse collar around their necks, and the reins were in the hands of the jailor.

243 years ago an effort was begun to create a country that would give people their freedom. It was then, and is now, an imperfect place. And the risks were high. But, the cornerstone was freedom, independence not just for the nation as a whole, but for the individual, for no nation can really be free until the people are individually free. But now we hear a cohort of politicians who want to exchange our freedom for security, for a horse collar, placed there by government, the reins held by the bureaucrats.

Some might object that we can’t have freedom until we are free of the fear of starvation, of living on the street, of illness, etc. Perhaps this time it will be different, perhaps this time the government will engage in extravagant largesse to all, and yet not at the same time demand unquestioned obeisance in return. It’s possible. But not likely.

Experience – history – has shown precisely the other course: the rules get tighter, the “left and right” boundaries of acceptable behavior slowly draw closer and closer. And then, well, as one Virginian said, a long time ago:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

So, when you sit down and think about what July 4th means, ask yourself if you want independence? Or a horse collar?