Let’s say we have two executives in a board room debating about whether or not the company should make the employees buy their own uniforms.
Our hypothetical character named Jim likes this idea and says “By having employees buy their own uniforms we can clearly point to X dollars in savings against our bottom line. Other companies that do this don’t see much pushback from employees.”
So another executive I’ll call Susan replies, “I think this policy will ultimately harm our bottom line. Employees may feel ripped off, like we’re trying to scrape everything we can out of them and may be more likely to want to steal from us in the future. They may be less likely to want to go above and beyond in their duties. Plus when the company buys the uniforms we can get bulk discounts and reduce the overall cost, plus reduce the overall time that employees are spending on the issue. I know that translates negatively to our bottom line but over the long term, seeing our employees as integral and respecting their time and making sure they feel like they’re treated fairly is going to give us a stronger workforce and make us more profitable in the long term.”
So Jim comes back saying, “But all your opinions are based on vague theories that may or may not be true, while I can show you in precise numbers exactly how much we’ll save.”
From this conversation, one might assume that Susan cares more about their employees than Jim does, and while that may be true, her true motivation is still the profitability of the company. Morals and ethics haven’t really come into play here. It’s just one profit-driven strategy vs another.
So I’d like to take a moment to look at national healthcare in the same way. Instead of talking about it like it’s a “handout”, or a “human right”–even though both of those perspectives are valid in their own way–we should look at it as “What is the best way to maintain a profitable workforce that will sustain our economy and technological productivity long into the future?”
A healthy and happy workforce is necessary to this goal. Any decent business owner understands this. The consequence of not keeping your workforce happy and healthy is a workforce that doesn’t care about your business, that’s willing to steal from you, or on a national level, may decide to revolt.
On a national level, the best way to ensure a healthy, happy, productive and economically viable workforce is to guarantee them all basic healthcare. We want our workforce focusing their mental energy on their jobs, not stressing about where to get the funds to fix their bum knee or debating for hours over which insurance is better. The economy needs people making career decisions based on where they can be the most useful, not on who has the best insurance.
So what I’m saying is that even when you see the workforce as nothing more than cogs in a machine then basic, guaranteed healthcare still makes logical sense. This is not an anti-capitalist concept.
I’m not saying it has to be “socialized” medicine though. It would be entirely possible for healthcare companies to step up and find ways within our current system to achieve this goal. What truly matters is that all Americans are guaranteed healthcare to the point where they don’t need to stress or spend unreasonable amounts of time on it. How we get there is flexible. Capitalistic companies can and should step up to make this happen. Just like in Susan’s perspective, the numbers seem to be against this idea on the surface, but doing so would allow them to use economies of scale (bulk discounts) and likely see the profit margins of healthcare companies going up rather than down. If they do not start doing that soon, then full-on socialized medicine is going to start gaining even more popularity and will ultimately destroy their profit margins altogether.