None of us actually needs health insurance. That's the most glaring fallacy in what passes for "debate" on health care. We're all falling all over ourselves trying to come up with ways to pay for something that's ideally not necessary.
I'll spare you the history of the insurance industry. Those who're interested already know it, and the curious, if you've gotten here, I'm sure can poke around Wikipedia for some answers. Just hold in your head the idea of what insurance is: pooled risk.
The idea of socialism is the pooling of resources for a common benefit. Everyone works, everyone benefits. Imagine a tiny, pre-industrial farming community. Everyone works in the field, everyone eats—well.
The detractors of socialism say it denies individual achievement, that the exceptional in society do not gain the extra fruits of their extra labors and, worse, those extras are shared equally amongst those who, perhaps, don't labor enough as they should. In a system that ideally promotes fairness, they say, it's patently unfair.
The benefit of pooling resources is you can often gain significantly higher benefits with significantly less labor, than if each individual worked for themselves. This benefits everyone who participates, no matter their level of participation.
Think public library. I could collect all of the books I thought important, and so could you. There's every reason to believe you and I would collect a lot of the same books. That's redundant effort. Moreover, both of us would need a place to store our books. (I ran out of room in my home long ago, and do not purge it enough, says my wife.) Clearly, if not just we two, but our entire community pooled our literary resources, we'd have a vastly superior library to any each of us could amass on our own. I could go on in detail, but I think you get the point.
If I had more books than my peers, I might be tempted to feel a communal pooling unfair. Others are getting a benefit larger than their contributions, proportionately larger than mine. But I am getting a benefit as well. The larger pool is still more expansive than my individual cache. As much as I wouldn't want others to benefit from my hard(er) work, such selfishness is self-defeating.
Defense is another example, albeit more complex. In our tiny village, I may be an expert with a sword or spear, but I do not have the funds to commission my own armor. You may have all the tools for defense, but not the physical wherewithal for fighting. Neither of us can spare time away from our fields. Again, we pool our resources to establish a militia for our defense. Again, I could enumerate the benefits of such a plan, but they should be evident.
But what should each of us contribute? If we all get equal protection, logically it should be equal contribution. But your farm is twice as large as mine. You have more at risk, more to lose. A bushel of grain is a larger percentage of my crop than it is of yours. A greater expense to me, a larger benefit to you. Is that fair?
"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." —Karl Marx
You've got a cache of weapons and armor, I've got expertise, and some have nothing to contribute at all, other than people to comprise the militia. You and I gain protection, the people who contribute only themselves gain employ, if not a skill. Is it unfair some contribute more than others? All of us derive a benefit greater than our individual contributions. We all have more than we would have otherwise.
The list of examples goes on: better roads for greater commerce, a judicial system for the resolution of grievances, schools for the education of our youth.
Not all of us benefit equally from any of these. I don't produce any commodities for trade outside our village; you don't have any children; some don't enter into contracts with others that need to be enforced. Is it fair or just to withhold equitable contributions because of no perceived individual benefit?
The point is, when the community thrives, each individual in the community thrives more. It is a larger, macro-organism—a living entity comprised of smaller living parts. It's why people banded together in communities in the first place—it increased their chances of individual survival. Should shortfall happen, and it does, the chances of any individual being wiped out completely is greatly reduced.
That's where the "fairness" of socialism begins to break down—during scarcity. You, with your larger farm could easily stockpile enough goods to get you through the lean times. In theory, with my larger library, I could find ways to produce more with fewer resources. Sucks to be everyone else. They're gonners. If we all pooled out resources, and times were sufficiently lean enough, you'd and I would suffer equally with those who didn't "contribute" as much as we did. Fair?
You could hoard food in your barn, but don't expect anyone else to help you rebuild it—let alone feed you—when it burns down. That's the benefit of living in a community.
It's risk (the amount of individual contribution) vs. reward (the benefit from a larger pool of resources).
Socialism is not ideal in all situations. Most notably in enterprise—capitalist enterprise. If I told you that three friends and I were each going to contribute $20,000, but you were expected to contribute $100,000 to our burgeoning enterprise, and each of us would share the proceeds equally, well, I doubt you'd be buying in. We're not all risking the same amount.
If we assume a 5% rate of return on investment (not a bad figure, really), your $100K would net you $5,000. Seems worthwhile. But if all I could scrape up was $100, for a net return of $5, that money would probably be better spent on groceries.
So Humanities 101/Economics 101/Big "Duh" moment - communal contribution for communal gain and communal spreading of risk doesn't work when the gains are economic.
I'll say that again: when the gains are economic—when they make money.
The goal of a company that makes widgets is not to make widgets—it's to make money. The goal of a private, for-profit enterprise that provides anything—goods or services—is to make profit. The goods or services are merely the means of acquiring that profit.
The idea of providing health care to everyone equally is it benefits everyone equally.
By deriving a profit from providing care, that service becomes a commodity. Viewed as a commodity, it is not something to be shared equally, but something to be dolled out proportionately to those who contribute the most to its creation.
If you listen to the arguments against health care reform, you'll often hear about the "long lines," the "waiting for your turn," amongst the undeserving, the ones who've not contributed their fair share, as if health care was in short supply.
This scarcity mentality applies to goods, but not services. Services can be provided by anyone capable of providing them. Medicines can be in short supply (e.g. flu vaccines) but as long as there are enough skilled medical personnel, there need be no shortage of services.
How do you ensure an adequate supply of care givers? Like the militia, you pay them for their service. You pay to train them. You pay to employ them. But who pays? And how much? What if the money's not there?
What there is a shortage of is the profit for providing care. We are all, all of us, going to get sick; we are all going to get old and infirm. It is not a question of if my barn burns down would I need help from the community, but when I get old will I need that same help—help I provided when I was able to.
You're wealthy, and may never need chemotherapy. I'm of moderate means, and mere child birth could severely impact me financially. Someone with no means at all has a child with a congenital heart problem. How much should each of us contribute for our communal health care, and it still be equitable?
Should you say, I'm not contributing to your ill health? Should you, when a wolf ravages your neighbor's flock, grip your firearm thankfully that you won't suffer that fate—knowing full well you could have helped? Not my problem, you say. But then your child falls sick, and your neighbor, who left the community after the loss of his flock, was a healer. Who loses then?
I've heard too many people rail against their taxes being used to pay for schools. Having kids is a choice, they say, your choice, not theirs, and they see no reason to have to pay to educate them. Those simple minds fail to grasp that one of these children, properly educated, might just find the cure for what will ail them in their old age. One of them may also very really become a broker who will eventually fleece them of all the money they've saved for their health care in their old age, but that's all the more reason for "proper" education.
Denying someone medical care—care that would save their life—because you paid for the doctor and they didn't, is beyond callous and immoral. They're just numbers and statistics after all, right? No faces and names attached. They're the "undeserving" ones, the "unproductive" ones, so they deserve to their fate, yes? You have enough people working for you, and your productivity is up, so what does it matter to you that someone loses their child? Their father, their wife? They weren't going to labor for you, anyway.
"What's in it for me?" is a question asked by those who're too blinded by their fear of scarcity to see the benefits of community. They wouldn't stoop to help anyone else, and so can't be persuaded that anyone else might be likely to help them. Everyone should see—and attempt to fully comprehend—It's a Wonderful Life just one more time.