For his regular job, Paul Hsieh works as a radiologist. In addition to pursuing a demanding career in medicine, Dr. Hsieh has also become one of the nation’s foremost advocates of free markets in medicine. He blogs daily for Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine, and he contributes articles to The Objective Standard and other publications.
Last year I conducted several interviews on political activism, including one with Dr. Hsieh. I am publishing those now. Please see my “activism” category for additional interviews and discussions about political activism.
Ari: Briefly, how did you get into free-market activism?
Paul: I began in January 2007 in response the Colorado state legislature’s decision to appoint a special commission to create a “universal health care” plan for our state. A group of local free market advocates decided to organize the “Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine” (FIRM) project to speak out against government-run “universal” health care, and to support genuine free-market health reforms.
Our founder, Lin Zinser, attended and spoke out at numerous meetings of that state commission. She also participated in several panel discussions, town hall meetings, community groups, radio shows—all to discuss and promote free-market health reforms.
For my part, I wrote several letters to the editor and op-eds on health care policy for local and regional newspapers. After this particular issue died in the 2008 state legislature, we’ve continued working on this topic when health care policy heated up as a national-level issue following the election of President Obama.
Ari: Will you please summarize what your activities entail, and how specifically you became interested in health policy?
Paul: I mostly write letters to the editor, op-eds, and articles for various venues. My op-eds have appeared in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Denver Post, and PajamasMedia. Some of my longer articles have appeared in The Objective Standard, which is a quarterly journal of culture, arts, and politics.
Some of my work has also been cited by Investor’s Business Daily and major political blogs such as Instapundit and Real Clear Politics.
Our web page offers a summary of our published op-eds and articles.
My interest in health policy was driven initially by a specific state-level political initiative. But since then, I’ve found that topic of health policy (including what constitutes genuine health care “reform”), encompasses some more important fundamental issues—such as the nature of individual rights, the propriety (or lack thereof) of government “entitlement” programs, and the proper role of government in our lives.
Because of my tight work schedule (and personal inclination), I’ve mostly concentrated on writing. I do relatively little public speaking. Nor have I chosen to accept invitations to appear on TV or radio. Of course this may change in the future as my own personal goals and circumstances change.
Ari: What personal rewards and benefits do you find come with free-market activism?
Paul: Some of the key benefits include:
1) I’ve gain a much better understanding of some of the fundamental ideas (such as the nature of individual rights and the proper role of government) by having to think about and articulate them to others.
2) I’ve met some truly fine people who are also interested in free-market health care reform (and more broadly in the restoration and preservation of American freedoms in general).
3) I’ve become a better writer.
4) I’ve gained a greater sense of rational optimism about our future. Although I recognize that the battles ahead will be difficult, my activism has helped give me hope that the fight can be won. By being active, one is helping to steer the debate in the right direction, rather than being a helpless passenger at the mercy of others driving the discussion.
Ari: How do you mesh your professional life with your activist life?
Paul: I do all of this writing on my own time, typically during evenings, weekends, and vacation time.
My employers are fine with my activist work, provided that I don’t presume to speak for them on any political issues—a perfectly reasonable and understandable position. Hence, my author byline always states that I’m a co-founder of FIRM, but does not mention my professional practice affiliation.
My physician colleagues at work know of my views. But my various medical practice partners encompass an extremely wide range of political views, varying from religious conservative to libertarian to mainstream Republican and Democrat to socialist. So I’m merely another person in a politically diverse group and it doesn’t affect our professional relationships with one another.
Ari: What tips do you have for the budding free-market activist? Why should others get involved?
Paul: Budding activists should get involved for personal, selfish reasons. They shouldn’t view activism as grim painful “duty” where they are “taking one for the team.”
Instead, they should find ways to make activism a positive enhancement to their lives. This will include finding areas of interest (perhaps specializing by topic or geographic region) and finding vehicles that suit their time and personality (writing vs speaking vs. technical or support activities).
It also requires a realistic approach to one’s goals. You can’t expect to publish columns in the Wall Street Journal after a month. Rather, one should start small and work your way up. A budding writer might start with blogging, then move up to letters to the editor, then op-eds, then longer articles. A budding speaker might start with small community groups or local Rotary Clubs, then try local radio and TV, etc.
Also, one should network with other potential allies and find ways to provide mutual intellectual and emotional support for each others’ projects.
Finally, be patient and persistent. And savor the small victories when they arise!
These tips will go a long way towards helping budding activists preserve their “staying power,” rather than burning out too quickly and quitting from frustration.