Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reponsibility and the Price of Freedom...

Lissa asks some excellent questions in her post about responsibility. She brings up one of the left's favorite rationales for much of what they do - the children - in the context of health care or a free lunch; the concept that we owe it to the children of the poor to use tax dollars to provide a meal or an ER visit for those who cannot provide it for themselves. It's one thing to tell an able-bodied adult that they have to go hungry if they are not willing to work; it's quite another to tell the five year old daughter of that same able-bodied adult that she can't have lifesaving medicine because her dad has no insurance.

This is where the price of being a free society means dealing with unpleasant choices. Once we start saying we need to make an exception for X, whether X be children, the disabled, or blond guys named Jeff, we start further complicating already difficult matters. As Lissa so rightly points out,
Children don’t have control over their situation nor the actions of their parents. Is it fair to let children go hungry or without adequate medical care because their parents are too irresponsible to care for them?

which is a damned difficult question to answer. For a rich nation, for a nation that claims to care about all her citizens, allowing a child to suffer when the means to stop said suffering are readily available seems needlessly cruel and heartless. We have the ability to put a man on the moon, they say; why can't we feed all of our citizens?

The short answer is, because we are human beings, and human beings are venal, short-sighted creatures. While our capitalistic society make seem cold-hearted to those that have not, other societies fare no better in providing for all their citizens. Communist Russia saw lines for staples like toilet paper and light bulbs; North Koreans face food shortages; even our enlightened European brethren face civil unrest, riots, and unemployment. Simply taking more money away from those that earn it is not the answer; else communist nations would never starve; socialist nations wouldn't see their richest members receiving better medical care here in the USA than at home where it's free.

Unfortunately, it's a sliding scale. As Lissa mentions, the surest way to get more of something is to subsidize it; the quickest way to completely and utterly paralyze our medical system would be to remove the need to pay for any of it. Actions have consequences - as we start offering all sorts of "free" health "insurance", costs go up; hospitals close because they're unable to meet their budgets; doctors are squeezed out of their practices by skyrocketing malpractice costs. As more people swarm into the system with no thought of how it's being paid for, they're choking the very life out of the commodity they previously hailed as a "basic right".

Our system isn't perfect; even in our land of plenty folks go to bed hungry. People have to choose between food and medicine. Even worse, our lofty attempts to change this have failed miserably; the laughable "War on Poverty" has done little to end poverty but created a whole new type of second class citizen, a quasi-permanent dependent on governmental largesse. We have by large removed a great portion of incentive for whole groups of people to succeed, offering a mediocre albeit safe life that one need not get out of one's recliner to grasp.

There are hard, hard questions in all of this with no easy answers. For every action we take - offering "free" health care - we run into the law of unintended consequences - fewer and fewer medical students to become doctors in the future. We look to the quick fix - the handout to the family that's going hungry - and wind up with a monstrosity down the road - the welfare state that consumes and consumes, yet produces naught.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is just as true in society as it is in physics.

That is all.


RW said...

Is it fair to let children go hungry or without adequate medical care because their parents are too irresponsible to care for them?

Food stamps and aid to families with dependent children are the two staples of our welfare policies in the USA on which there is across-the-board agreement, so food is a non-issue. Poor kids eat free. Children of the working poor see their parents get all their payroll taxes refunded, so they get federal aid plus their parents pay zero - ZERO - federal taxes of any form. Again, food is a non-issue.

Nationally, there is Medicaid. Locally for me, in Georgia, poor families are covered under PeachCare for kids, so not one (emphasis on "not one") poor kid or child of the working poor is ineligible for health insurance coverage for either $0 or around $20 a month (not an exaggeration). Not.One.

The nation isn't having a discussion about health care insurance because of kids who are unlucky enough to be born into poor families; again, we've had Medicaid in place for decades. That subject is, like food, a non-issue and was taken care of years ago. The debate is over giving "free" coverage to middle class, upper-middle class and freaking upper class families via universal coverage.

Lissa said...

Well done, Jay, and good point on unintended consequences. I wonder -- where do you think religion fits into all this, if anywhere?

TOTWTYTR said...

As Lissa mentions, the surest way to get more of something is to subsidize it;

And we subsidize a lot of it, so we get a lot of it. It's about choices, and we all have to make them. Well, taxpayers do, non taxpayers don't have to do that as much.

I see plenty of people who get EBT, AFDC, Medicaid, and every other form of government (taxpayer) funded assistance there is. All that aid allows them to lease or buy new vehicles, Blackberries, HD TVs, and all the other niceties that many taxpayers can't afford.

Which tells me that there is something fundamentally flawed with a system that subsidizes that behavior.

Maybe, just maybe, if people weren't subsidized for poor choices, they'd be more responsible in their child bearing decisions.

JD said...

Jay, I have full faith in our country to take care of it's folks without the government getting involved. There are churches and groups like the Masons and Shriners, or st. Judes hopital that will care for anyone in need and have nothing to do with the government taking our money to redistribuit it. We had these same problems since day one of our country and the people got cared for one way or another. why does the government need to get into it now??

GOvernment involvemnt will only distroy things as you noted so well. It won't help that is for sure.

It is a good way for the Dems to buy votes and keep the poor down so I expect they will keep pushing for it though. . . .

Anonymous said...

There are hard, hard questions in all of this with no easy answers.

I disagree. I think the real question is actually very simple:

What is the proper role of government?

And the answer, at least in this case, is equally simple:

Charity is NOT the proper role of government...charity is the proper role of charities.

Someone asked how religion fits into all of this. I, of course, can't speak for all religious people, or even for people who practice my flavor of region...I can only speak to my understanding of it.

But the bible that I read every day doesn't say anything about getting the government to care for the poor, or taking someone else's money to give to the poor.

The bible that I read clearly deems charity to be an individual responsibility, not a collective one.

Attempting to pass that responsibility off onto society as a whole by using the government to apportion it based on how much one pays in taxes, is not honoring Christianity's precepts...those actions are rationalizing one's failure to honor those precepts.

Insisting that the government assume our responsibilities in the field of charity is no less egregious than insisting that the government assume responsibility for any other aspect of our lives.

Christian charity is OUR responsibility, not the government's.

And another aspect to consider: not everyone in this country is a Christian...so who the heck am I to demand that they "do their part" to fulfill MY Christian responsibilities with respect to charity?