Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Emotionalism of "Universal Healthcare" Supporters


As I write about the current debate in Congress and our President's push for Health Care reform (Or "Health Insurance Reform" or whatever poll-tested phrase is current this week), I'm struck by how often I hear the following.

Quote verbatim from an old college friend:
Following this line of thinking, those who cannot afford health care though they have jobs and are working people, they and their kids by the way can drop dead from untreated illnesses. They don't deserve unearned health care. Don't be a thief, uninsured people. Drop Dead. When your philosophy or viewpoint shows such a blatant disregard for your fellow person, the philosophy should be revealed and discarded.
Now, this is from someone that has known me twenty years, who should know that I am not a hateful or cruel person. Yet, because I write against the idea of a Government takeover of Medicine, I am to be considered a callous human being who does not care for my fellow men- why? Why are the two things supposedly linked?

Note the emotionalism involved: this is the same technique we see on the Republican side on issues like Abortion or the Death Penalty. (I called out my GOP friends on the way they imply all mothers who get abortions are "sluts" and how all men on death row are "dogs"- it's the use of hyperbolic language to denigrate the enemy of your position and, in logic, is known as the "Ad Hominem attack"- attack the man not the ideas). Now, in the health care debate, those without reasoned arguments of their own on the left will call all opponents "mobs" "nutters" etc who want people to "drop dead" and the loons on the religious right who have no intellectual argument of their own will start screaming "death panels" etc.

And my friend wants to paint me as actively seeking the death of the poor... hmm...

I don't want anyone to die. I would love to see the poor stop being poor, find employment, wealth, love, friendships, happiness, all the values of life. I would love to see the disabled and dispossessed find comfort and security, for the innocent to be avenged, for the good to be recognized and win. I want nothing but the best in life for my fellow men.

I simply do not believe it is my responsibility to give it to them.

What's stopping people from having the best in life? Is it me? I don't think it is. I don't hold down the poor, I'm not infecting them with diseases and denying them opportunities to improve their own situations. I challenge anyone to find a single instance in which I have violated the individual rights of any poor person anywhere- interfered with their pursuit of happiness, stolen from them, gotten in their way in any fashion.

The only actions I've taken is to defend my own property from them. I don't vote for redistribution from my pocket into theirs, I don't vote to give the poor charity with money stolen from my neighbors. Let me put it this way- I don't feel guilt about the poverty of others, and I don't feel frustration at the success of others. Each of us own our own lives.

Is this what makes my friend eye me as an immoral monster?

If I owned a small convenience store, and someone walked in, pulled a gun, and demanded cash out of my register- does it really matter to me whether that person were wearing a Brooks Brothers suit or rags? Does it matter whether he is robbing me to feed his stomach or to buy a Picasso? No. The need or wealth of the thief does not change the immorality of the act.

Now, most people would say that if I pulled a gun from beneath the register I would be within my rights to shoot a thief protect my property. Why is that? Why is it morally defensible to kill to defend one's property? Because the right to self defense is the right to protect ones self from the initiation of force. The thief is INITIATING (starting) the use of force against me. I am justified in using force in return.

Here's a recent news story with an example of a similar situation Was Charles Augusto wrong to use lethal force to protect his property? No? But I'm sure the four men who robbed him were poor. I don't imagine they were the evil rich. Didn't he have a moral duty to allow them to take whatever they deemed they needed? No. He had every right to defend himself from the initiation of force.

Now, imagine that those four men had, instead of robbing Charles Augusto, merely stayed home and waited for a law to pass whereby Augusto's register would be tapped for an extra $400 once a year and each of them would have gotten $100 each in welfare payments. How is this any better than if they robbed him at gunpoint? They still get $100 each out of the register, and Augusto is robbed. The politicians pat themselves on the back for the "good work" they're doing, at the "compassion for the needy" they're showing. But what have they done except engage in legal theft?

Now, what if when the 4 guys attacked Augusto their motive was to get money for medicine- one of them, say, had diabetes and would die without insulin. Would that fact give them the moral right to engage in the robbery? Does that end justify that means? If they were staging the robbery to buy medicine, would you gasp in horror when Augusto blew them away or would you still say he had every right to do it? I don't believe that anything justifies loading a gun, pointing it at the head of another human being and saying "give me the cash out of the register". I don't care if you have diabetes, cancer, a heart condition, need it for medicine, for recreational drugs, for beer, to buy paint for your house, to send your kids to college, to pay for your maid, to keep your business from failing, to save the country from 'systemic risk', to put a man on the moon or to stop the rise of the oceans. Nothing justifies violating the mind of another man by putting your gun in his face except self-defense- meaning: unless he brings it upon himself.

Nothing changes if a politician passes a law saying that $400 must be taken from Mr. Augusto to pay for 4 $100 insulin injections for one of these guys. It's the exact same situation- Mr. Augusto has a right to live his own life.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. If Mr. Augusto started writing on his facebook page that he didn't want to be stolen from to pay for diabetic hoodlums, I'm sure someone would jump on him saying he was a callous man who didn't care about human life. Why does he have a right to defend himself from illegal theft (robbery) but is a moral monster when he disparages legal theft (welfare/redistribution)? In the first case, HE killed the guy when defending his property and in the second place DIABETES killed the guy. Why is it moral to shoot someone in self defense but immoral to refuse to allow a man to survive by victimizing you? I don't think it is. In both cases it's perfectly moral for Mr. Augusto to say the four men that want his money have no right to it, haven't earned it, and shouldn't be allowed to touch it.

What throws people off is this idea that somehow if the government engages in it (if it's legal) it's not theft. Usually they'll say because we've democratically voted to take Mr. Augusto's money and give it to the four men, he must abide by our will. The majority rules.

OK- let's see. Imagine we've got Mr. A, a congressman, and the four guys. The congressman says, let me know what you want. Mr. Augusto raises his hand and says "I want to keep my own property"- the four hoodlums raise their hands and say "We want Mr. Augusto's property". Majority rules, and once again Mr. Augusto is getting his pocket picked. It makes no difference!

If the government engages in an immoral act, the act is still immoral no matter how many people vote for it.

"See," I can hear my detractor howling, "you don't care if people live or die!"

Actually I do care. I think most people do. The mistake you're making is to think that Mr. Augusto (or I, or anyone) must either submit to be stolen from or else he is unfeeling and uncaring- that the choice is either submit to your duty to serve others or be branded a moral monster. But are the choices really to be a property owner and be evil or to be a victim and be moral?

No. My detractor completely overlooks the third option: cooperation. If the four men have a friend dying of diabetes why is their only option to steal to get his medicine? Let's assume that neither they or their sick friend is in a position to earn the money they need. Have they considered ASKING for help, first of all? Could they go to the shopowner, explain the situation and ask for his charity? Could they work out some deal whereby he would loan them the money with the understanding they would pay it back? If Mr. Augusto is not convinced, the next shop owner down the street might be- or the man after him. There are a million scenarios whereby those who have needs that they cannot meet by their own effort can secure the VOLUNTARY assistance of those with resources.

If you are someone who cares about a cause, CARE ABOUT IT. If you care about the plight of the poor put the time and the effort in to convince others of the correctness of your view, the importance of saving lives, seek voluntary donations, build coalitions, put ads in papers, change minds. Help doctors to make more money so they're economically able to provide more services as charity. Get the guns of government out of the way of the free market. Work to make the situation better by securing voluntary funding, voluntary action, voluntary support. If you do this, you will have deserved the respect and admiration of every man. Why? Because you will have demonstrated by your actions your love of life, your respect for your neighbors, and that you cared enough about other people's free will to CONVINCE rather then FORCE their participation in your crusade.

If you want to pass all the work off onto some new government program, to soothe your personal conscience about the plight of the poor without taking action yourself- don't be surprised when your fellow men call you on it. When you try to get our cooperation not by convincing us, not by securing our voluntary cooperation, but by FORCE- you will achieve the opposite of respect and admiration. Why? Because you will have demonstrated by your actions your contempt of property rights, your contempt of reason, your lack of respect for your neighbors' free will, and will have demonstrated that you are more comfortable wielding a government club then securing agreement.

Some men come out with ideas to help the poor and uninsured that DON'T involve violating individual rights: Such men are boycotted, shouted down as 'regressives' and accused of being uncaring by self-important little leftists who want to believe that theirs is the only moral solution and that the gun of a bureaucrat is the only practical solution. But do they ever address the ideas?

Charitable giving is the act of giving money, goods or time to the unfortunate, either directly or by means of a charitable trust or other worthy cause. Charitable giving as a religious act or duty is referred to as almsgiving or alms. The name stems from the most obvious expression of the virtue of charity is giving the objects of it the means they need to survive.

Some people want more than what they can get voluntarily. They don't have the arguments, don't care to find the arguments, that would convince others to join in of their own free will. Out of laziness, moral superiority, and contempt for others- assuming they know better how mankind's money must be spent and to what use human lives lives should be dedicated- they go to the government and turn it from an organization protecting individual rights into an organization violating individual rights. In the name of the 'common good', they blindly perpetrate widespread evil.

And when someone calls them on it, they say "you just don't care for your fellow men"- an emotionalist tactic that counts on unearned guilt and ad hominem accusations to stifle the debate. An accusation that would be more appropriately directed to the mirror.

THERE's your moral monsters.

-Richard Gleaves

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  1. I still find your ideal reasonable and acceptable. The problem is how it doesn't fit with reality. Magically waving a wand to have our government completely socket your ideal would bring on catastrophe. You need to find a way to prep the condition of the status quo to handle the transition to your revolution(reformation). And that finds you locked into the activity that appalls you, service to others by sacrificing yourself. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like a catch 22. Personally, I'm not emotional about it, but picturing it in real world terms appears inhumane. Also, just thinking about opening the door to handling those left behind to the church again doesn't look good to me. A plate of food with a verse from God. Is that the only choice you want people to have? Point out to me a secular charity, something to fill the gap without a religious component. Do you really just assume it will exist in the absence of government assistance? If it doesn't and you don't put it fourth, you continue to get the same response from people like me who understand that some individuals can't survive as just individuals and you will continue to appear inhumane.

  2. RO
    I'm fond of organizations like this one:
    Check out the site and notice that the atheist group outdonates the church 2 to 1.

    The only way to raise people out of poverty is to have an economy that creates abundance and ubiquitous prosperity. One unrecognized fact of the industrial revolution: the reason there were so many starving women and children was because capitalism gave them their first opportunity to even SURVIVE. The population boomed when capitalism was implemented - it didn't kill people, it quadrupled the number of people that could even exist.

    Why do you assume that no one would voluntarily help people? Americans give some 300Billion a year in voluntary charity even after they've been robbed of trillions for the "charitable" welfare state. Who's supporting the poor now? I'm all for helping the poor, but I do not think that one helps others by putting a gun into their hand with which to demand help by force. Better hat in hand than gun in hand.

    I'm a bit more of a gradualist than some. I would cut entitlements quickly but eliminate them slowly. We have made promises and it would be inhumane to cut people off immediately when they have become dependent. But that is not an excuse to not cut them off (from government welfare anyways) eventually. I believe we can take the time to let private charity to fill the gaps.

  3. I did check out the site you put fourth as an example. I find it well and good, but it is not an example of true charity and fails to address the incapable. The recipients here are capable, while needing assistance to reach their potential. This is a great idea for them. What about those who are not? 300 Billion, great, now get them to volunteer the other trillion still needed? Also how much of that 300 Billion goes outside of the state where it can have a much greater impact than here at the states?

  4. RO
    What is it that you find in the incapable or disabled that gives them a right you would not grant to an able-bodied man? If you would not give an able-bodied man a gun and tell him he had the right to demand whatever he wanted off of others -- if you would not grant him a right to be a robber, what is it that gives the disabled that right? What is the 'something extra' that the disabled have that the abled do not? What is it you think excuses them from morality? If it's evil to be a robber, why is it okay to be a disabled robber?

    I think you're taking for granted the idea that "need" is some sort of coercive claim on others, that the strong do not have a right to exist for their own sake and that anyone with "need" must come first over anybody healthy. Why is "need" more important than morality? If a man is honest, productive, industrious and innovative, those virtues can earn him a fortune. If a man is dishonest, lazy, incompetent and second-rate those vices can ruin him -- why would you then grant him this magical label "needy" and with it the right to pull a gun on the industrious man? In this case it is LACK of virtue that you reward, just as with the case of someone disabled it is LACK of health that you reward.

    Say someone gets up every morning at 6am and goes jogging. He weightlifts after work, watches his cholesterol, sees a doctor regularly, avoids bad foods, takes vitamins, and is in great psychological and physical condition thanks to his own efforts. Now posit a woman who sits in her house with liters of Coca Cola watching TV. She never gets up, never gives any thought to what she's eating, smokes, embraces irrationality and gives up on life becoming depressed, and when she turns 40 she develops severe diabetes and has both her legs amputated. Should she be supported by robbing the healthy man?

    Is there no sense in which people reap justice for their own behavior in your philosophy? Aside from congenital conditions and random accidents very few people are actual victims. I am all for those people who create their own "need" coming to recognize their failings, turning around a new leaf and requesting charity from others to support them, but they have to change. Otherwise it's just enabling. I wouldn't give charity to the diabetic woman if she continued to smoke and drink sodas for example -- I'm imagining you would or that you would even force me through taxation to support her even as she destroys herself. I say she won't put the cokes down unless she has to and it's better for her if people are allowed to say no to her until she gets her act together. Otherwise she has no incentive to. Government welfare is extremely enabling of vice.

    Would you have us all dragged to drowning by those who refuse to swim for themselves?

    You also sneak in a Marxist idea -- that people need assistance not to overcome some temporary injustice or to compensate for some negative like a congenital condition -- but that they need or deserve assistance to "reach their potential". This is a pernicious slogan. Help to "reach potential" is nonobjective -- there's no way of saying that you've helped enough. There's never any level playing field for anyone under that idea. You could drain me from now till doomsday and with each increase declare that your "potential" has not yet been reached and you need more from me. And I'd have no standard by which to guess what your true "potential" is. It sounds nice, but it's a philosophical/political trap. Charity should be extended to undo some injustice or out of general benevolence. It's goal is to bring a victim back to 100% equality with others so that he can be self-supporting and independent again. It is not my duty to bring you to your "potential" that's your responsibility. In fact, I'd say no one can reach your potential for you. Reaching one's potential is not a passive process.


  5. I do not agree with the reform of the health system ... the government is not seeking the best for the citizens and I think they should see examples such as the health system in countries like Germany or Canada are an example to all .. . thanks

  6. Yeah I hope this can be made it I don't really care about because I don't children or wife, but for me sometimes I go to a private clinics because the attention it's better.

  7. well you know is very important to have a good sleep time, if you can sleep in the right way, the concequences could be really terribles, inclusive mental and emotive problems.

  8. Wealth does not belong to any one person. It is meant to be freely distributed.

  9. Thanks for writing this, Richard. I've Facebooked it.

    As for you, Anonymous ... If you really mean that, then you should go out and make a fortune and then freely distribute that fortune - your own fortune - yourself. Then you will be living up to your ideal without forcing your particular philosophy on those who disagree with you. You will be making yourself an example, a role-model. You do what it takes to get rich honestly, and then do what it takes to give it away honestly, without using coercion or fraud.

    And no one will stop you, unless it's all the unnecessary bureaucracy that gets in your way. But if you do run into legal barriers in your honest quest for wealth, maybe you can get help from these guys:

    Okay, off with you now! You have a lot of work to do and battles to fight if you're going to be able to distribute a fortune in an ethical way. There's not a moment to spare, Anonymous! So whip off that Guy Fawkes mask and get yourself a name and make it happen!