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
http://www.nypost.com/seven/08152009/news/regionalnews/id_shoot_again_if_i_had_to_184655.htm 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:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html 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.