Death Comes to the Old Tea Partier

Celebrating the death of unfortunate souls?

A bizarre and disturbing event took place at the recent Tea Party Republican Presidential Debate:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a doctor, was asked a hypothetical question by CNN host Wolf Blitzer about how society should respond if a healthy 30-year-old man who decided against buying health insurance suddenly goes into a coma and requires intensive care for six months. Paul--a fierce limited-government advocate-- said it shouldn't be the government's responsibility. "That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks," Paul said and was drowned out by audience applause as he added, "this whole idea that you have to prepare to take care of everybody …"

"Are you saying that society should just let him die?" Blitzer pressed Paul. And that's when the audience got involved.

Several loud cheers of "yeah!" followed by laughter could be heard in the Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds in response to Blitzer's question. [emphasis added]

We cannot help but be reminded of Ebenezer Scrooge's observation that the poor who would rather die than work "had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."  The mainstream media may not be so classically versed but their response was what you'd except reacting in gleeful mock-horror at this confirmation of what they've always believed to be true about callous, bloodthirsty Rethuglicans.

Pull that plug and save a buck!

Let's be clear: it wasn't a very pretty sight to see anyone applauding and cheering the thought of a poor man dying untreated for lack of funds.  No sane person should welcome this result, in the abstract.

As so often, though, conservatives have managed to present a fundamental truth in the most unappealing possible wrapper, allowing the Left to totally miss the point and cast us as monsters.  Even the mentally-deranged Andrew Sullivan was distracted from pondering Sarah Palin's uterus long enough to grasp a glimmer of reality:

Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers.  [emphasis added]

For once, Sullivan is right.  The trouble with healthcare services is that there is no limit to how much of them people will consume if they're free.

This is different from free food or housing.  Most people may eat until they're stuffed and then they'll stop; thus, it would be theoretically possible to provide everyone enough food to sustain life.  Similarly, most people have no particular desire to live in the Winchester Mystery House; thus, it would be theoretically possible to provide everyone decent housing if they'd stop destroying it faster than it can be built.

But when it comes to medicine, there is always one more pill, one more test, one more specialist who can be consulted for every ache and pain.  That's assuming every patient acts in good faith; socialized national healthcare systems like Australia's have discovered that many aren't, complaining about deadbeats who call a free ambulance for a ride home instead of a taxicab they'd have to pay for.

In theory, it might be feasible for local government to provide bare-bones medical services at taxpayer expense.  Unfortunately, history shows that there will always be "one more" test or service that it'll be worth someone's while to lobby to be included.  In time we'd be right back at the same problem of crushing cost to the taxpayer.

The bottom line is that there will always be scarcity - someone will always have to go without a medical service they'd like to have.  The only question is, do we want that decision made by money, where at least someone with a sad story can get donations from their fellow citizens?  Or would we rather have unaccountable bureaucrats - Sarah Palin's famous "death panels" - decide who is worthy to receive which treatments?

There will be deaths either way, as England's NHS constantly illustrates.  The question of people dying is moot.  The only issue is simply who decides who dies.

Perverse Incentives Causing Perversity

Why, then, the Tea Party applause?  The media assumed it was the stereotypical conservative hatred of poor people, but we have another theory: It was relief and approval at the end of an ongoing theft.

Consider: The hypothetical poor sick man, if he were treated, would have to have his bills paid by someone - medicine and hospital beds are not free, and since slavery is illegal, doctors can't be made to work for free either.  That someone is the taxpayer.

So when the guy in the coma croaks, his hand is withdrawn from your wallet.  We all love our fellow-man but that doesn't mean we appreciate having to pay for him, particularly when he does stupid things like getting AIDS or going biking without a helmet.

The true question should be: What kind of an evil government sets things up so that people are, quite logically and reasonably, happy when an unfortunate soul dies?  Ayn Rand's famous novel Atlas Shrugged has a chilling depiction of the catastrophic decline of the Twentieth Century Motor Company and the reversion to barbarism of its workers, when the principles of Marxist socialism are applied.

When, in the story, workers are paid "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need," then the logical thing for an individual to do is to increase their own need - even by intentionally injuring themselves.  Equally logically, instead of having compassion for the sick or handicapped, the other workers hate them and wish them dead.  Why?  Because the needs of the sick are paid for, by force, from the efforts of the healthy.

Our modern system of government health care support is this story writ large.  We all know stories of welfare leeches who abuse the medical system, running up massive charges they'll never pay because you will.

As evil as it might be, it would be contrary to human nature not to breathe a sigh of relief to hear of her death - so why do we tolerate a system which encourages, nay demands, that reaction?

This is what Solzhenitsyn meant when he spoke of the evil results of liberal intentions.  Liberals wanted to force taxpayers to take care of the poor; the result is taxpayers being glad when the poor die.  This is good for society?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Economics.
Reader Comments

The normal answer to the theoretical question is that the guy who got the treatment will have to pay. Even if he can't pay as he checks out, he will have a debt to be repaid as he can. Some debts don't get repaid. A friend of mine fell and broke a hip bone. After insurance, the bill was $5,000. She is paying that down as she can, as any responsible person would. So, in my world (my experience) that is a dumb question.

In the other world, where you get everything you can and don't contribute anything yourself (freebies), you have the drones of society. A large unpaid debt and no attempt to repay would be a clear sign of a drone, and people so identified would then find others unwilling to extend further credit. Any beekeeper will tell you that, when the nectar/honey harvest is over, the drones are no longer fed. The hive has to protect itself from drones. Or as those who live by the book know "in the sweat of your brow, you shall eat your bread every day of your life."

September 15, 2011 11:51 AM

A great article reminding us why we must win the 2012 election. If we lose the 2012 election because Perry or someone else keeps dropping anti-Social-Security bombs, we lose everything. Nationalized healthcare MUST be repealed.

September 15, 2011 12:13 PM

Free people will generally take care of the poor freely. As Bastiat stated: "And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works."

The "Invisible Hand" will take care of the poor if the do-gooders will leave it alone. Believe it or not.

September 15, 2011 1:24 PM

Ron Paul had the right answer but he doesn't know how to deliver the message, he was too direct with his answer.

There are few people in the US that would voluntarily pay for someone else's healthcare if that person asked them to pay for it. The person, if asked to pay for someone else's healthcare would tell them to take a hike, be they liberal or conservative. So now the question is with our current state of affairs what should be done? The conservatives will tell you to buy your own and the liberals will say that a rich country like America should provide for its citizens.

The analogy of the Twentieth Century Motor Company is spot on and will explain why Ayn Rand's followers are so passionate about her economic theory. If anyone on this site has not read Atlas Shrugged then you might want to consider reading it asap. What Rand reveals with the employees at the company is exactly what happens in life. One looks out for himself first and it is not always pretty when he does. It's easy to be compassionate when things are flush but when times get tough that is when the dark side reveals itself. The answer is of course personal responsibility but that is a lost attribute for many here in America. When the moochers can vote (steal) resources (money) from the producers we will go down this slide at an ever increasing rate. The 2012 election for not just the White House but for the Congress is a seminal election. There will be a lot of jaw boning between now and then but when the final lever is pulled we will know what America is all about.

September 15, 2011 6:39 PM
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