Noblesse Obliged to Whom?

Filed under:Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn on January 5, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

A Facebook status meme going around for a while last year read: “I will proudly pay more taxes if that means someone less fortunate than I receives health care.”

If it were that simple, I’d cheerfully pay those extra taxes too. (Subject to a conversation on percentages, of course.) It’s not just about that. That’s only where it starts.

I responded to one person sporting the status, “And even if it reduces your health care and your family’s, too?” And he said, “Yes.”

I should also have asked, “And are you also willing to proudly fork over more taxes for people who are not less fortunate but who are just lazy freeloaders?” It’s not just about “fortunate.” He didn’t get to be an expert engineer through luck. He went to college, worked hard, and has been with the same company for over ten years.

I have a couple of unpalatable options here. I feel the more charitable is to assume that he only says that because he doesn’t really believe it would come to that. Like most utopian, semi-utopian, or somewhat utopian liberals, he probably doesn’t really believe it would pan out that way. We’re America! We’re smart! We have a lot of crappy socialist models to learn from! Surely no bureaucrat is going to put off my son’s operation six months or more because the doctors have no room in their schedules!

I have no trouble at all believing government-run health “insurance” would indeed come to that. I am angry about the current system as it is–it’s not “insurance,” it’s a service that pays your doctor on your behalf for which you pay far more than you’re ever likely to need to pay doctors and hospitals. It’s throwing bad money before good, and in my unexpert opinion it has driven up prices far beyond where they’d be without it. Health “insurance” should no more pay for routine doctor appointments than auto insurance pays for oil changes–that’s not insurance. Insurance is protection against something catastrophic and unforeseen, like a car accident or a chronic and critical disease. I’d far prefer to pay my doctors as I go, with a catastrophic-coverage backup, which is not really an option under our current employer-centric “insurance” system, because of government interference that doesn’t tax employer-provided coverage but only that bought privately. But even if we could do that, that won’t satisfy liberals who believe that everybody has an obligation to pay into a system that covers people who are too poor or too sorry to either buy health “insurance” or pay for their own health care. (“Sorry,” in this context, just means disinclined to take care of one’s self and responsibilities–the lazy freeloader.)

But that’s beside the current point. Government-run health “insurance” would come down to some bureaucrat postponing my friend’s kid’s operation, for the simple reason that while doctors and hospitals are not necessarily finite resources, the operation of government would provide heavy incentives for them to be self-limiting. The government, in its zeal to cover every person for every condition–i.e. make all medical care “free,” would find itself limited by the amount of money available and would have only two choices: Stop covering certain medical services or pay the doctors and hospitals less–probably, in the end, both. Who wants to enter a business where the government decides what you get paid for your services (excluding professions where the government is actually paying you for service rendered the government, not to a third party), giant student loans be damned? Only people with a truly high calling to heal people for healing’s own sake–a self-limiting pool. The number of doctors goes down. The number of people wanting to see doctors goes up. The federal government controls the purse strings. Conflicts of interest, to put it mildly, are inevitable.

That’s why I say it’s kinder to the status guy to disbelieve that he means what he says. Because if he really means it, if he would accept the trade-off of having some nonmedical person decide when his child can get in to see the doctor, then he would be making the unthinkable choice of taking care of somebody else’s child before his own. I’m not talking about getting his child in for a flu shot or an annual check-up; I’m talking heavy-duty procedures for conditions that could be life-altering or even life-threatening. My son has been in the hospital in his time, too. And I’d be ready to do battle with anybody who said I couldn’t go in and pay for the services he needed, when he needed them, because people on the government apron-string had filled up all the immediately available slots. Contrary to reputation, I am actually prepared to do a lot for people with less money and resources than I, and in some post-apocalyptic scenario, yes, I hope I would entertain the choice of taking care of somebody else’s child before myself. But not before my child. It’s my duty to put him first.

If people who want to be doctors are forbidden by law to offer their services at the price at which it’s worth it to them to be doctors, if I’m forbidden by law to pay them that agreed-upon price for services rendered, even if it’s through a third party, as it currently is, who also offers services at an agreed-upon rate, then that will be the end of individual freedom in this country and the beginning of a twisted, stunted, and sick variant of noblesse oblige. It may be noble for the government, in extreme circumstances, to take care of my child and my friend’s child on equal footing. It is not noble for us, the people, to agree to and vote for propping up the government to do that in perpetuity, absent those extreme circumstances. It is more noble for us to recognize the responsibilities that come with our hard work and good fortune and fulfill them to the best of our free, individual ability. Those responsibilities have a hierarchy, as distasteful as it is to people who think that everybody has a right to everything, and our own children and families come first in it. That is the oblige our noblesse dictates, and if everybody followed it, the number of people “less fortunate” or just plain sorry would be a lot less.

one comment so far »

  1. Amen and amen.

    Comment by Bumble — January 7, 2010 @ 6:04 am

Copy link for RSS feed for comments on this post or for TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace