by Gene Callahan
You may have seen the status going around Facebook that reads, “[JOHN DOE] thinks that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.” (This is meant to be an argument for Obama’s health care package, I surmise.)
Well, I posted as my status another blurb, not original to me, that says, “No one should be frozen in carbonite, or be slowly digested for a thousand years in the bowels of a sarlaac, just because they couldn’t pay Jabba the Hut what they owe him.”
Someone, and a serious political theorist to boot, apparently got mad at me, contending (I think — the message was a little vague) that I’m scoffing at political persuasion. But really I’m scoffing at substituting, for any serious discussion of policy, childish fantasizing. Yes, it would be lovely if no one ever died because of a lack of health care funds, in fact, if no one ever got sick, and if baby poop smelled like lavender.
But, no matter what policies we implement, none of these things are going to happen. In particular, people, under any organization of medical care, will die due to a lack of funds, because we do not live in a world of infinite resources. True, if medicine were fully socialized, and treatment was always free to the consumer, no one would die due to a lack of funds on their own part — instead, people would die due to lack of government funds.
The state running the socialized medical system has to stop spending at some point — for instance, it can’t come anywhere near spending 100% of GDP on medical care, because then people would die of starvation! — and it will always be the case that if the government had spent more than it did, some people would have lived longer.
A serious discussion of these issues should begin by being adults here, and recognizing that we live in a world in which we must make trade-offs. Some people will die who might have been kept alive a bit longer by devoting more resources to their care, no matter what we do. Having recognized that, now we can begin to discuss what policy will result in minimizing those deaths, or distributing them better, or whatever other goals we bring to the table.
And, lest anyone think I’m being partisan here, this silliness is an equal opportunity affliction. A “war to end terror” is not an adult project; an adult recognizes that terrorism will occur, and asks how to minimize it.
A “drug-free America” is not an adult goal; an adult realizes that some people will find a way to get high under any regime, and asks how to best minimize the harm involved. (And the answer arrived at, e.g., for the last issue may be anything from “full legalization” to “the current system”; my point here is not to criticize particular policies, but the land-of-make-believe approach to formulating and arguing for any policy whatsoever.)