20 July 2009

A Word on Health Care

If I've been neglectful in commenting on the health care debate, that's probably because my views are rather simplistic. One side of the debate defines fairness as a situation in which people with money can get all the health care they want. The other thinks of fairness as everyone's ability to get the health care they need. This idea offends the other side's sensibility. The less clever among them, including the chairman of the Republican Party, call this "socialism," though I haven't heard anything about the government taking over the pharmaceutical or medical-supply industries, or the nation's hospitals. The President addressed some of these objections today.Some are probably beneath his notice, or should be. The opposition viewpoint might be summarized thusly: "losers deserve to suffer, or else there's no point in anyone working hard." Could we make that more concise? How about, "Let the weak perish"?

The only legitimate reason for any state to exist is to provide for its people's essential needs so that they aren't subject to the primitive struggle for existence. A world in which everyone can provide for himself or herself doesn't need a state, and people who want to live in such a world should take to the woods. The rest of us insist on some minimal material equality that includes access to proper health care. A state that isn't committed to this sort of equality is no more than a police state that exists to protect the haves from the have-nots. Health-care debates get bogged down in details of financing and management, but the debate that should come first is actually pretty simple. It requires Americans to decide what kind of society they want to live in.

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