Above: The Becky Sharp of the glibertarian set
An exchange with a blogger who is apparently a philosophy student at the University of Virginia leads me to believe that many people are still misunderstanding my point about the morality of single payer healthcare. Many people responded to my first post by saying, “But we have a duty to care for the sick!” Trying to make myself very clear, I wrote 2,000 words explaining that even assuming, arguendo, that we have a duty to make sure people don’t die from lack of health care, this is not a good moral argument for single payer. At which point I got more posts, including from said philosophy student, saying “But we have a duty to care for the sick!” Length having failed, let me try brevity:
1) Single payer transfers money from anyone who is young and healthy to anyone who is old and sick, regardless of their need for the money.
And as someone who is young and healthy (Really! I go on three-mile runs thrice a week and lift weights twice a week!), I have no problem with this. The reason? Well, because I have no problem paying taxes to help old sick people now, because I’m going to be old and sick in the future. That’s the basic principle involved here. But for peeps like Meghan, whose only thought is “MEEEEEEEEEEE-me-me-me-me-MEEEEEEEEEE!”, this line of thought is deeply immoral.
2) For this to be moral, the entire enormous class of people who are old and sick must have some justified claim on the money of the young and healthy.
And they do. They’re old and sick. I’m young and healthy. They need the help. I don’t at present.
God, can you imagine what Megan McArdle’s gonna be like when she has kids of her own and they ask her for lunch money?
“For that to be moral, the entire enormous class of school children who are hungry and unemployed must have some justified claim on the money of their working parents,” she’ll tell her weeping son.
Gavin adds: Plus, imagine how upset the kids will be when mommy decides it’s time to leave Grandma on an ice floe. “She has no justified claim on my money,” she’ll explain. “You must not love your Grandma very much if you’d allow her to live as a moocher…”
3) The large class of old and sick people do not need the money; as a group, they are wealthier than the young, healthy people from whom we are transferring the money.
Uh, but, like, medical care is really really expensive for people who need chronic attention, and, uh, a lot of older people are strapped for cash, which is, like, why we made programs such as Medicare and… sigh… whatever…
4) Therefore, we must look for another legitimate claim on society’s resources.
5) Another such claim might be a fairness claim: the old and sick have been terribly unlucky, so we should pay for their health care even though they don’t need the money.
6) This is not a good argument. Most of the old and sick are sick because they are old. Getting old may suck, but it is not unfair; it is inevitable. All of us will become old and sick, unless something even worse happens to us to make us dead.
Something worse, i.e., they don’t have enough money to pay for health care because people like Megan McArdle would rather get a new flatscreen TV.
Above: How they used to say it
Some of the old and sick are just sick, and have never been healthy. But to calculate the relative deservingness of the whole group, we have to weigh the bad luck of those people against the bad luck of the currently young and healthy people who will, in the future, die young.
Whu, whu, WHAT? Meegan, it is impossible to weigh the “bad luck” of people who will die young because, like, we have no way of predicting the future. What the hell.
As a group, there’s no reason to think that the (currently) old and sick have had worse luck than the (currently) young and healthy, although obviously some members of each group are unluckier than others.
Meghen… sigh… let me break this down for you…
Universal health care means that everyone is covered. Young unlucky people don’t get turned away from hospitals because there are billions of old people who “deserve” more care. Where you’re getting these wacky ideas is beyond me.
7) A third argument we might make is that the young and healthy should pay for the care of the old and sick because they have more responsibility for the problems than do the old and sick people themselves. This is self-evidently stupid. If even 100 people who are currently old and sick smoked and dranked themselves into early debility, while all the other old and sick people in America had absolutely no causal role in their own illness, this tiny aggregate responsibility for a few cases of lung cancer and cirrhosis would, to a near certainty, be larger than the responsibility the young and healthy bear for other peoples’ ill health1.
8) Thefore, as a group, the old and sick have no moral claim to massive transfer payments from the young and healthy.
This tells us nothing about any moral claims individual members may have. For example, veterans could be entitled to care, regardless of need, because they incurred some part of their current illness on behalf on the nation.
Whereas school teachers are parasitic leaches sucking off the gubmint’s teet.
9) Arguments that we shouldn’t let the worst off members of society die are not valid moral arguments for single payer. They are arguments in favor of giving health care to those who cannot afford it, a much more limited project.
There’s also the argument that the current system sucks for people who do have health insurance because it limits our choice of doctors, because most of us rely upon our employers for health insurance and thus aren’t free to switch to other plans unless we want to pay through our asses, and because private insurers actually have incentives to deny people coverage, etc., etc., etc.
But never mind all that shit.
I’m just pissed that some greedy old biddy is trying to steal the money I was going to spend on an XBox 360 just so she can have her so-called “medication.”