What We’re Up Against

I haven’t been posting much here because I’ve been busy at this other forum I frequent.  I won’t link to it, but I want to show you an exchange I’ve been having there with “annaelizabeth,” a female “lover of nature” who lives in the U.S., and according to her profile is a Myers-Briggs personality type INFJ (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging).  For your edification, I’m an INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judging) type.

The discussion in question was raised by the initial post by a third party, to wit:

I am curious about the nature of opposition to any form of national health insurance.

There was, of course, more, but that was the root of the question. I was reading through the responses when I came across annaelizabeth’s first post on the topic:

It really makes me sad that people don’t see healthcare as a basic human right. I know that the way things have been going, with rising premiums and deductibles, there are hard working people who are not having necessary tests done because they can’t afford them. Thus, leading to possibly more problems later. Why have a routine mammogram and pay for it when she can put it off until later? It’s a mess. I was for the public option. It just seems to me to be all about profit. I have to pay $50/month for a prescription because I had a bad reaction to the generic. They refuse to lower it for me, saying I should take the generic. No shit. I can’t. Fortunately I can afford the $50 but what if I couldn’t? How many people would say screw it and not take the necessary meds? It’s a joke. I honestly can’t even understand how it could get any worse. I know when we were without employer sponsored insurance and had to pay for it on our own basically all of my income went to the insurance premium, as I was a young mother working part time. All of it. And they refused to offer prescription coverage because it wasn’t an employer backed plan. So I paid more out of pocket and got less coverage.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to respond:

Originally Posted by annaelizabeth:

It really makes me sad that people don’t see healthcare as a basic human right.

It makes me sad that so many people DO.

If “healthcare” is a basic human right, what about housing? You can’t be healthy if you don’t have shelter, right? So why shouldn’t housing be a “basic human right”? Or food? You can’t be healthy if you’re starving, so shouldn’t food be a “basic human right”?

It’s your logic.

“Healthcare” is not a “basic human right” because it demands that someone else provide it. And when you demand that person A give something to person B, what happened to Person A’s rights? Further, how do you enforce that demand? Why through the benefit of GOVERNMENT, no? And what is government?

Legitimized force. Do it, or we’ll point our guns at you until you do. Or put you in prison if you continue to resist. Or take by force what you have and give it to those others who have a “right” to it – by your logic.

“Healthcare” is not a right. Until we stop talking about it as if it was, the conversation can’t go further.

She was, of course, aghast:

Healthcare is a basic human right.
Food is a basic human right
Shelter is a basic human right.

I couldn’t disagree more with your argument. I guess that the concept of providing for the poor is not in your realm of thinking.

I don’t think the right to healthcare is something that the government has made up to expand itself. That’s the main problem I keep hearing. It’s a reason to expand the power of the government, etc….paranoia speaking. The government isn’t out to take over anything. The government should work for the people, not just for insurance companies and lobbyists. And you can’t “make” something a human right. It either is or it isn’t. In my mind health care and the above mentioned items are human rights. You can choose to disagree with that. Whether or not it’s in the Constitution has no relevance on a topic which affects all of humanity. It’s not a political decision whether or not something is a basic human right. And I have to disagree zen that helping others is something which society can agree to. I don’t see that really happening, although I wish that were true. I see people acting out of fear, ignorance, and hatred. I see self preservation at it’s finest with little regard for anyone else.

My turn:

Let’s look at your assertions. Housing, food and health care are all rights, in your view, and it’s the job of government to provide these things – for the poor.

It’s the government’s job to do this because “people (act) out of fear, ignorance and hatred” (you forgot “greed”) and government “should work for the people, not just for insurance companies and lobbyists.” OK, I’m glad we have that out in the open.

You’re right on one case, though – it’s not a political decision whether or not something is a basic human right. It’s a philosophical one. Oh, and one other – people are fearful, ignorant and hateful; many of them, anyway.

So, in your view it should be the job of government to provide to the poor shelter, food and health care, because people can’t be trusted to do it. People are fearful, ignorant and hateful.

Tell me, please, to whom are you willing to hand this power? To quote a fictional character, “A government is a body of people, usually notably ungoverned.” To quote Milton Friedman, “Where in the world are you going to find these angels who are going to organize society for us?”

Because that’s what you’re asking for. That is what your philosophy requires.

Your philosophy says that “the poor” have more rights than the rest of us, that “government” should be empowered to A) determine who is “poor” and who is not, then B) have the power to confiscate from the not poor fearful,ignorant and hateful to redistribute to “the poor.” Again, I ask, to whom would you give such power? How do you select these angels, and separate them from the fearful, ignorant and hateful? Is not “the government” made up of “people”? Is not one of your arguments that government presently represents not “the people” but “insurance companies and lobbyists”? And this will change . . . why, exactly? If you give this power to regular people, will it not be abused?

I submit that your philosophy is internally inconsistent.

And housing, food, and health care are NOT rights if they demand something from others and infringe their rights. One more quote for you:

Reality is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of ugly facts.

Theory and reality are only theoretically related.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.

In practice there is.

Annaelizabeth wasn’t through!  Not by half!

What exactly is the point of government if they don’t represent us and look out for our welfare? What do you think we have a democracy for? We elect the people whom we believe to be the most competent, people who are supposed to have our best interests in mind (ideally), and we elect them so that they may govern the masses. It’s an organized way to make sure there isn’t anarchy, and to make sure the people in charge aren’t corrupt (ideally) or only looking out for themselves. Do a lousy job and you aren’t re-elected. That is the basis of what America is founded upon. Are you saying no one in the world is competent enough for such a task to even be in government?

My philosophy requires the government to look out for everyone and respect the citizens of the country.

“Your philosophy says that “the poor” have more rights than the rest of us”

Not true – I’m saying that we all have equal rights. No one is saying the poor have more rights than the rich. Where did you come up with that? Because the rich may have to give some of their $$$$$ to help someone else less fortunate than themselves, for the benefit of the society in which they themselves live. God forbid someone gives over something to help someone else, even if in the end they also benefit from it. I think we all understand the it’s mine don’t touch philosophy since it plays out loud and clear too often. It’s that philosophy which leads me to the assumption of people acting out of fear (afraid someone will touch their money), hatred (hating anyone who touches their money), and ignorance (thinking everyone wants to touch their money). Greed.

I really don’t understand exactly how life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be considered basic human rights but food, shelter and medicine are not. Good luck being happy or even staying alive without any place to live, starving, and ravaged with infection from lack of a simple antibiotic.

And here, I fisk:

What exactly is the point of government if they don’t represent us and look out for our welfare?

Ah! An astute question! (Though I doubt that you intended it that way, no offense.) What is the point of government? Well, for centuries if not millennia, it was to keep those who had the power in power. Period. The welfare of the people was a distant concern, and directly proportional to how much trouble those people could cause those in power if they weren’t kept happy. Surely you’ve heard the term “bread and circuses” (panem et circenses in the original Latin)?

The Declaration of Independence, the founding philosophical document of the United States stated that the purpose of government was to secure the rights of men. The preamble to the Constitution, the founding legal document of the United States declared that the purpose of that Constitution was to “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” As a friend of mine recently put it, though, “You know, for the last hundred years there has been entirely too much Promoting of the General Welfare and Creating a More Perfect Union and way too damned little Securing of the Blessings of Liberty.” (Thanks, Tam!)

What do you think we have a democracy for?

Not to be pedantic, but strictly speaking, we don’t live in a democracy, or at least, we’re not supposed to be. Go back and read the writings of the Founders. A democracy is the last thing they wanted, because they knew that democracies self-destruct – always. We’re supposed to be living in a representative Republic, but over two centuries of entropy (and to be honest, some deliberate sledge-hammering) we’ve left that ideal long behind.

We elect the people whom we believe to be the most competent, people who are supposed to have our best interests in mind (ideally), and we elect them so that they may govern the masses.

My, you ARE an idealist, aren’t you? We elect the people who RUN. In the main, competent people avoid government service and earn good livings doing so. As the anarchists often remark, if voting actually accomplished anything, it would be illegal. That’s a bit too extreme for my outlook, but it’s more generally accurate than I like to admit.

It’s an organized way to make sure there isn’t anarchy, and to make sure the people in charge aren’t corrupt (ideally) or only looking out for themselves. Do a lousy job and you aren’t re-elected. That is the basis of what America is founded upon.

How has that worked out, honestly? How many men (and women) have entered Congress (where the pay is $174,000 per year) with middling wealth, and left as millionaires? The job of the politician isn’t to “represent us and look out for our welfare,” it’s to keep getting re-elected. And how do they do that? By bribing the voters. Henry Louis Mencken, a columnist from the 1930’s observed – quite accurately:

The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.

The Founders understood this. The purpose of the Constitution was to limit the damage that such people could wreak when they were in power.

Are you saying no one in the world is competent enough for such a task to even be in government?

No, I’m saying that people who end up in government are often (not always) the least likely to bother to even try. Government is power. Power corrupts, and attracts the corrupt. The purpose of the Constitution was to provide sufficient power to allow government to perform its legitimate functions, while at the same time limiting the amount of damage that could be done when the corrupt got their hands on the levers of power. Federalist Paper #45 put it plainly: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined.” Have you seen a copy of the Code of Federal Regulations lately? It runs to 50 (fifty!) volumes and over 13,000 pages. The federal tax code, volume 26 of the CFR, is by itself over 3,000 pages. Does this sound to you to be “few and defined” powers?

My philosophy requires the government to look out for everyone and respect the citizens of the country.

Mine requires the government to protect the rights of those citizens against their infringement by other citizens, and against their infringement by that same government.

“Your philosophy says that “the poor” have more rights than the rest of us”

Not true – I’m saying that we all have equal rights. No one is saying the poor have more rights than the rich. Where did you come up with that?

Because you believe that the poor have a right to the property of people better off than themselves, and that it is the government’s job to A) identify the two groups, and B) carry out the redistribution.

Because the rich may have to give some of their $$$$$ to help someone else less fortunate than themselves, for the benefit of the society in which they themselves live.

If it’s taken from them at the threat of imprisonment, it isn’t “giving,” is it?

God forbid someone gives over something to help someone else, even if in the end they also benefit from it.

I’ve had this conversation before with someone who referred to what you call “giving” as “obligatory charity.” How Orwellian. If it’s “obligatory” it sure as hell isn’t “charity.”

I think we all understand the it’s mine don’t touch philosophy since it plays out loud and clear too often. It’s that philosophy which leads me to the assumption of people acting out of fear (afraid someone will touch their money), hatred (hating anyone who touches their money), and ignorance (thinking everyone wants to touch their money). Greed.

Ah, there. I knew you’d get around to the “G”-word eventually. So you want to take their money, but it’s ignorant of them to think you want to take their money, it’s wrong of them to fear you taking their money, and it’s wrong of them to hate you for taking their money, because somehow it’s better for them if you have this power, and you know better than they do what should be done with their money.

If you know better, why don’t you use your own money?

I really don’t understand exactly how life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be considered basic human rights but food, shelter and medicine are not.

That’s obvious. I’ve tried to explain it to you, but please, look up the difference between negative and positive rights. Your philosophy is one of positive rights. Mine rejects them as illogical and philosophically inconsistent.

Good luck being happy or even staying alive without any place to live, starving, and ravaged with infection from lack of a simple antibiotic.

And again, you illustrate your misunderstanding. You insist that government must provide these things. I insist that government must not prohibit my acquisition of these things, so long as I do not infringe on other’s rights while doing so. Government must not take these things from me after I acquire them, and must act to prevent others from doing the same.

THAT is the function of government. And THAT is why I oppose “national health insurance.” It is not the business of government, at least no what ours is supposed to be.

She hasn’t responded since Saturday. I’m really curious to see if she will, and what she’ll have to say.  But this is what we’re up against, and there are a lot more of them than there are of us – and they vote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.