Thursday, September 24, 2009

Healthy, Wealthy, or Wise? Pick one.

I have a cold. It's been getting progressively worse for the last few days. I've been having trouble focusing on work, and instead I've been spending most of my time marveling at how much mucus I can produce. I've also been hoping that I won't need to see a doctor...the health insurance I get through my job doesn't kick in until next week.

Health care and health insurance seem to be on everyone's mind these days. A couple of weeks ago I saw the protesters on the National Mall expressing their outrage at the prospect of government-sponsored health care. I saw some interesting protest signs, including the following:
  • "Spread my work ethic, not my wealth!"
  • "Hitler: 6,000,000 Jews, Obama: 300,000,000 Americans."
  • "I'll keep my guns, religion, and keep the change."
Each of those is troubling in its own way. The first one implies that only lazy people would need help from the government. The second one somehow compares mass extermination with the provision of health care. The third one is just ignorant (although I've always liked the "keep the change" line).

I think it's okay to worry about the government becoming too large and unwieldy, and about taxes being too high. However, when I think about things that the government *should* provide, health care is always near the top of the list. In fact, for me, the top 5 most important functions of government are:
  1. Safety and law enforcement (military, police, courts, etc.)
  2. Education
  3. Health care
  4. Infrastructure (roads, plumbing, electricity)
  5. Environmental protection
(Number 6, by the way, would probably be social security.)

Providing all of those things, and doing it well, is no easy task. Sometimes governments fail at effectively delivering needed services. But if it's a choice between getting those services from government or not getting them at all, I'd choose the former. There are people out there who have absolutely nowhere to turn for medical care. Are some of them in that predicament because they're lazy? Probably. But some of them aren't lazy, and are going to suffer (or worse) because nobody will help them. I can't have that on my conscience...I'm still feeling super guilty over the cutting board I accidentally stole from Ikea a few weeks ago (long story).

I guess my point is, if government doesn't exist to provide for the most basic needs of its citizens, why does it exist at all? What need is more basic than the need to survive?

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