Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Inspirer in Chief

In yesterday's Obama big wing ding thing of a speech, he made quite a pitch. He said we have to look beyond economics because healthcare is a moral issue. I agree to a point. Healthcare is both a moral and an economic issue. In this issue, as in much of life, they are very much connected.

First, it's an economic issue because it is allocated via transactions with people getting paid for a value added skill they have, people paying because they are in need of the service provided by that skilled person, and time being used. All of these are known as constraints in economic terms. It has all the hallmarks of your classic microeconomics models that you learn as an undergraduate. The money and the time are a scarce resource because we don't live in a world of infinite resources in terms of time or money. We have to choose to maximize the best use of the persons skills to benefit the greatest number of those in need of those skills. For this they pay cash and hopefully, it is efficient so that neither time, money, or skills are wasted.

Second, it is a moral issue. There is a right to LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happyness. Be happy people! The primary question is who is the arbiter of morality? In modern America, we look at the government as the only entity for these types of things who can help provide what is morally just or what we deem to be social justice. Why should the poor not get the same type of care that the rich get? This question is about as profound as the songwriter's question: Why do fools fall in love?

The goal of any healthcare plan should be to strike a balance between not literally handing things to people to actually rob them of their dignity while not so harsh as to cause them to steal bread because they cannot eat otherwise. The healthcare proposals do not necessarily achieve a right balance. What happens if people simply don't pay the individual 2.5% tax on income or $3,800 per year that they will now have to in order to comply with the plan? Is jail an option? What if they can't pay it? What about the employer who can pay it on paper because they're rich but they have to layoff a few employees because their cost structure just increased? Is it moral if it leads to greater job loss?

All in all, morality is never so black and white. It should be a little concerning to all of us when we look to government to help us and especially when a government invokes the cause of morality to do so. This has been a bad idea since even before the Christian Crusades. Obama recognized in his speech that we are inherently distrustful of government and said it was good to be. He turned it around though and essentially asked us all to trust him. We have to get over it in order for this moral man to do what is moral. Even if I trusted him, I would still not be able to trust what he's setting in motion. We would do well to listen to the author Joseph Conrad before we give up being the only advanced nation without universal coverage:

"The scrupulous and the just, the noble, humane, and devoted natures; the unselfish and the intelligent may begin a movement - but it passes away from them. They are not the leaders of a revolution. They are its victims."

Eventually, Obama will depart from the stage. And who will be making these decisions after he leaves? Will they be wise? A government program once started does not stop when the man who set it in motion exits. You can trust him? You should be very concerned where any major government program goes. Government in this country is well beyond the point where it should be. Starting another one only further entrenches it. Is this really what we want?

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