Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Why should I pay for you when you get sick?"

The heading of this post* is the summation of all objections to any public social insurance program, be it unemployment compensation, social security, day care supports, family leave and even education. Now that the congressional debate over health insurance reform has ended, perhaps we ought to ask, why indeed should I pay for you?

The first answer, of course, is that if a law says I must pay for you, surely it also means you must pay for me. That's what social insurance means, joining forces as a society to share the essential risks and challenges in human life, such as illness, unemployment, bearing and rearing children, acquiring necessary knowledge and old age.

They've been doing that for 60 years or more in the part of Europe that was never Communist.

Secondly, and seldom acknowledged, because someone has already paid for you. When you were 3 years old, say, even if you were born wealthy on paper, were you handling your investments, let alone buying and preparing all the food you ate, the clothing you wore, the housing you had? Weren't you a net recipient of everything until, at a minimum, your adolescence?

If you started your own business, did you build the transportation infrastructure that allows you to ship goods to customers? If you are now retired, do you think for a moment that you contributed every last penny that is being spent on you while you produce nothing at all?

There are no utterly self-sufficient individuals. Not even you. That's why you should pay for me when I get sick, in fairness, to make up for my paying for you when you get sick.


* A phrase stolen from Kel, the blogger of the Osterley Times.
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