Not Living In A Nanny State Is Now A Radical Idea

On Monday, eight Republican presidential candidates showed up for a Tea Party debate in Tampa, and Ron Paul The Libertarian was among them. Everyone’s favorite CNN anchor, Wolf Blitzer, moderated the event and asked Ron Paul the following question:

“A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

“Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?”

Ron Paul’s answer was along the lines that freedom is all about making your own choices and taking the risks (and rewards) associated with them. But since his choice was to not pay for insurance, do we let him die? His answer was that it’s not the government’s job to take care of him, and pointed out that when he started practicing medicine in the ’60s, before Medicaid, people in the hypothetical guy’s position would get taken care of by family or charitable organizations like churches. Which is a very important distinction that’s been lost recently: government is a subset of society, not society itself. In other words, when Blitzer asked the question

But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

what’s important to note is that it is not the same question as “should the government let him die?” The government is not the one and only institution in the country. As a society, of course we should not let him die, but as Ron Paul pointed out, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the government’s job to help him. Other institutions, like charities and churches, have a specific mandate to help those in need and rolling their function into the government’s purview should not be a foregone conclusion.

Naturally, a lot of people in the authoritarian left are up in arms about Ron Paul’s answer, because to them the nanny state is the ideal solution. And to their credit, it does seem like an attractive one: instead of paying taxes AND health insurance, why not just pay taxes and have the government handle everything? It’s a lot less of a headache for everyone, plus no one falls through the cracks. Of course, there are a couple of problems with this line of thinking:

  • The same logic is easily extended to other services. Besides healthcare, we all need food and shelter, so instead of paying rent and groceries, why not just pay more taxes and get those things for free? Imagine having a guaranteed house and being able to walk into a grocery store and walking out with whatever you need without ever pulling out your wallet. If we all paid 80% in taxes and got all the essentials paid for by the government, we wouldn’t have to worry about anything, and still have walking-around money. Except, who decides how good of a house you get, or if you can get Nutella at the grocery store, or how often you can see a doctor? Your mom the government, not you. And how hard will you work, knowing that you won’t get a better house, food or health plan because you’re working harder? The reason America won World War II and the Cold War was because of our fantastic economy, and nothing else.
  • Over the past 50 or so years, Western governments have generally been good. They more or less do what’s right for the people without crushing too many freedoms. So we tend to live in that bubble and forget that this is an exception, not just with respect to other present-day governments (China, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia), but to human history (the Roman Empire, the feudal system, the Soviet sphere, Nazi Germany, etc). And without the proper safeguards in place, there is absolutely nothing to keep good government from turning evil.

Take a look a Venezuela: Chavez turned it into a nanny state by nationalizing the country’s profitable oil industry and using that money to pay for all kinds of social programs. Then he basically installed himself as dictator. Would it have been as easy for him to take power, were it not for the fact that the entire population depended on him for everything from healthcare to food subsidies?

Historically, Americans have depended on their government for very little besides national defense. But since the Great Depression and the idea of a safety net that arose from it, that has been changing a great deal. We now depend on the federal government for retirement, food subsidies, student loans, mortgages, highways, and for a large and growing number, even healthcare via Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA. And the more and more services that get added to the government’s menu, the harder it will be to slap away the hand that feeds us.

The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits. (Thomas Jefferson)

We’ve come a long way from Thomas Jefferson. Below, is the video of the exchange between Blitzer and Ron Paul, who will not be the next president, if for no other reason than he does not look presidential.

From NPR

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