Saturday, January 9, 2010
Making Busybodies of Us All...
During recent conversations with tolerant, liberal friend of mine, I could not believe my ears when they started ranting about "fat, chain smoking hillbillies" and "single mothers and illegals churning out endless babies..."These friends generally were not judgemental and certainly not concerned about the private lives and personal choices of others.
So, what was responsible for their transformations into "intolerant busy-bodies"?
Both of these friends of mine have two thing in common: they are both doctors who spent time working in an emergency room. They told me of "revolving door patients" whose personal choices of smoking, drinking and overheating had cost the public hundreds of thousands of dollars. My friend calculated that one patient had cost the public over $100,000 in the course of a year. Because the public covered all their expenses, they had no incentives to change their behavior. And even though they could not afford their 1st child, the single mothers had two, three and even four more children, whose health care, food, housing and education were costing the public hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
It may be noble for the state to unconditionally care for the needs of all, but when the public has to bear the cost of private choices, even the most liberal and tolerant citizens become judgemental, busy-bodies. Most progressives seek a state and society that are responsible for the welfare of all, while simultaneously respecting the independence and autonomy of its citizenry, but unfortunately I do not believe that these two opposing goods can be reconciled.
Inevitably as the costs of entitlements spiral out of control, we will be forced to go down one of two paths: increase the extent to which we control the (formerly) private lives of our fellow citizens or forcing them to bear more of the costs and consequences of their personal choices. Statists and collectivists will choose the former and those who truly value individual liberty and autonomy will choose the latter, but you cannot choose both.