Last night, the Tea Party sponsored another debate between the current GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential election, and much like last week’s Rick Perry Death Penalty Moment, this debate had its own Nightmare Moment In Which The Reality Of Our World Is Reflected Back To Us And Is Terrifying. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked candidate Ron Paul, who, like all of the GOP candidates, stands firmly opposed to Obama’s health care reform initiatives, which also fits in with his long-standing (and Tea Party approved) libertarianism, to consider a hypothetical question: say a young, ostensibly healthy man decides he doesn’t want to pay for health insurance but then suffers from a cataclysmic health situation that requires intensive emergency care. Who should pay for his care? At first Ron Paul simply says that this is what freedom means, that we should all be allowed to take our own risks. (Uhhh. We’ll get back to this.) Wolf Blitzer then clarifies his question by asking if we as a modern society should allow people without health care to die even though we have the means to save them. At which point THE AUDIENCE STARTS SHOUTING “YEAH!”
This is getting insane! Who are these people?! Here is the thing about Ron Paul’s initial argument: I find it appealing. I’m on board with personal freedoms, and I’m also on board with there being a certain level of direct risk and responsibility to the choices you make in life. If you make a bad choice, for example to not buy health care if you don’t already have health care, then there should be some kind of consequence associated with making that choice, because it does unfairly place the burden on someone else. Would I carry that to the conclusion that people should therefore be allowed (which basically means forced) to die for their bad decision? NOPE! But let’s imagine for a second that I did believe that, which I DON’T, but pretend that I did, and that I was also in this debate hall when the question was posed: the most you could hope to hear from me would be a quietly muttered “well, maybe” under my breath. Not gurgling, hate-filled screams of “YEAH!” I mean, what even is this? (It’s also interesting to contrast this moment with the whole Death Panels thing, which was the nonsense counter-argument to health care reform that suggested this new system would decide who lived or died. But so now we are all PRO Death Panel? I’m very confused. It’s so crazy that the tea party enthusiasts don’t have a clear and consistent logical through-line to their garbage vision of a ruined world!)
This brings us back to Ron Paul’s argument that not buying health care is exactly the type of risk vs. reward scenario expressing PURE FREEDOM that his libertarianism supports. Neat! The problem with this, of course, is that it borrows the George W. Bush catch-phrase banner slogan down-with-Osama-Bin-Laden branded “FREEDOM” and uses it in the place of “ANARCHY.” I don’t mean that in a facetious or sensationalized way, I mean that libertarian philosophy quite literally represents an anarchistic distrust of the state and a desire to see it abolished. Freedom sounds nice when you think it just means that you can buy Kettle Chips in every imaginable flavor at your local bodega and stay up as late as you want. It’s not as nice when it means there’s no such thing as the fire department and if you want to have surgery you have to take competing bids from your local Organ Contractors. The reality is that we live in a world of rules that sometimes get confusing but that are, for the most part, the best attempt we’ve achieved so far at making this place as close to livable for everyone as we can. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t use some work, and I bet there are a lot of poor, disenfranchised people who might argue that it’s not so livable (although I don’t think those people are libertarians), it just means throwing the baby out with the bath water and then also throwing out the bath tub itself and hoping that it dies because the bath tub opted not to buy “Get Thrown Out Insurance” doesn’t seem like a useful step in the march towards progress.
But, OK. If that’s how Ron Paul feels, I can totally respect that. It’s a hard line to take, but I respect hard lines (that is what she said). Except, it turns out that’s not how he feels? Because after espousing on freedom and risk and responsibility (and also are you serious with this whole you were a fucking MEDICAL DOCTOR and now you’re going to be a dick about people having access to AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE? Come on, dude!) he immediately dovetails into this weird example of how before there was Medicaid the churches covered people’s medical expenses when they couldn’t afford to pay themselves. UHHHHHH. What? Can we go back to the part where you just thought everyone should die because of freedom, because that at least made sense. Having churches cover people’s unpaid medical bills is fine. Thank you, churches. But this argument basically devalues everything else that Ron Paul was saying because it means that someone ultimately DOES need to cover people’s medical bills, he just thinks it should be a church rather than Medicaid. Fine, but intellectually speaking, we’re still talking about other people shouldering the burden when someone makes a bad choice, so why would Ron Paul be the one who gets to choose which shoulder the burden falls on? He then goes on to say that we’ve lost sight of this feeling of responsibility towards each other, which a) doesn’t actually jibe with his idea that everyone should be entirely free to do whatever they want because maybe what people want is to not be responsible for or give a shit about anyone, and b) THAT IS KIND OF THE POINT OF HAVING A GOVERNMENT. Again, I am not arguing that the government is perfect because who would argue that? A lunatic. This guy:
“Don’t change a thing, government! Ya perfect!”
But the fact of the matter is that people are historically unreliable. HELLO, ADAM OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN! Haha. That is a good reference! Do you Tea Party Boyz like that bible reference?! Adam: Patient Zero of the Unreliable Virus. So, if people can’t be counted upon to help each other, we establish systems through which those needs are met anyways. There are currently more than 300 million people in America. That is an awful lot of freedom to have to deal with. In a modern society with structures in place to accommodate our outsized populations, people get the help that they need when they need it without having to bleed out while they wait to see if Ron Paul’s bake sale will raise enough money to come help them. Are their abuses to this system? Yes, there are! Is it better than no system whatsoever? Yes, it is!
It’s obviously pretty easy to just sit around and poke holes in someone else’s logic and I’m sure running for President is very hard. And at the end of the day, the thing that is the most upsetting about this Classic Debate Moment is the disgusting audience, not Ron Paul. But it actually shouldn’t be this easy to poke holes in Ron Paul’s thinking because libertarianism is pretty cut and dry. It’s often very shitty, but at least it’s usually consistent. Oh well. Call me crazy, but I’m starting to think I might not even vote for this guy!