What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
I received a Facebook message this morning from a woman with whom I am not “friends” on that website. She asked if I had said the following:
I’ll be blunt: under the proper system that abolishes Medicaid and relies upon private, charitable assistance as a “social net,” people will die. Needs will go unfulfilled. This happens around the world every day, of course. People die. People suffer. It’s life.
I replied that I had indeed said that. The comments stem from this Facebook conversation, where a discussion on the war on drugs took a tangent to Medicaid, and elicited the above response. That response, however, is an edited of version of what I really did say. I’m not sure who sent this woman my comment, and if it was they or she who edited it, but here is the full comment:
Switching gears to your Medicaid example, I’ll be blunt: under the proper system that abolishes such a system (whether immediately or after a transition of a few years) and relies upon private, charitable assistance as a “social net,” people will die. People won’t get the medical care they want, or think they deserve. There will be needs that will go unfulfilled.
This happens around the world every day, of course. Few Americans would tolerate a system that taxes them at a rate of 90% to better provide vaccinations, food, and supplies to impoverished people around the world. People die. People suffer. It’s life.
Call it ideal, but I can’t endorse a system, even for pragmatic reasons, that uses immoral means to pursue moral ends. As bad as it would be to know that people are dying of hunger or sickness in a system that doesn’t forcibly tax people to provide for them, it is only that system that has any moral standing.
If we support a system that pragmatically sets aside the ideals in favor of “helping” those in need, where is the line drawn? There is no line drawn, as the foundation is a sandy, shaky mess. Seeing where that pragmatic system has led us in the past 70 years is sufficient evidence, I think.
Having received confirmation that I had indeed said that, this woman replied with the following:
You have a child. It is possible that one day that precious child could be the one whose needs you are saying may need to go unfulfilled. I hope that statement never comes back to haunt you. [Utah Senator] Dan [Liljenquist’s Medicaid reform] has a security net that keeps us from sinking to the level of nonchalantness you seem to possess. I hope you will soften your heart. There is a happy medium.
One might expect that I took issue with this reply. So, the following is my response, which I decided to openly share so that others might hopefully stop perpetuating the falsehoods in her comment.
In objection to my stance that taxation-based social “safety nets” should be done away with, you advise me to have a softened heart. You point to the fact that I have children, suggesting that should they have any severe medical needs in the future, I would be a willing and grateful participant in the system, using what money I could get from the government to assist my child.
You don’t know me, so allow me to share with you some personal insight in response. I do so not to boast, but to dispel a dangerous myth that persists in our society, namely, that those who oppose government intervention in the private charity system are cruel and hard-hearted.
I have a soft heart. My softened heart has led me to serve the people in Honduras, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. It has taken me to Africa, along with thousands of dollars and dozens of boxes of supplies raised for the impoverished children there, to witness the extreme temporal suffering of God’s children on “the other side,” as my friends in Zambia would say. That soft heart led me to organize a fundraiser last fall for the widow and children of a slain LDS Bishop, raising $70,000 for their ongoing needs.
That heart, along with my wife’s, leads us to sponsor two children in poor countries so they can be well clothed, sufficiently fed, and receive a good education. It leads us to be investors in dozens of entrepreneurs around the world who are looking to improve their lives through industry and innovation. It leads us to identify family members and friends who are going through financial hardship, taking advantage of opportunities to help them directly.
I could go on, but at this point it feels both awkward and invasive. You hopefully see my point. In case you don’t, let me explicitly state it: Recognizing that all that I have comes from God, and that He has commanded me to help those in need, I proactively and repeatedly seek out opportunities to share the resources with which I have been blessed. I do so not out of a sense of obligation, but out of a sincere desire to improve others’ lives, as my own life is in turn improved. I have had a number of deeply spiritual and humbling experiences throughout this process.
In contrast, I would argue that one’s support for or reliance upon a government welfare system is an indication not of a soft heart, but of a hardened one. That hardened heart endorses the use of violence against those who would prefer not to be forced to contribute into a system riddled with fraud, mismanagement, inefficiency, and bloat. That hardened heart, rather than being sensitive to the factors involved, willingly ignores this basic fact. It desires to not concern itself with the reality that it employs immoral means to pursue moral ends.
A soft heart looks for ways to solve the problem and assist those in need, and encourage others through persuasion to do the same. A hard heart looks to the government to force participation in a system that supposedly will solve the problem.
A soft heart shuns violence, accepts the trials of life, and is appreciative of the aid of friends, family, and strangers alike who seek to help relieve a burden. A hard heart focuses only on the end result, gladly accepting (and in many cases demanding) any source of assistance in relieving or removing the burden.
A soft heart respects the life, liberty, and property of others, and does not seek to force a burden upon another person, instead relying upon their voluntary consent. A hard heart demands that others provide their assistance.
Now, as for my children. I can honestly say that I would sell all my worldly possessions in order to pay for any needed medical expenses before even exploring the thought of participating in a government welfare system. I would turn to family and friends for aid, and incur whatever debt was required in order to help my children. Only in the most extreme of circumstances would I even give thought to using government programs, let alone decide to actually use them — and this only because I have been forcibly taxed already.
This by no means is any sort of support for that system, for as I have said previously many times, I support the complete abolition of such “safety nets.” It is a dangerous argument to make, for the system is perpetuated by those who think they have paid into it, and therefore are free to use it. This, of course, is a vicious cycle which (as costs rise) only adds to the size and scope of the system. I cannot in good conscience consent to that cycle.
I hope I’ve made myself clear. To argue that I do not have a soft heart (especially when you do not know me, but only judge me based on a single political position) is naïve and misguided. To assert that if I did have a soft heart, I would support the use of violence (forcible taxation and the penalties for non-compliance) seems, to me, to be a blatant oxymoron.
The charitable care and welfare of our fellow man must be carried out through moral means. The use of government to pursue those means immediately introduces an element of immorality into the process (the use of force against peaceful people), and should therefore be rejected.