I came across this meme recently:
The boy is holding a sign that says:
“I am a 21 year-old student from Finland.
It makes me sad to hear how Americans are suffering.
Here, our taxes are high but we all benefit from them.
I grew up in the countryside and always had access to the same services that people in the city did.
My university is known around the world in my field and my education is not only free, but my government pays ME to go to university. Everyone has a right to this.
Everyone has a right to the best healthcare, there is no such thing as health insurance.
I am young now and able to take risks and pursue my passion because I will never have to worry about starving if I lose my job or my business fails.
I know that when I am old my state pension will be there for me so that I can enjoy my retirement.
We call this the Nordic Model, and under it we live well and our businesses are among the most competitive in the world. I am grateful to have been born a citizen of a country that cares for its people, and I hope that one day the USA will take example from us.
I am the 99%.”
My response was:
“Do I think the EXACT Finnish models will work in the U.S.? No, we are two different places with different challenges. However, I’m really not quite sure how we can call ourselves the “Land of Opportunity” when we disallow people to seek their potential for the inability to pay; where we create a system where starting your own business or beginning a new job can literally kill you due to lack of health assistance. Do you know how many people I know that want to start businesses; want to work more; but can’t due to the valid fear that they will lose the health insurance that they depend on for their family and themselves?! Yet the “I don’t want to pay for you! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” crowd opposes services that have been shown over-and-over again to MORE than pay for themselves (substance abuse treatment, access to family planning, etc.), making their tax investment more efficient and the opportunities of their friends, neighbors, and they increase. What makes this more insulting and insidious is that they oppose these in the name of “freedom”. They would rather build more prisons than build more opportunity. They call that freedom. What has to happen? When a Supreme Court Justice suggests that the solution is to let the poor die in the street – in the name of freedom – at what point do those that love freedom, our country and its people become enraged?”
A friend of mine agreed, but suggested also that we make education to the age of 18 compulsory.
“I don’t think it should be illegal to drop out – at all. The idea here is that it makes sense for us to remove good excuses. If we can go up to someone who is basically living off the “system” or living in abject poverty that has the ability to be self-sufficient and succeed financially and we ask, “Why?” and the reason that comes out of their mouth is completely understandable; if we ask “What could you do right now to make your situation better?” and they say, “Nothing” and they are right. Our society has failed.
We should be free to make our own choices – even if the majority or the government doesn’t like those choices; even if those choices have bad consequences. However, if we have masses of people that are trapped (whether that’s because of circumstances they had power over or didn’t have power over) – that’s not good for ANYONE and perpetuates generational poverty, dependence, and wasted human potential.
That’s my point.”
My friend mentioned that many of the countries with those types of working social structures also make it illegal for children to drop out because it increases employment.
I responded: And that’s what the “freedom” brigade is worried about and why they are so upset about the mandate to buy insurance. They don’t want the government making decisions for them. The difference of course is – if a child drops out of high school or pursues some sort of alternative education; or if a group of people generally only provides up to an 8th grade education (such as the Amish) – the taxpayer/health insurance customer/hospital isn’t given the option of either paying for their health care or watching them suffer and/or die. Health care is different than ANY other “product” in real and meaningful ways. The argument that was given to Scalia was that we are already socially obligated to provide care for those that need it; and when confronted with this argument, he set aside that obligation as an inconvenience. Scalia essentially said that if I couldn’t afford insurance or decided to take my chances and simply not pay for it, both my children should be dead. [I’ll spare you the gruesome accounts of how both my children would die. I was sort of upset when I originally wrote this, having two children who required life-saving medical treatment. It wasn’t pretty.] However, Scalia didn’t offer the idea that the private sector is able to and should take on this responsibility (at least that would have been a discussion); he said, “Don’t obligate yourself to that.” I think the only reason the entire country is not enraged is that the legalese softened the intensely evil thing he said and they have no idea what not “obligating ourselves to that” actually means. It means forcing doctors to not treat the poor. It means allowing children’s health to needlessly deteriorate while their parents wail over their dying bodies; dragging them out of emergency rooms and hospitals to get them out of the way of the paying customers. It means kicking the bleeding drunk out of the way and throwing his body in an incinerator when it starts to stink. That’s what not “obligating” ourselves is.
Otherwise we should be bringing the horse to water – but not trying to force him to drink. You create a system where choices (good choices with usually good outcomes) are possible and people are not trapped. You don’t mandate those choices – or else they are no longer choices. You don’t mandate to the individual what is, by your own opinion, beneficial to the “average” person according to the piece of paper sitting in front of you. Instead, you make those choices possible.
If your health is failing, if you are in pain, if you cannot function because of substance addiction, if you require medication or counseling, if you need glasses but don’t have them, if your cheek is full of puss, if you’re constantly on the verge of a diabetic coma – and you are unable to get care, your other choices in life are sort of limited.