Things That Must Be Said and Questions That Must Be Asked

November 24, 2014

We debated whether healthcare is a right or a privilege.  Truth is that it is neither.  It is a need.  The real question is whether those who cannot meet their need have a right, legal or constitutional, to have others pay for their need through government action?  The rest of us may well have a moral duty to help them, but do they have a moral right to demand we do so?

A more difficult question to face is why those who cannot meet their need are unable to do so?  In the harsh light of economic reality, the reason is that those who cannot meet that need cannot do so because they do not contribute enough to the social order to be compensated in an amount that covers all their needs.  A free market, with the law of supply and demand (as demanding as that is!), is at its cruelest when it comes to personal services. If one does not have skills that are in demand, he or she will face great difficulty because the law of supply and demand is to economics what the law of gravity is to physics: you challenge it at your peril.

Supply and demand is so ferocious in the workplace because it creates a meritocracy; workers are rewarded commensurate with their contributions to the social order.  There are exceptions, of course. Entertainers and athletes are overpaid unless one believes that tranquilizing the masses is a significant contribution, in which case one must believe drug-dealers are underpaid. At the other end of the wage spectrum, elementary school teachers are underpaid, unless you believe we would all have figured out reading, writing, and arithmetic on our own.

The existential question confronting American culture is to what extent we structure our society and our economy to the needs of those who cannot contribute enough to meet their own needs.  Please notice that I did not say we ought not do anything to meet those needs, I only questioned the extent to which we structure our society to do so.

The Reverends Jackson, Sharpton and their “race professional” colleagues constantly remind us that we are the beneficiaries of what the forced labor of slaves built.  What they conveniently overlook is who it was that originally enslaved those ill-fated people in the first place and then sold them to the West.  My point is that slavery was not and is not a question of race, but rather of culture.  Americans can be grateful we live in a culture that worked very hard to end slavery and continues working to establish equal rights for all.

If America is to be the refuge for all those around the world who suffer ineffective government, will our government become less effective in meeting our needs and theirs?

Barak Obama is the most successful President in history.  He said he wanted to “fundamentally transform” America and that he has done.  He transformed us from the world’s sole superpower into Vladimir Putin’s punching bag and China’s know-it-all little brother.  

President Obama, and others often say that successful businesses did not build their factories and stores; rather that we built them, by paying taxes to build the infrastructure to get their goods to market and by buying those goods. Where did we get the dollars to buy those goods and pay those taxes?

Given the recent election results, will the President’s supporters seek to shrug off his presidency as an “unintended consequence” of affirmative action?

The old joke was that Truman proved anyone could be President and Eisenhower proved we didn’t need one.  Has Obama proved that we’d be better off without one?

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Burt Brody is a retired law professor living in Palm Desert CA.