Yesterday I came across a YouTube video where John King is asking the progressive gotcha question from Ron Paul in the First GOP debate in 2012. That reminded me of another debate from before the primaries where Wolf Blitzer asked the same sleazy question from the same candidate.
Although it may seem not particularly timely to post something about a debate of the Republican primaries that happened over a year ago, I think both the question and the answer are timeless. Democrats, socialists, leftists constantly throw this question at people who are opposed to the notion of government run health care.
The exchange went viral on both sides of the political spectrum.
Culture of Life? Tea Party Cheers Death of Uninsured (on Politics USA)
Tea party audience cheers letting the uninsured die (on Raw replay)
Tea party crowd cheers death (in the Daily KOS)
GOP Tea Party Debate: Audience Cheers, Says Society Should Let Uninsured Patient Die (in the Huffington Post)
And, of course, Paul Krugman had to weigh in with his article: FREE TO DIE
The other side responded to the above linked Krugman article: Scott Lazarowitz (on Lewrockwell.com)
Here is how the exchange went:
[Wolf Blitzer]: Before I get to Michelle Bachman, I just want to … You are a physician, Ron Paul, so you are a doctor, you know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question:
A healthy, 30 years old young man, has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what, I’m not gonna spend 200or 300 dollars a month for a health insurance because I am healthy, I don’t need it, but, you know, something terrible happens, all of a sudden, he needs it. Who’s gonna pay for if he goes into a coma, for example, who, who pays for that?
[Ron Paul starts answering] : In a society where you expect welfareism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of it.
[Wolf interrupts]: What do you want?
[Ron Paul]: What he should do is whatever he wants to do and take responsibility for himself. My advice to him would be to have a major medical policy, but not before ..
[Wolf interrupts again]: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it and he’s, he needs, he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?
[Ron Paul]: That’s what freedom is all about. Taking your own risks This whole idea that you have [applause] take care of everybody
[Wolf interrupting (with a near hysterical righteous indignation)]: but Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
[hecklers shouting: YEAH!]
….from this point Ron Paul went on answering the question, pointing out how – not too long ago – we actually DID solve this problem. Civil society took care of the problem, no government involvement was necessary; then he went on to related subjects pointing out how government policies create the problems in health care (physician licensing, drug companies, inflation, etc).
I found the question and the way it was asked revolting, and naturally, I was not satisfied with the answer, even though I do understand the limitations of the forum. It is not possible to give a full answer within the time afforded in a debate.
Here is what I think Ron Paul could have answered:
Wolf, let me start by addressing the dishonest, underhanded way you asked your question. You pointed out twice that I am a doctor, as if that had anything to do with the question at hand. But that was not your point. You did not have a medical question, it was about money, personal and social responsibility. Your point was the insinuation, the subtle allusion to the Hippocratic oath. That I, as a doctor, should be obliged to have more compassion. This sort of insinuation is unbecoming of a person in your position.
I will get back to the point of compassion later.
You went on to set up your question that was not any more decent than your sleazy preamble.
You had a vague idea on where I, my supporters and most of the candidates on this stage stand. You formulated your hypothetical situation in a way to solicit a negative answer.
You made your hypothetical victim as unlikeable as you could, picturing him as arrogant and irresponsible. You were baiting, you were fishing for a sound bite.
You could have asked a real question
If you really wanted to find out where I stand; if you really wanted to know what my position is on the various aspects of the problem. Everybody on this stage have ideas, the only thing we seem to agree on is that Obamacare is a disaster and should be repealed. I could give you answers, I could give you ideas but you are clearly NOT interested in getting real answers.
Let me give you a few anyway.
You believe that a ‘caring’ government is the answer to the problems of the human condition.
The most telling of your poor understanding of this issue was revealed in the last sentence of your question: “…..society should just let him die??”
SOCIETY? Society wouldn’t let him die. The state may, but society wouldn’t. You clearly do not see the distinction. If you understood this fundamental difference, you would see how stupid your question is. Society is a complex framework of voluntary associations. The state is a coercive organization. There is precious little that is voluntary about it. When you said society, you actually meant the state. Society does not let people die on the streets, but guess what? The state does. Government run health care systems are known for their failures. The people who die waiting for surgery in Canada or in the corridors of British hospitals waiting over ten hours for a doctor’s attention are NOT HYPOTHETICAL people like the arrogant young man of your example. They are killed by the kind of government run health care systems you advocate. You and your party want to coerce Americans into a government tailored straightjacket, the kind that is known for killing real people – and you want to do all that all in the name of the compassionate protection of hypothetical fantasies.
Which brings me to my next point:
If I do not agree with your proposed way to solve a problem that DOES NOT mean that I do not want to solve the problem.
Not agreeing with your proposed solution does not mean that we disagree on the goals. Nobody wants anybody to die on the streets. The question is: what is the best way to achieve the best health care outcome for the largest number of people?
You want the government to solve the problem, I believe in the power of the free market combined with the power of civil society and its institutions.
We easily could have an honest discussion about it, you could easily ask decent questions trying to understand and explore my ideas. The subject is NOT hypothetical. There is plenty of evidence in the world to show what works and what does not. We know what the problems are and we have suggestions on how to solve them.
We also understand that there is no magic bullet. Any system has pros and cons.
We have plenty of data from different systems around the world.
Luckily, the consequences of any policy can be measured and studied.
Unfortunately, the Democrats never did such thing. Had they done so, it would have been clear to them as well that socialized medicine does not provide better outcomes than the free market. The insinuations of your question only show that you are also clueless. You have no ideas, no arguments. You, your party, even the President knows that you have no arguments; that is why you have to resort to baseless emotional accusations disguised as questions.
The Affordable Health Care Act did not solve any problem, but created a whole set of new ones. It must be repealed. Then the subject should be discussed rationally. Without your hysterics.
You imply that I in particular and Republicans/Libertarians in general do not care about human suffering
I could ask you to show me a single republican who would be in favour of letting people die on the streets as a public policy. I could also ask you why are you supporting death panels? I could ask you why do you want a system where people die waiting for treatment, and my questions would NOT be hypothetical. Where is your compassion for the people that will be killed by the socialist system you prefer?
Compassion and charity are important things, but guess what? Your party does not show very well in a comparison. Republicans and Libertarians are PROVEN to be more compassionate and generous than Democrats.
Accusing Republicans of not being compassionate is disingenuous to the point of being insulting. Your compassion is hypothetical directed to hypothetical problems, while Republicans are compassionate in reality, not in the abstract.
I strongly resent your insinuation that I do not care. My heart is in the right place. The difference is that I use my brain as well and oppose harmful ideas from people who are blinded by their ideology.
And finally, let me give you a direct answer:
NO, society should not let your hypothetical, arrogant and irresponsible young man die. The hospitals should provide the care that is needed and send him a bill. Let him pay for the service he received for the rest of his life, if that’s what it takes. I would not let him off the hook through a simple bankruptcy. That should be a lesson to him and the rest of society about the importance of insurance. If he cannot pay, ‘society’ should make him provide some sort of service in compensation (such as lecturing other arrogant young men about the importance of insurance, or helping the truly unfortunate)
How to deal with your hypothetical young man is yet another question that could be discussed rationally. We could discuss what role the state and society should have in dealing with irresponsible behaviour, we could discuss how we should deal with the free rider problem, whether we should leave it entirely to the market and civil society or whether we should have compulsory health insurance in the fashion of compulsory car insurance. We could discuss all this, but you are obviously not interested in real answers. All you are looking for is the cheap trophy of a sound bite proving to your viewers that we are evil heartless monsters.
I am NOT going to give you what you are fishing for.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Any time I encounter this particular left-winger sleaze tactic, the insinuated conclusion that disagreeing with the methods must mean opposition to the goals, I get righteously indignant.
The fact that I cannot decide whether it is driven by manipulative malice or ideological blindness does not help my anger. Unfortunately, this tactic is used with increasing frequency because it works. Very few aspiring politician will stand up to it. If nothing else, it puts them into a defensive position. The media is powerful; conservatives and libertarians want it on their side.
They should stop deluding themselves. They cannot appease their most vicious enemies. Putting them firmly into their place, showing clearly what they are is the only way.