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The State Isn’t Us

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson reports Ron Paul’s answer to a question about taxpayers’ responsibility for paying for medical care to keep alive a man who irresponsibly refused to buy health insurance for himself:

in Paul’s vision of America, “our neighbors, our friends, our churches” would choose to assume the man’s care – with government bearing no responsibility and playing no role.

Robinson is appalled by Paul, accusing him of being part of an “immoral” movement that would interpret the Constitution’s Preamble to read “We the unconnected individuals who couldn’t care less about one another . . . .”

I don’t get it.  Why is Robinson’s call to force Smith to care for Jones an exhibition of compassion, while Paul’s endorsement of arrangements under which Smith voluntarily cares for Jones a display of heartless indifference to the plight of others?

Reasonable people can disagree over whether or not voluntary charity would be sufficient.  It’s a mistake, however, to classify coerced ‘giving’ as “compassion,” and downright bizarre to accuse those of us who would rely more upon genuine compassion – evidenced by people giving from the goodness of their hearts rather than from a desire to avoid imprisonment – as endorsing a society without compassion.


And a follow-up point: To the extent that government programs such as Medicare and Social Security were enacted, and survive, because the beneficiaries of these programs support them, then even on Eugene Robinson’s own premises they cannot be said to reflect “compassion.”  Quite the opposite.  To that extent these programs reflect greed: give me what you have because I want it and I’m willing to hire people with jail cells and guns to take from you what I want for myself.


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