I think your idea of allowing those who do not want government health care to opt out could be a good one with a few small changes. The change is this: Those who choose not to accept that health care must also be permitted to opt out of paying for it. I'll be pleased to give up my rights to having the government pay for my healthcare as long as I'm not forced to pay for the care of the other 300 million or so of my fellow citizens.
Here is another idea. Perhaps each of us could contribute to the general welfare according to our will to do so, and to extract benefits according to the payment we made for them! That way, if someone were to want some medical procedure, say a facelift or a heart valve repair, they would have two options: 1) pay and get the procedure 2) not pay and forgo the procedure. In the case of the guy who could not get the facelift, he would then remain facefallen (ie. ugly). The one who can not get the valve repair will die. This would be the result his bad luck, or bad choice, or incompetence - all of which have sad consequences. The general principle is something like this: If one wants something of value, they must provide something of approximately value.
Park, I don't think that "dog eat dog" is an accurate analogy. There is a significant moral difference between passively allowing someone to fail, and actively attacking them.
In a foot race this analogy might be between winning by running faster verses winning by tripping one's opponent.
Many of us, perhaps most, contribute to charities on occasion. Some more than others, some give their money to the UA (United Appeal), others to DAM (Mothers Against Dyslexia) - the choice is theirs and made based on the values of the giver.
You may proudly feel that you wish to pay for the medical procedures of others and should certainly be able to do so. However, I don't think you should be allowed to force someone else to give their money to your choice of recipients. Giving value without receiving value in kind is charity, and charity is a matter of the heart, and not a matter of "Human Rights".
John D and Park,
Certainly the concept of a social contract requires that the members of a society agree to some common sacrifices. I do think that those particular items should be precisely enumerated and defined - and of course represent the clear intent of a large majority of that society. For example, murder, rape and theft are widely agreed to justify the powers given to law enforcement and the judiciary. Health insurance is much less so, indeed there is question as to if it could gain even a simple majority support if all were taxed to pay for it. Park mentioned that there are those who "want to be part of the group, but sacrifice nothing." and I agree. They are the beneficiaries of the proposed government insurance, i.e. the people who expect to gain more than they pay. Those are the freeloaders, not the more productive people who are expected to carry the load. Personally, I would be glad to give up any claim I might have to Social Security (although I've paid the max tax my whole lifetime), Medicare, and the GI Bill/Vet Benefits in return for being excused from paying fo anyone elses. If I were to be allowed to do that, I'd be conceed some large amount of benefits that I've already paid significantly more than most for, but I'm a patriot and am willing to sacrifice my rights to "benefits" . This is my personal feelings, others may feel differently. ;>}
John D, I'm a tad disappointed in you. You can (and usually do) flame out more vehemently. Perhaps your point of view could be presented more persuasively if you would only yell a little louder and more shrilly. When your logic has been weak in the past, you've replaced it with strenuous ad hominem attacks, you might give that a try. I do understand that you feel the government should force people to pay for programs that are not near universally preferred. The Mafia feels that way about their own "tax collectors". However, your feeling that way, even though you may be sincere, does not make it proper, or moral, or effective. When taxes get to high in one area, taxpayers move to another, or work towards corrupting government (eg. lobbiests), or otherwise try to optimize their situation. Optimizing one's situation is a basic human facility.
In any competition, there are winners and losers. Since resources are inherently limited, there is a competition for resources. Why choose to identify with the "losers"?
Of course I don't think that people "deserve to be sick" Being sick is usually pure bad luck. It could, and will, happen to all of us.
The term "loser" as I meant it was not perjorative, it was descriptive. I meant "loser" in the sense of being the opposite of "winner". When someone's number is selected in a lottery, that person is a "winner", those whose numbers are not selected are "losers". No insult intended, just a description of results.
I would also prefer to live in a society where the government benefits everyone. I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about a society where the government panders for votes by consistently burdening some people to support others.
I do understand that the social contract concept is attractive to many people although, to my knowledge, it's never worked very well. Of course we need to cooperate on a number of policies. My preference is to keep those to a minimum; no more and no fewer. The dog eared version of this is the trite old homily "government at its best is a necessary evil".
By the way, I don't vote for the Mafia either, although during some time I spent working in Italy, it was far more effective than the government in maintaining order and getting things done. If universal health care passes the constitutional test, I will pay it, albeit not happily. That will remain true unless somewhere else offers what appears to be a better deal.
Susan, I do not think anyone who can not afford insurance is a "freeloader". I do think that anybody who wants something and feels they should be allowed to make other people give it to them is a freeloader. In fact, that's pretty much the definition of the term freeloader.
It is not a crime to be unable to pay for something you want. We've all been in that position and most of us will be in that position again. However, there is no inherent right to force others to give you things you want.
Park, I agree that its tough to avoid ranting and appreciate that you tried and pretty much avoided it. Perhaps ironically, it seems to me that you're making my point (as well as your own).
The value of anything is solely based on what someone is willing to pay for it. An ounce of gold is now worth $1300 because there are people who will pay that for gold. A Picasso painting, or a house on the boulavard, or a hamburger at McD is worth only what people will pay for them. So, if someone gets paid ten times more per hour than someone else, that fortunate person has found others willing to pay them that - i.e. they are worth it. I understand that all pro basketball players are paid at least $1,000,000/yr. Are they worth it? Apparently so because someone willing pays them that. So, the answer to one of your questions is yes, some people's time is worth more than others.
I don't think I ever said that anyone was worthless. There certainly are some people who are overall drags on society and consume more than they contribute. In some cases that's because of bad luck, in others because of bad choices. I suggest the reason is irrelevant, what counts is the result.
When a student tells me how hard they are trying to do well, I sympathize with there anxst but tell them that I'd be happier if they managed to do well without trying very hard at all - because the goal is results, and not good intentions.
I get frequently get frustrated in these discussions because it seems to me that too many people have been stuffing their brains at the trough of Political Correctness, at the cost of rationality.
BTW, I also do not mean to demean you personally. I appreciate the opportunity to air these considerations with poeple who can mount a rational debate.
You are right, I am a Prof. at a liberal arts college. I'm a retired physicist, now teaching Physics and Astronomy almost exclusively to undergrads. Although I'm probably near the philosophical norm in the Physics dept, most at the school consider me an atheist, conservative heathen (OK, so this is a bit overstated).
As an aside, although the school is by charter and choice a "Christian School", I've had no problem promoting a scientific, secular point of view to my students. The administration has supported me, so far at least, in the one or two student complaints per semester about my atheist teachings. Unlike the oppression that many on AN have experienced, I've been solidly atheist for my entire career and it's never been much of a problem.
Although changing someone's mind about such emotionally linked sensitivities as the "right" to charity is difficult, it does happen.
Of course I know that "thousands of people die a year because they lack access to reasonable care". I also know that is not my fault and so feel no obligation to pay for their misfortune.
Perhaps some artifacts of a religious upbringing are are still confusing many atheists. Religions support charity because religions run the charities. They tell their followers "Don't work for yourselves, work for the church so that we can do good works in your name". By so doing the churches collect wealth and the power that goes with wealth, and more importantly gain control over their followers, who are encouraged to ask their local priest what to think and how to act.
The concept of a "Social Contract" has been a popular organizational philosophy for 100s of years. I completely agree that it makes sense for neighbors to join together and pay taxes to support a fire department. In areas where houses are close by each other, any house burning threatens other. However, in areas where houses are separated, this is not the case. A recent news article told of a volunteer fire dept in some isolated area that had allowed a house to burn down because its owner had not paid the yearly support fee. I found that a reasonable thing, others (who did not live in that area) found it immoral and unconscionable. A vote taken several weeks later by the actual residents of that area supported the fire department's decision to let it burn. Their "social contract" said one can pay and share the benefit, or not pay and go it alone. (paraphrased) The choice was up to the individual.
With that freedom in mind, the existence of unhappy people does have a negative effect on my life. So, in order to try to optimize my life, I should consider the benefits of making those people less unhappy, and compare those benefits to their cost. I have given this a fair amount of thought over the years and decided that the benefits I might gain are outweighed by the cost I would bear. It's as simple as that!