One thing that has always frustrated me to no end is the tendency of some to argue from the position of the most extreme hypothetical scenario. I’ve seen this tactic used again and again in the debate surrounding healthcare, a debate which is raging between those who advocate for government funded care (i.e. socialized medicine), and those who believe the responsibility falls on the individual to decide what sort of care works best for themselves and their families.
This form of argument is becoming quite common in our public discourse and I believe it stems not from a desire to further the debate or reach resolution, but to make the person arguing this point of view feel morally superior while not having to unpack their ideas further.
Any time there is a call for some kind of individual discipline, whether in being proactive and shopping for their care, paying more out of their own pockets, or saving their own money to cover emergencies, it’s immediately shouted down with a chorus of people arguing that healthcare is beyond the ability of the individual to purchase and without subsidized care people will be dying in the streets.
How can you argue with that?
How could you possibly make an argument for more individual responsibility when it pertains to their health and wellbeing when people will be “dying in the streets”? You’d have to be some special kind of monster to argue against that!
And that’s entirely the point.
When people argue extreme circumstances as the norm, they aren’t interested in debate. They’re possessed by hysteria or, even worse, they know they can’t intellectually argue their point so they’re deliberately trying to nuke the discussion before it actually begins.
The fact of the matter is that runaway healthcare costs will only begin to stabilize once individuals like you and me take ownership of our finances, and stop paying overhead for insurance companies. The current approach we are taking doesn’t add value to our own lives. High deductible plans are unpopular in our culture because our culture has a negative savings rate. We’ve all but lost sight of the concept of saving up and paying for things out of pocket, and try to abdicate our poor budgeting and spending habits by saying, “Well, healthcare is just SOOOOO expensive, there’s no way I could EVER pay my expenses out of pocket!”
Truthfully, many Americans could do just that – if they modified their individual behaviors and began to reject the “have it now” and “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality which permeates throughout every level of our society.
When I married my wife, I had zero money in savings. I was a slave to the “have it now” consumer mentality. We made a lot of mistakes those first few years, choosing to forego saving as we bought ourselves nice things that we didn’t have money for.
Then I lost my job, and the reality of not being able to pay our rent became real.
I was on unemployment for about two weeks before I found another job (I’ve only been on it twice in my life, and both times for a relatively short period of time). The job didn’t offer me benefits, or even a great rate of pay, but I took it because it was a consistent income. In the subsequent years, while working, I began to educate myself on money and handling debt and saw just how poor my saving/spending habits were.
Over time my wife and I, working as a team to provide for our daughter (with a second soon to follow) modified our habits, grew in our financial education, and crawled back up the pay ladder. I secured a full time job with benefits and a brutal schedule. We worked paycheck to paycheck for just under 5 years and made a lot of mistakes along the way, but eventually we crested the hill.
Paychecks began to have extra money with them, and we began to have flexibility again. We ditched the PPO (preferred provider organization) this year and are saving more of our money, instead of giving it to insurance companies who overcharge anyway, and putting it into our very own account that is built with pre-tax dollars and will stay with us beyond this employer.
None of this was easy. It took a lot of paradigm shifting and (sometimes) painful learning, but because of this we are freer as a family than we were when we were paying our all of our income to people who didn’t deserve it.
Your paycheck is your most valuable resource, second only to your time, and when you give it away to every business competing for your dollars, you give away your freedom.
I think the thing that bothers me most about those who argue the margins as a case for the entirety of a subject is that it has a twofold detrimental effect.
Firstly, it promotes laziness of thought among the people who are absolutely capable of working and providing for themselves and their families. It encourages living at the expense of others.
Secondly, and more importantly, it diminishes the actual tragedy of those who genuinely need help by desensitizing those on the other side of the argument who are sick of being chastised while calling others to take more ownership of their lives.
Normalizing tragedy may be an effective way to “win” an argument, but the unintended consequences are detrimental to society as a whole.
Long story short: Stop arguing the fringe hypotheticals, and start engaging in meaningful dialogue about the crucial issues of society which need to be addressed, including our healthcare.