My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

A Partial Answer for “Personal Failure”

with 24 comments

     Recently a commenter named Personal Failure asked:

What happens when private help isn’t available or isn’t enough? What then? My husband has MS. He needs medication, tests, doctors and treatments, but he was rescissed by his insurance because he failed to disclose a blow to the head as a child. (Does not cause MS.) He can get his MS meds free from the company, but those meds are known to cause liver damage, and he can’t get liver function tests for free, so he can’t take the meds. So there he is on the couch, too dizzy to walk the dog, let along work. Libertarianism works great- until you can’t work.

     I have thought long and hard about an answer.  Here is part of the answer below.  More is coming, but I try to keep each post around 500 words.    

      I do not want to minimalize the situation that you find yourself in.  It stinks, plain and simple.  My heart goes out to you and your husband.  I hope that he has the remitting kind of MS and that he enters remission soon.  I would first like to ask a series of questions and then conclude with a comment about your last sentence.

     Have you sought a legal remedy against the insurance company?  It sounds like they have violated their contract.  Libertarians are against anyone’s doing that.

     Have you asked your friends and family for help?  Perhaps each of your close friends and family members would be willing to pay for one liver test per year.

     Have you asked a church or other religious body for help?  In my hometown there is a network of churches known as the Community Ministries that provides all sorts of resources to people in need.  Maybe there is something like it where you live.

     Have you held fundraisers or, better yet, asked a close friend or family member to hold fundraisers on your husband’s behalf?  That is often done for people with chronic illnesses.

     Is your husband a member of a support group?  Perhaps they know of a foundation or private charity that could help him out.

     Has your husband thought about ways that he might still be able to make money from home, perhaps part-time?  If that is not possible, please forgive my even asking the question.  Last year I was struck with a debilitating condition that I thought would make it impossible for me to work anymore at my job.  I told my wife that I might have to stay home from school and try to write a book or offer private music lessons or private tutoring to struggling students.  Fortunately, my condition is under control–at least at the moment. 

     In the meantime, I have no problem with you and your husband availing yourself of any government programs for which you qualify.  You helped pay for them, after all.  Although I would like to see most public welfare programs reduced or abolished, you might as well benefit from the ones that are operating now.

——————–

     It is not fair to discuss whether or not Libertarianism would work in light of or current situation.  The United States of America is not currently operating under anything like a Libertarian-type government.  I believe that both you and your husband would be better able to withstand the current crisis if Libertarian principles were enacted.

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Written by ambrosianideas

October 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Libertarianism

24 Responses

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  1. Yet unless one has a reason to think libertarianism would yield a better system, no one has any reason to work towards that end. You obviously have faith it would work. Everything I’ve studied about political economy, human psychology, and political science suggests not only that it wouldn’t work, but that it isn’t even a feasible option. If you want people to change, you have the burden of proof to convince us it will work.

    Scott Erb

    October 31, 2009 at 5:07 pm

  2. Scott, quote: “If you want people to change, you have the burden of proof to convince us it will work.”

    Actually that is not correct, there are other “proofs” possible – such as an appeal to morality. For example, I don’t need to prove to you that honesty works, just that honesty is better morally than lying.

    Liberty is better than tyranny because it is morally right.

    Greg

    Greg

    October 31, 2009 at 5:53 pm

  3. Terms like “tyranny vs. liberty” are too abstract. It creates a false dichotomy and a vast oversimplification. (So is honesty vs. lying — sometimes a lie is moral and honesty immoral). In any event, my point is that if one view of politics or one view of morality is held, and someone wants others to change, they have the burden of proof. In a debate the burden of proof lies with those who want to change the status quo. Since the only way “libertarianism” as RG defines it would be implemented is if people chose to vote for changes that would alter the system. They have to be convinced to vote that way. Otherwise, you won’t get the changes you want, whether you believe them more moral or not.

    Scott Erb

    October 31, 2009 at 7:53 pm

  4. Scott, quote – “In any event, my point is that if one view of politics or one view of morality is held, and someone wants others to change, they have the burden of proof.”

    Not really. All one needs to do is think, “In this instance, what is freedom, what is tyranny, what is right, what is wrong?” and go for freedom and right. One step at a time.

    Greg

    Greg

    November 1, 2009 at 7:48 am

  5. You can always choose for yourself how you want to act. But you can’t choose for other people. And the political system we have is based on collective decisions, meaning that it won’t change unless you convince others to change their positions. Freedom is another one of those concepts that has numerous possible definitions and contextual implications. You make it sound far clearer than it is. Again, tyranny and freedom are a false dichotomy, an oversimplification that probably obfuscates more than clarifies.

    Scott Erb

    November 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

  6. Scott – Those who wish to muddy the water always can. However, the meanings of the words freedom and tyranny are very clear in virtually every case.

    Greg

    Greg

    November 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  7. Scott, a growing number of people are joining groups like the Campaign for Liberty, the National Association for Young Libertarians and other libertarian groups. I think people are becoming convinced. Many Christians I know are fed up with both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, and they see the Libertarian Party as a good alternative. So I believe that people are being convinced. Look at the gradually increasing number of people joining the Free State Project. In a few years, one of your neighboring states could elect the first Libertarian senator(s).

    The folks who were angry at the town hall meetings a few weeks ago and the folks who are attending the tea parties are ripe for adopting libertarianism and the Libertarian Party.

    renaissanceguy

    November 1, 2009 at 2:53 pm

  8. Greg – No, the meanings are not clear. This is basic political science, those are abstract concepts that over simplify complex relationships. A concept like “liberty” or “freedom” is inherently contestable, and always will be. We have courses that delve into those debates. You can stand on a soap box and proclaim it “clear,” but that’s neither convincing nor well thought out.

    RG: That’s fine — if we develop (and I actually think we will, though over a much longer time than you would want) a culture that can support a libertarian style of governance (self-governance that doesn’t get thwarted by the powerful using their power and resources to structure the game in their favor), then we could have a stable society with minimal government. I don’t think the current political culture will support that. But I respect your efforts to try to build those ideas.

    Scott Erb

    November 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm

  9. As I said previously, “those who wish to muddy the waters always can.”

    Greg

    November 4, 2009 at 6:08 am

  10. But Greg, you haven’t even defined the waters. You make a bold assertion that two terms apparently are our only options…you don’t make that clear. You don’t define your terms but hint that they should be “very clear” and when challenged, you simply say people can muddy the waters.

    OK, I think the waters are naturally muddied, are always muddied, and no one can clear them. Unless you show me otherwise, I think you’re dealing with fantasy.

    Scott Erb

    November 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm

  11. I rest my case.

    Greg

    Greg

    November 5, 2009 at 5:32 am

  12. You have no case to rest. You’re making vague assertions and pretending you’ve made a point. It’s like you’re afraid to really state your views and defend them. Your fear shows that you have no case.

    Scott Erb

    November 5, 2009 at 3:05 pm

  13. OK 🙂

    Greg

    November 5, 2009 at 8:13 pm

  14. Scott, or that Greg thinks that his point is self-evident. I somewhat agree with both of you. I think that freedom and tyranny are somewhat vague and needing operational definitions. However, I don’t think most people are clueless about what they mean, at least in general.

    I think that non-libertarians want to pretend that they are hard to define, because then they can avoid some of the upleasant ramifications of defining them. Once you define freedom, you have to admit that we do not have it in America, and that they have even less of it in Europe.

    (Yes, I contradicted an earlier post with that last statement. I’m still working out what I think about it.)

    renaissanceguy

    November 6, 2009 at 5:55 am

  15. I think the problem with broad terms like ‘freedom and tyranny’ is that they not only exclude the vast middle (where I’d say virtually all reality is), but they also create a false dichotomy, defining away various ways one might have coercion or liberty. Freedom is a hotly contested term in political philosophy, tyranny is seen as more a propagandistic term.

    This debate in political philosophy is not driven by “pretending” in order to avoid “unpleasant ramification.” That is a real insult to large numbers of scholars world wide who take these issues seriously. You accuse them of a kind of dishonesty, but yet refuse to do the hard work of defining the term and responding. If it gets labeled “self-evident” and one walks away, well, that explains nothing, and defends no proposition. It is non-sense.

    Are we more free in the US than in Europe? What does that mean? Those are serious questions. The reality is that there ARE different views on freedom, and the libertarian view is NOT the standard view all hold. To dismiss alternatives by asserting “self-evident” (without substantiation) and then dismissing vast parts of the field of political theory/political philosophy saying people are “pretending” isn’t credible.

    Scott Erb

    November 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm

  16. Ask a teenager, a middle aged parent, and a retired senior citizen about their definitions of freedom and tyranny and you’ll get three different answers. We all come at abstract concepts with our own perspectives based on our own life experiences. In general, sure, we all agree “freedom…good, tyranny…bad.” I generally prefer not to sound like a caveman, however. Once you start do define the terms, it’s nearly impossible to come to a broad consensus. This is true with nearly any abstract concept.

    languagelover

    November 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

  17. By the way, Greg: You’re wrong.

    I rest my case. 😀

    languagelover

    November 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm

  18. Have you sought a legal remedy against the insurance company? It sounds like they have violated their contract. Libertarians are against anyone’s doing that.

    Do you live in reality? Recissions happen every day in this country. Seriously, it’s like you’re not on the same planet.

    Asked friends and family for help? With what? Are my friends and family health insurance companies? Are they labs capable of performing liver function tests? What is wrong with you? I honestly don’t know a single person capable of paying for even one test, so apparently your answer isn’t universal health care, it’s richer friends.

    Have you asked a church or other religious body for help? In my hometown there is a network of churches known as the Community Ministries that provides all sorts of resources to people in need. Maybe there is something like it where you live.

    I’m an atheist, but even if I weren’t, the local churches can’t keep up with the local need for food and shelter, let alone paying for lab tests for the uninsured.

    In the meantime, I have no problem with you and your husband availing yourself of any government programs for which you qualify. You helped pay for them, after all. Although I would like to see most public welfare programs reduced or abolished, you might as well benefit from the ones that are operating now.

    OMG- I never thought of Medicare! Not that he qualifies for it. And even if he did, you’d want to cancel it.

    Seriously, white hot rage over here, buddy.

    Personal Failure

    November 9, 2009 at 7:45 pm

  19. Oh, and offering me “oh, I’m so sorry” platitudes while discussing how much you’d like not to pay for food for starving children and MediCare for people in End Stage Renal Disease does not make you a good person.

    Personal Failure

    November 9, 2009 at 7:48 pm

  20. It’s odd that RG didn’t offer to pay for a liver function test by himself. Isn’t part of his point that people should offer the help that they can? What help is he offering?

    Spherical Time

    November 21, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  21. Spherical Time, I considered it. However, I do not know this person. I do not even know if her story is true, not that I doubt it. I just don’t know.

    I have plenty of friends and family members and neighbors to support and help as needed. We all do. We should all be helping out with the needs around us. I do so. How about you?

    Wnat to compare salaries and charitable giving with me?

    I hope that Personal Failure and her husband use whatever resources are available to them. I hope that they get whatever assistance they need. Among the 8 billion people on earth, they are not among those for whom I feel directly responsible.

    renaissanceguy

    November 22, 2009 at 2:27 am

  22. RG: Spherical Time, I considered it. However, I do not know this person. I do not even know if her story is true, not that I doubt it. I just don’t know.

    Just a clarification here. If you don’t know if it is true, then you do indeed doubt it.

    RG: I have plenty of friends and family members and neighbors to support and help as needed. We all do. We should all be helping out with the needs around us. I do so. How about you?

    Wnat to compare salaries and charitable giving with me?

    Not particularly. Although you might want to note that I’ve been out of work for some time now, so my charitable giving is an infinitely large percentage of my salary. Number theory at work.

    RG: hope that Personal Failure and her husband use whatever resources are available to them. I hope that they get whatever assistance they need. Among the 8 billion people on earth, they are not among those for whom I feel directly responsible.

    1 John 4:7-8
    Matthew 22:34-40
    Ezekiel 16:49-50

    I suppose you must feel glad that Jesus didn’t feel the same way.

    Spherical Time

    November 23, 2009 at 6:55 pm

  23. No, I do not doubt her story. I’m neutral. I simply don’t know. I’m an agnostic regarding it. If I had to guess, I would guess that it is true.

    I’m sorry that you are out of work. I hope that you find another job soon. I probably cannot help, but if I could, I would. What field are you in, and where do you live?

    Let’s see. . .

    I John 4:7-8 is a command for Christians to love each other. I do not think it applies here.

    Matthew 22:34-40 is perhaps a stinger, especially in context. Personal Failure could qualify as the neighbor in need in the story of the Good Samaritan.

    Since I do help many people in need already, I do not feel guilty at this juncture for not helping Personal Failure. I hope that the people closer to her will do so.

    Ezekiel 16:49-50 is a condemnation of the city of Sodom for not helping the poor and needy–presumably within their city. I’m not sure it is relevant in this instance.

    Again, if it is generally prescribing help for those in need, I agree with it and practice it already. But with my financial status, I can only do so much.

    ———-

    The thing is that I make just under $40,000 a year, which is the sole salary in my family. I have three children, one of whom will be going to college in two years. I already give away between 10% and 20% of my salary (it varies by month) to help other people in need, and I prefer to focus on those people for whom I am definitely repsonsible and for those people whom I acutally know. One of my regular contributions is to a minstry to street kids in the developing area where I live. The ministry provides them a safe place to spend the night or to live, basic education, and some life skills training. It keeps them off the street, where they are used to begging or selling their bodies in order to buy glue to sniff. I feel that it is a very important ministry, and I want to support it as much as I can.

    I helped out a lot when my nephew was dying of cancer. I also helped out a lot when my sister was dying of cancer. I helped a family in our church by buying them a new transmission for their only car, because the father was working and going back to college at the same time. I helped a widow that works for my sister-in-law by paying for half (my sister-in-law paid the other half) of a new heating system for her home–two winters ago.

    Knowing that, do you really fault me for not offering money to a stranger who showed up on my blog? Do you really want to accuse me of not being generous or caring? Do you think that I have enough money, considering my salary, to provide for every suffering person in the world, or do you agree that it is okay for me to do the small part that I am able to do? Do you really think that God is disappointed in my giving or my concern for others? Do you really think that it would be wise for me to start giving away money to every person who comments on my blog and claims to have a financial need?

    renaissanceguy

    November 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm

  24. RG: No, I do not doubt her story. I’m neutral. I simply don’t know. I’m an agnostic regarding it. If I had to guess, I would guess that it is true.

    Doubt = Not knowing. By definition.

    RG: Knowing that, do you really fault me for not offering money to a stranger who showed up on my blog?

    Do I fault you? No. I can’t. From what you say, you sound like a good guy in practice that does a lot of good in the world. (I can only take you for your word.)

    But Jesus explicitly takes issue with this. It isn’t my standard that you don’t meet, but the standard that Jesus Christ asks: try to alleviate the suffering of every person in the world.

    You believe in a personal, micromanaging God, no? He arranges things specifically for you. So why would he have brought Personal Failure here to comment on your blog if he didn’t want you to help her?

    Spherical Time

    December 2, 2009 at 2:03 am


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