This just came to my attention yesterday, though it happened in July. It becomes salient now considering Ron Paul’s recent response to a question that Wolf Blitzer, of all people, asked Paul at the most recent debate among the clowns that are seeking the Republican nomination for president. Blitzer asked what was to be done about a young person who failed to get medical insurance who developed an illness, or sustained an injury, that required intensive and expensive medical care. Paul tapdanced, until Blitzer finally asked if the young person should be allowed to die, at which the audience applauded. Paul did not explicitly endorse that solution, though he might have well have done so implicitly, as he beat the drum for personal responsibility and allowed for the possibility that a church might pay the bills, though why a church should do so in lieu of the community as a whole was not made clear.
The story involves Paul’s former fundraiser, a young man himself, who recently died, uninsured, after a long illness during which he racked up about $400,000.00 in medical bills, which he presumably knew he was in no position to pay.
The story to which I’ve linked lays stress on the fact that the young man was gay, but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant, at least to the moral that I draw from all this. Putting the best face on his remarks, Paul was insisting that voluntary acts by the community might be appropriate responses to such dilemmas, though, of course, that inevitably means that the despised of the earth will fall through the cracks. But Paul himself doesn’t seem impelled to volunteer, since he didn’t bother to provide health insurance for the guy who raised $35 million dollars on his behalf.
But Paul was primarily pushing the doctrine of personal responsibility, so the thrust of his response was to agree with the barbarians in the audience: if you made the choice (or more commonly had the choice thrust upon you) to buy no health insurance, and you get grieviously ill, you should accept the consequences of that choice, forced or otherwise, and die. (Where have you gone, Alan Grayson, a nation owes an apology to you) More than likely Paul’s dedicated fundraiser would have endorsed Paul’s view-before he got sick. Something must have changed his mind, but I can’t imagine what.
What I find mystifying about this point of view, if you can dignify it in that way, is the crabbed sense of community that it embraces. The young man’s friends are seeking contributions from his friends in the Paul campaign to pay his bills, but why, given their philosophy, should they choose to give? He made his choice, did he not? Paul himself thinks it’s legitimate for a religious community to give, ignoring the fact that in most such communities that choice is made on behalf of the group by one or a few individuals, meaning that for most congregants the choice is as imposed as it would be if the state were to pay. More fundamentally, why is it praiseworthy for a church to step up, but blameworthy when the community as a whole does so? Why do these Jesus followers feel that it is a holy deed (Jesus required it by the way; it was’t optional) for the individual to heal the sick and a sin for the community as a whole to do so?