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los angeles, california, bamboo, huntington gardens
I've been having a good debate with some friends about my alternative to universal healthcare. Two of them have raised broader philosophical questions. Rather than respond to them in that thread, which was supposed to be a debate about one specific proposal, I've chosen to respond to them in this new thread.

Here are the interesting comments leading up to the philosophical questions:

arthurdenture made a statement about values:
I value the right for sick people not to die from treatable illnesses due to unemployment more than I value your or my right to abstain from a particular government service.

I kindly told him he was wrong:
In this case, your current values are wrong. I'm hoping that I can convince you of that because you're my friend and if you have better values then you'll have a better life :)

athena328 asked why:
David, could you please explain what your values and morals are that lead you to think that Jacob's are wrong? Personally, I find my morals and values to be more in line with Jacob's (the right for people with treatable illnesses not to die because they can't pay rather than my right to abstain from government services), but maybe I don't understand your values that support your conclusions. Besides, most of Jacob's arguments seem pragmatic rather than value based.

My top values are freedom, my life, and the lives of my friends and family.

To me, freedom means being able to act without being influenced by the threat of force from other humans. Freedom is about being liberated from oppressive human forces; freedom is not about being liberated from the realities of what is needed to live on Earth.

Freedom is important because it allows us to live as humans. We're not fast, we don't have fangs, we don't have protective fur coats. The only way for a human to live is by thinking with his mind. When you restrict freedom, you restrict the mind because you limit the options available to it. You restrict the mind's abilities to find the best ways to live. When you go further and enslave a man, you shut down his mind entirely and reduce him to a tool of muscular labor.

I don't want to go in the direction of slavery and service to the government. I want to go in the direction of freedom and unrestricted intellect.

My value of freedom does not conflict with the other two values I listed: my life, and the lives of my friends and family. Freedom is the best way to achieve a good life, and a life as a slave is barely worth living.

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Here's what I get out of this:

Jacob says he is willing to sacrifice the freedom to spend his money as he wishes in order to help provide medical treatment for the needy.

You say you want to retain the freedom to spend your money as you wish even if that money could go towards providing medical treatment for the needy.

Do you accept this as an accurate summary (even if it isn't, do you at least get my gist)? If so, then I would say that having that freedom and choosing to exercise it by putting your personal desires ahead of other people's health is a selfish act. However, if I present this statement as a criticism of your values, then I am being self-righteously hypocritical because I currently have this freedom and I am currently exercising it - I don't donate all of my disposable income to medical charities. And I suspect the vast majority of privileged people in the world are with me on this. To some degree, it is human nature to be selfish, I think. And trying to force people to not be selfish will never really work perfectly. But would it help certain people enough to be worth it to everyone?

I wonder what it would be like if all the people on this planet had a way to communicate perfectly and instantly. Something like a psychic link (like the Protoss and their Khala, if you've brushed up on your Starcraft backstory. Hey, I wonder how Protoss healthcare works? Who pays for Dragoon surgery, anyway?) If we could all not only understand each other but empathize with each other, then maybe we would all choose to be selfless and this argument would be moot (it wouldn't matter if we were forced to pay for universal healthcare or not as we'd all want to help each other anyway). And then maybe we'd lose all sense of individuality and become a hive mind. (Do the Zerg even have healthcare? What were we talking about, again?)

I mostly agree with your summary of my position, but I don't agree with your summary of Jacob's. He does not merely want to sacrifice his freedom as you said. He wants to sacrifice the freedom of everyone in America to spend their money as they wish. He wants the government to force us (at the point of a gun through taxes) to pay for the medical treatment.

Also, it's not just medical treatment for the needy as you said, but medical treatment for EVERYONE, including Bill Gates. There's a difference. We were talking about universal health care, not just some government wealth transfer from one class to another.

I get your gist though.

You're right that spending money on myself or my friends instead of donating it to strangers is a selfish act. I don't see this statement as a criticism of my values; I see it as praise!

"Would [forcing people to not be selfish] help certain people enough to be worth it to everyone?" I doubt it. But I could see someone making an argument that the survival of poor people is critical because everyone once in a while a poor person produces something great (such as the Harry Potter series). But even the Harry Potter series is only worth about 22 billion dollars. The cost of a universal healthcare system in America would dwarf that. So I doubt your argument would succeed. And when there is doubt, we should err on the side of freedom instead of the side of force and guns. People generally need to stop being so confident in the value of government programs.

If we were Zerg and we could all feel eachother's pain, digest eachother's food, and think eachother's thoughts, then yes, I might have different values. But my values are the right values for humans living on Earth. Interesting idea though!

Free? Hahaha! Yeah right!

David, I believe humans are not inherently free. Freedom is a figment of human imagination much like when a child desires to fly like Superman freely in the air. But of course, that won't happen due to the laws of physics. You of all people should know that, Physics Dave. :-P

Ah, but perhaps you would interject right now and say that we've defied physics or rather manipulated the laws to our advantage? We're able to fly in airplanes and rockets after all. You could say that we freed ourselves from the shackles of gravity in a way (or at least made the chains longer). You'd be correct, but then was it really just the freedom of one human's unrestricted mind that led to such progress and allowed for newfound freedom to fly? Certainly not. It takes more than one Superman to attain the miracle of flight. In the end, it takes a group of intellectually unrestricted minds as well as a powerful overhead to guide (rather than restrict) them in order to make for ways to expand our inherently limited freedom. You're right in that we're not fast, have fangs, coats, or whatever. But there's one thing that we do have aside from our limited intellect. We have the ability to combine our intellect to mutually enhance our freedom and survival. We rely on each other in order to survive. It's almost like a social Darwinism.

Again, we're not free. And we may never completely be free. We are all still confined by universal laws that restrict us from doing whatever we want...whether they be under control of the laws of nature or human intellect or emotions. Something, someone, or some group is always going to be in control and limit exactly what you can do in life. So the real question is, to whom do you allocate this power? Do you give it to just one person? Do you give it to a bunch of businesses whose motives are selfish profit and economic gain? Or do you give it to an organization of people whose job security relies on those who they serve to represent?

The other option, I suppose would be to completely abandon all humans living on Earth and live alone, self-sufficient, and make the best of being happy with your "freedom" but then I suppose you wouldn't be free to debate with others on the Internet about freedom.

Re: Free? Hahaha! Yeah right!

Wow Sachin, thanks for the thoughtful response.

But, to quote what I said in the original post: "Freedom is about being liberated from oppressive human forces; freedom is not about being liberated from the realities of what is needed to live on Earth." So I'm not talking about the the freedom to defy gravity or be superman. The freedom I'm talking about is the freedom to create, live, trade, prosper, and pursue happiness, without being hampered by forceful actions from another person.

I want to be really clear here on what I mean by force: force is when one person deprives another person of his life or property, or threatens to do so. Force is a broad term which includes killing a person, incarcerating him, injuring him, or taking his property.

Pretty much the only the way the government can accomplish anything is through force: every law, regulation, and tax is only made possible by the fact that the government can kill you, put you in jail, or steal your property. The government operates with force.

In our system, in contrast with the government, corporations (i.e. "businesses whose motives are selfish profit and economic gain") do not use force. All the interactions you have had with corporations in your life have been mutually consented to for mutual gain. Corporations operate via trade, not force. That's why you should not fear corporations controlling your life; you should fear the government controlling your life instead.

I disagree with your premise that "someone or some group is always going to be in control and limit exactly what you can do in life". Why do you say this?

I certainly wouldn't want to live alone as you suggest. I hope that one day humans can live together in a complex society without killing or enslaving each other, but I haven't seen it happen yet.

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