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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Morality & Capitalism

A friend of mine who is an ER doctor has recently been blogging about the result of allowing some people to go uninsured. You can read him at: http://allbleedingstops.blogspot.com/ In one post he cited me as connecting the need for a national health care plan with the right to live, as in life, liberty & property. This is basically a comment I made on his blog.

I don't think that a right to health care springs full grown from the right to life, liberty, and property. I think that there are certain things that cannot be based on how good a capitalist you are. But first, there are lots of things that should be based on how good a capitalist you are.

You should be able to eat in nice restaurants. You should be able to drive nice cars and have cool computers. You should get to go on vacations. If you are a good capitalist, that is, you do a job that allows you to acquire money in compliance with society's laws, then you deserve those things.

I don't care how hard you work; I don't care how socially valuable your work is; I don't care how much training it took to do the work you do. If you are a good capitalist, it is moral that you should enjoy the fruits of capitalism.

However, being a good capitalist should not entitle you to vote twice. You should not be allowed to break the law. You should not be allowed to live longer. This isn't a legal argument. It is a moral one. Just because we believe that the wealthy deserve to have nicer things, does not mean that we have to believe the wealthy deserve better medicine, protection under the law, or political representation.

I think equal access to these three are necessary for us to tolerate a system of compensation that is unrelated to the social utility of the actor--entertainers can make much more than teacher--and that is unrelated to the effort--look at any laborer and many office jobs. It would destroy our system to try to engineer things in such a way that compensation was based on effort or utility. So the best way to have morally tolerable economic system is capitalism with certain things out of the reach of the imperfect market.


Luke said...

I completely agree that it is important for many subjects to discuss legality and morality separately. And using Shadowfax's insurance discussion and healthcare is a great example.

Josh Gentry said...

Persuasive argument. It's very realistic. You acknowledge that monkeying with the system to try and match monetary reward to societal value has just not worked, but that doesn't mean we leave it at that. We must still provide a basic level of support for those who do work of value but are not highly compensated. That creates a better society for all.