Monday, April 18, 2005

Safety Net

My mother’s side of the family has a long tradition of philanthropy, charitable giving, social service and people in the medical profession. Her father was one of the most compassionate people you could ever meet. He also happened to be a WWII South Pacific Theater Veteran, Medical Doctor, Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, a highly-respected member of the medical community and a proud member of the Republican Party. Yes – a Compassionate Republican. Can you believe it?

Mom and I recently had a political discussion, the longest she and I have ever had. She observed that I was starting to sound very much like her father. Needless to say, I took it as a huge compliment. As it turns out, Socialized Medicine was a subject that he was very concerned about, i.e. he was staunchly against it.

As it so happens, Wretchard recently had a short post regarding Socialized Medicine in which he linked a very interesting piece by Theodore Dalrymple, a physician that recently escaped practice in the horribly bloated U.K. system of Socialized Medicine. Both of those posts are worth a careful read.

All of this discussion caused me to think a little more about Socialism in general. I start to wonder about people who call themselves socialists, because it really represents a real pathology. So for the sake of my grandfather’s memory, I felt it important for me to put my thoughts down in the blog here.

Any person with a sense of morality or ethics desires to help others that are less fortunate. To say that such a notion is wrong is, I would hope, beyond consideration of people in civilized society. This system of morality and ethics, however, has the potential to go horribly wrong. When compassion becomes institutionalized and bureaucratized, and therefore EXPECTED by certain members of society, it ceases to become meaningful or beneficial.

As a son, and now as a parent, I know the personal satisfaction of growing up and being responsible for myself. It is a matter of both personal respect and honor of my parents and family that I not be a burden to those around me. I could still be living at home, mooching off of my parents. However, that would show a profound lack of respect for my parents, that somehow I should continue to be supported by them when I am perfectly capable of functioning in society on my own. What if my parents had never grown up, either? Somebody would have to take care of them, too. Now relate this situation to a broader society. As the number of “care-ees” increases, the number of “care-ers” necessarily decreases. At what point does everybody need to be cared for and there’s nobody there to care for them?

It’s easy to argue that such a thing would never happen, and limited Socialism is okay. However, think about the simple paradigm of an able-bodied and capable person that doesn’t have to take responsibility for themselves. In too many cases, they won’t take that responsibility simply because they don’t have to. They will inevitably make choices in their life for which those around them will need to take responsibility. Since they have no personal responsibility for those choices, those choices arise without thought of their repercussions, either on themselves or on others. In other words, they have no incentive to make good decisions for themselves. Suddenly, since the repercussions of one’s decisions are somebody else’s responsibility, anything bad that happens is always somebody else’s fault. This results in a never-ending cycle where one bad decision leads to another, and the person making those decisions never seeks responsibility for them, nor do they stop to think that the bad things that are happening really are their fault.

Thank goodness my parents taught me a sense of good judgment. Sadly, many people around me were never taught this sense. Even more tragically, contemporary Western culture has somehow caused “having good judgment” to now mean “bigoted” or “closed-minded”. A bad decision (for which others will need to be responsible) is now simply just a “life choice” (Hat Tip: Theodore Dalrymple), and me judging such a life choice to be bad or wrong makes me a bigot or closed-minded.

Is this an example of a just society? Is it too late for a sense of personal responsibility, of accountability, an awareness of right and wrong, and personal pride to be taught to coming generations?

True compassion is necessary for society to function, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. An environment where wounds are self-inflicted tests the longevity and relevance of compassion. The safety net may not always be there. Those that can’t walk the tight rope will fall to their deaths.

UPDATE: 04.19.05:08:37


See Cardinal Ratzinger's recent Homily urging a rejection of the Dictatorship of Relativism. It is posted at Roman Catholic Blog. Even if you're not particularly 'religious' or do not neccessarily base principle on faith, it is nevertheless a profoundly powerful statement.

No comments: