Thursday, January 18, 2018

the ideology of who bears the burden

The right argues that society as a whole has no responsibility to an individual who gets sick. The taxpayers, the argument goes, should not pay for this individual's healthcare.
Which is at least a logical argument. But it is a strange one: for how about crime? An individual, x, is robbed. Well, that is sad, but why should taxpayers pay for the tracking down and incarceration of the robber? After all, the robber didn't rob y, who is having to pay for the building and maintenance of the jail in which the robber is held.
The right's response is that the individual, here, should be taken care of by society, but it isn't clear why. Is it because y has an interest in not getting robbed him or herself? But y has a similar interest in not being made ill by a person whose sickness is contagious. And, more broadly, y has an interest in being taken care of herself if she is sick.
To go further: myself, I have no interest in or concern about investing, and if somebody defrauds investors of hundreds of millions of dollars, what do I care? Yet those with investments have an awful big interest in seeing the state punish those who would defraud them.
The logical path that leads to the rejection of universal healthcare is the one that must also lead to the dissolution of public support for the police department and prisons. There is really not a logical difference between a sickness and a felony, from the point of view of the state's interest.

To further the argument: if we treated crime like we treat sickness, then surely the cost of the police work, trial, and prison for the condemned should fall on the person benefited. The robbed family, or the family of a person who was murdered, etc., should, by the same argument that would make them bear the cost of hospital care, be forced to pay the state to keep the murderer or thief in jail. This might be ruinously expensive to families of all but the wealthy – but the answer of course would be to spread the costs privately. We could all buy crime insurance.

The crime insurance would, of course, reproduce what happens now in terms of costs. The costs of justice are shouldered by taxpayers. Insurance, whether public or private, points at one thing: there are costs that the average person can’t bear.

In the past, plutocratic rule was based on the exploitation of the worker, while the exploitation of the consumer was a lesser factor. In the present neo-liberal order, both the worker and the consumer are exploited, with the explosion in life-event costs – health and education, mostly – being the site at which this exploitation is most evident.

And what are we going to do about it? I have a suggestion: get rid of the plutocracy.