Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I may be a wage slave, but at least my liberty remains uncorroded

Continuing from brad's able dissection of Megan's latest buffoonery, I'm struck by what seems to be hiding underneath all those oh-so-rational objections to expanding SCHIP (and to a hypothetical universal health care system, for that matter). It is, if the commentariat at McArdle's place is at all representative, a desire to punish people for having the gall to be poor, or to eschew wage slavery and near-indentured servitude and actually pursue a career that makes them happy.

Many in McArdle's gallery of glibertarians (and elsewhere on the intertubes) are expressing envy that Graeme Frost's father gets to work with wood all day, instead of spending 40 hours a week in a soul-deadening routine of writing code or selling burial plots over the phone or writing the next great toothpaste ad (all jobs I've done myself, so I can sympathize with wanting more out of a career). I've seen several comments that follow the same basic template: they say "I'd love to be able to play with wood all day, but I chose to get a job that has health care benefits for my family," but they won't quite come out and say that the Frosts and people like them should suffer for that choice - even though it's clearly the point they want to make.

Here's a perfect example. Someone at Megan's place wrote this comment: "I don't get to work in the woodworking arena (something I'd dearly love to do). I'm a wage slave in large part because I've always felt it necessary to have a job that provided health insurance for my family." This guy made his choice - he sacrificed a career doing something he loves for the security of health insurance. And that's fine. I've made cautious decisions like that myself. But instead of looking at the Frosts and thinking, hey, if I could get me some of that insurance, it might mean I could quit this shitty job and go spend my limited time on Earth doing something I actually enjoy doing, he seems to be arguing that since he had to choose between a fulfilling career and getting health insurance, everyone else should also have to make that choice. I may not have a career I like, these people think, but at least I have health insurance - and out of sheer envy decide that because Mr. Frost does in fact have the former, he doesn't deserve the latter. If I can't have both, why should he?

This, of course, is idiotic. Something along the lines of a universal health care system would mean that people aren't tethered to dead-end or psychically numbing jobs simply because they know that a single health care emergency has the potential to bankrupt their families. So why wouldn't people like this guy from Megan's comment section want it? Universal health care would allow this guy to follow his dreams. But he'd rather remain a wage slave because under universal health care, he'd experience a Corrosion of Liberty or something?

Does that make any sense to you?

Update: Or, to put it in a way that the self-styled World's Tallest Female Econoblogger and her minions might understand . . . for this guy, the utility of him simultaneously having the career he wants and health insurance is actually lower than the utility of having to choose between one or the other. He would rather have less, which is hardly the behavior of the eminently rational Homo Economicus. Determining whether this is due to government involvement (and thus the pernicious Corrosion of Liberty threat that apparently goes along with that) or to his own bitterness about wasting his life working a job he hates is an exercise left to the reader.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a perfectly sensible reaction -- in Russian hell.

When I was traveling in the former USSR, I heard the fable of the two hells, one for Europeans, the other for Russians. European hell is the standard big pit of fire and brimstone, with a staff of demonic guards walking around the rim. Their job is to throw anybody who climbs out of the pit back in. Russian hell is much the same, except that Satan doesn't need to station any of his minions there, because as soon as some sinner begins to make his way out of the pit, the other Russians drag him right back.
-- sglover