Universal Housing Anyone?


Dave says:

But there are some things we can change, and if you have a heart, and think about it, I don't see how anyone could be against universal health care and still sleep at night.
From Debating health care in 2008 (Scripting News)
Referenced Fri Feb 08 2008 19:26:56 GMT-0700 (MST)

I respect Dave, but it's precisely this kind of partisan debate that's lead to stalemate for decades on this and other important issues. The implication of this statement is that if you're not for universal health care, then you're not compassionate. If we give you the benefit of the doubt, you're just not thinking about it.

Sorry, that's just not true. The truth of the matter is that it's not a matter of compassion, but a matter of what you believe the right approach to solving the problem is.

I could change the statement slightly and say:

But there are some things we can change, and if you have a heart, and think about it, I don't see how anyone could be against universal housing and still sleep at night.

Do you buy it? Does everyone have the right to a certain level of housing regardless of choices they've made? How many square feet? Two bathrooms? What about a cable connection? Maybe you do believe this, but we aren't having a debate about it. Why?

Because it's not nearly as broken as the health care system. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that the current health care system has some huge problems. But I also believe that it does a lot of things right. Solving the problems without breaking what's good is a task that has stumped the best that we've been able to throw at it.

Some people believe that the answer is to make it a universal right and have the government pay for it. I see a few problems with this:

  • I don't think it will solve the problems, just treat the symptom of inadequate access
  • I don't believe that getting the government involved in anything as complex as health care can be good for society

Conservative philosophy tends to hold property rights in higher regard than liberal philosophy. I'm not being pejorative--I think that's an accurate assessment. Liberal solutions to problems tend to sacrifice property rights for a future utopia (give us your tax dollars now and health care will be better in the future--we promise).

Interestingly, if we change the debate, you see that there are rights liberals hold more dearly than conservatives--like the right to free speech. Conservatives are more likely to be willing to sacrifice speech rights for social good (witness the debate over Internet pornography). There is no social ill sufficient to trump the right to free speech for a true liberal.

The problem is that liberals label conservatives "greedy" because they value property rights. Conservatives label liberals "immoral" because they want to protect free speech. These kinds of Rovean (I like that word) tricks of taking a strength and turning it into a weakness through misdirection and misinformation don't solve problems. If we're going to solve knotty problems like health care, then we need to get past tricks and discuss solutions we can all support.

So, it's not that I'm not empathethic to the plight of people who can't get health care. It's that I don't believe in the promised future Utopia that the code word "universal health care" represents anymore than I believe in the "universal housing" or even "universal access" to the extent those concepts are defined by government programs. In short, I'm unwilling to take a multi-billion dollar gamble. Thanks just the same.