The Democrat's push for "universal health care" is misguided for a host of economic reasons, and will probably be disastrous for cost and quality of care, but I'm sure many other bloggers will make those points with more details than I feel inclined to look up. What's significant to me is the modern view by all leftists and many non-interested people that the government is the proper vehicle for charity.
The first fact to accept is that health care will be best and cheapest when it is left to the free market. Competition and choice yield products with the most benefits at the lowest prices to consumers. However, a corollary is that the free market will also price some people out of health insurance; that is, in a free market system there will always be some people who cannot afford something.
(Let's ignore for a moment that health care prices are high because of government interference via over-regulation and licensing monopolies like the American Medical Association. Plus, our health care is amazingly good, and the high prices buy us longer, high quality lives than any humans have ever enjoyed throughout all history. Why should that be cheap?)
So what's the best way to take care of those people who are priced out of the market? The Left's inclination is to simply put the whole system under government control, but by eliminating competition prices will skyrocket and quality will plummet, thus hurting everyone. There's got to be a better solution, and there is, and it's not new.
It's called charity. Instead of the government putting a gun to our head and taking money from our wallet to buy services for other people, those with a desire to help the less fortunate can choose to give their money away of their own free will. Aside from the immorality of robbing one man to benefit another, the charity system has the advantage of maintaining competition within the market. Because of that competition, charity dollars will buy much more and much better health care than government dollars. In addition, most charities operate with volunteers and have low overhead, exactly the opposite of government bureaucracies.
The only remaining question, then, is whether or not Americans are willing to give. I think the evidence shows that we are. America is the most generous nation on earth... so why don't the Democrats see that? Because leftists are part of Non-Giving America.
Nowhere is the divide in values more on display than in religion, the frontline in our so-called "culture war." And the relationship between religion and charity is nothing short of extraordinary. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey indicates that Americans who weekly attend a house of worship are 25 percentage points more likely to give than people who go to church rarely or never. These religious folks also give nearly four times more dollars per year than secularists, on average, and volunteer more than twice as frequently.
It is not the case that these enormous differences are due simply to religious people giving to their churches. Religious people are more charitable with all sorts of nonreligious causes as well. They are 10 percentage points likelier than secularists to give money to explicitly nonreligious charities like the United Way, and 25 points more likely to volunteer for secular groups such as the PTA. Churchgoers were far likelier in 2001 to give to 9/11-related causes. On average, people of faith give more than 50 percent more money each year to non-church social welfare organizations than secularists do.
Score one more for Christianity. Secularism isn't the only factor that prevents leftists from seeing charity as the solution.
A second core value affecting charity shows up in the belief citizens have about the government's role in their lives. Some Americans (about a third) believe the government should do more to reduce income differences between the rich and poor – largely through higher taxation and social spending. Others (about 40 percent) do not favor greater forced income redistribution. This is a major difference in worldview – not just about taxation, but also about the perceived duty of individuals to take personal responsibility for themselves and others. This difference affects people's likelihood of voluntarily giving to charity. The General Social Survey shows that people who oppose government income redistribution donate four times as much money each year as do redistribution supporters.
Note that the charity gap is not due to anything the government is actually doing; rather, to what people think the government should be doing – in other words, nothing more than a political opinion. This fact throws a wrench into the traditional stereotype that conservatives in America are hardhearted while liberals are the compassionate ones. In the words of one common 2004 campaign yard sign in my town, "Bush Must Go! Human need, not corporate greed." However, the General Social Survey indicates that people who opine that government is "spending too little money on welfare" – not a viewpoint typically associated with George W. Bush's supposedly venal supporters – are less likely to give food or money to a homeless person than people who oppose greater welfare spending. Regardless of which view on welfare is superior, ask yourself this: who will personally do more for a poor person today?
Darn those pesky statistics! It's almost as if Democrats want to spend other people's money helping people that the Democrats themselves can't be bothered to help on their own!
Fortunately the secular, greedy, tyrannical leftists are breeding themselves out of existence.
A third key value affecting charity is reflected in family life. Couples, even when they earn the same amount as single people, are more likely to give to charity, and the simple act of raising children appears to stimulate giving as well – children help us fill the collection plate even as they drain our wallets. Further, family life is the ideal transmission mechanism for charitable values: data show that people who see their parents behave charitably are far likelier to be charitable themselves as adults.
So here's an idea: since the Democrats claim to be the party of civil liberties, how about not sticking a gun to my head and taking more of my money. How about instead encouraging private giving by lowering taxes and withdrawing the government tentacles from every area of life? The poor in America could be cared for better and more cheaply, and no one would have to be robbed to pay for it.