Tag Archives: altruism

The Shackles of Paternalism

Today, the “nanny-state” is omnipresent. Its latest pernicious intrusion pertains to pain-relief medication. Doctors are being told to restrict their prescriptions of opioids, the drugs (such as Percocet and Vicodin) used to reduce extreme pain. Why? Because the government is concerned about patients who overuse the drugs, leading to addiction and sometimes death.

The idea of a paternalistic government, deciding what is best for each of us, rests ultimately on the ethics of self-sacrifice. It rests on the altruistic premise that you have a moral duty to surrender your self-interest for the sake of others, that you must subordinate yourself to the needs of your neighbor. Thus, those who genuinely require strong pain medication must suffer, so that their neighbors not be able to use the drugs irresponsibly.

A story in today’s NY Times describes the effects of these new controls on one doctor’s patients. “ ’I have a patient with inoperable spinal stenosis who needs to keep chopping wood to heat his home,’ said Dr. [Robert] Wergin, 61, the only physician in this rural town. ‘A one-size-fits-all algorithm just doesn’t fit him. But I have to comply.’ ” Another patient, a 55-year-old woman, “had three rotated vertebrae in her lower back, migraines and a mastectomy for breast cancer this fall. . . . Her fibromyalgia was flaring up, she told Dr. Wergin. Pain was aggravating her insomnia. ‘And you have to cut my pills again?’ she asked.  Dr. Wergin nodded.  ‘It will be very difficult to get an override for your dose.’   . . . ‘It’s rough cutting back when I’m at a level that almost works,’ she said to Dr. Wergin. A rare flicker of frustration crossed his face. ‘I’m sorry,’ Dr. Wergin said.” He could do no more for her.

As I wrote in IN DEFENSE OF SELFISHNESS (p. 165): “[T]he government regulates the medicine you may use, because other people might be tempted to take it when they shouldn’t; it regulates your retirement program, because of those who might squander their savings; it regulates your educational choices, because of those who might make foolish decisions about the schools to which they send their children; and it regulates your intake of food, because of those who might be oblivious to their health requirements. You are forbidden to choose—because of those who do not wish to be burdened by the onus of choice. You must sacrifice your freedom—because of those who are indifferent to freedom. Everyone must be dragged down to the level of the worst, and be shackled to their needs. This is how the individual becomes subservient to society.”

Unsoaking the Rich

The most distressing aspect of soak-the-rich schemes is not that the left keeps pushing them-but that the right regularly fails to offers a convincing refutation.

When Democrats declare that the rich are not paying their “fair share” of taxes, the Republicans’ typical response is: Oh yes, they are; look at how much more they pay, in both absolute dollars and percentage of income, than those in lower brackets. Besides–Republicans usually add–refraining from imposing higher taxes on the rich helps “society as a whole,” because of all the jobs produced through their investment capital.

But this type of response does not address the core question. The nature of that question, as well as the absence of a compelling answer, is hinted at by James Taranto, writer of the Wall Street Journal‘s “Best of the Web” column, in his examination of a recent New York Times article. . . .

[For the full article, see “The Correct Answer to All the Soak-the-Rich Tax Schemes” at RealClearMarkets.]

Reconceiving the Idea of Selfishness

In the realm of ethics, no characteristic is more widely condemned than selfishness. Practically no one challenges the premise, which we're all taught from childhood, that acting for one's own benefit is morally tainted, while sacrificing for the benefit of others is the essence of moral virtue. It is considered self-evident that selfishness is evil.

But is it? . . .

For more, go to Huffington Post