The Economics of Morality and Freedom

This is an offshoot of a comment I made over at Tim’s Blog.

Recently

I’ve been trying to explain why freedom is important.  People react to the concept in different ways.  Some people recognize some benefits of true freedom that they have been missing in their lives or the burdens that exist in their lives that come from infringements upon their liberties.  Some people recognize risks that come with freedom.  Some people think I am a pot-smoking racist.  Some people insult me or accuse me of not being capable of rational thought.

I’d like to spend some time–maybe a few entries–on some thoughts and get your feedback.  Stay honest the negatives have been challenging, the positives have been encouraging, and the insults I’ve pretty much ignored.  So, if you have any of those purposes in mind, choose your words wisely.

Freedom and Morality

Not long ago, I heard a politician answer a question about healthcare coverage.  This politician (with whom I agreed) opined that every person should be free to choose whether or not to purchase health insurance and that no one had a natural right to it.

A hypothetical question was posed to him (he is a physician): “Speaking of a world where people are not granted health insurance as a right, but rather have the choice of whether to have it, what about the young man who opts not to buy it.  That man has a horrible accident which needs immediate and complex medical attention–do we just let that man die?”

The answer was both wise and important.  Don’t expect any of this to be verbatim, but it went something like this: “There was a time when health insurance wasn’t around at all.  How do you think people with no money got healthcare back then?  They didn’t just die: society provided.  Either their church, family, and neighbors would take care of them; a doctor would take the case out of benevolence; or some way was found to barter–maybe a job they could do or something other than money they could trade with.”

So What?

What struck me about this wasn’t simply thinking about a time when health insurance didn’t even exist, but rather the morality in society that reigned.  Two out of three solutions–church and benevolence–represented a morality that came naturally from people who hadto people who were in need.

At the same time, I thought about today.  You just don’t see as much of that today.  Why?  I think it’s because charity that comes from free will has been replaced with forced charity.  If someone is in need of food, shelter, or medical care, the best place to go is to the government.  The government will take money from (tax) those who once tended toward charity, and disperse it to those who were once provided for out of morality and kindness.  While on the surface this usually looks like a good thing–people being provided for through government–there is a glaring problem.

We removed the need for morality and kindness.  We left in place the need–hunger, thirst, sickness–and we left in place the providing.  However, that provision now didn’t take into consideration whether people wanted to help.  Therefore, wanting to help became far less important.  Kindness and charity weren’t as needed.  As a result- churches, neighbors, families- people weren’t as important in each others’ lives.

What older generations seem to keep pointing out (and I witness the trend as well) is a continuing fall in morality.  I think the reason is that there is no longer a demand for it.  In fact, the supply of morality has become burdensome.  Morality, kindness, charity, honesty, uprightness, all seem simply toget in the way of what we are wanting to do.  Humor gets cruder and cruder to have an effect, movies require violence and foul language and nudity to be truly appreciated by the masses.  Morality puts a damper on all of this–which means that it is in high supply with little to no demand.

This equates to low or no value.

The ramifications are endless.  Morality, which has its foundation in religion, is not only frowned upon in public schools (don’t get me started), it is rejected.  I find it funny, though, that behavior is expected.  That’s a joke, right?

Church attendance has fallen dramatically.  That is, until something horrible happens.  After 9/11 we had a dramatic rise across the country in church attendance.  That has dwindled since.

Charitable organizations are at a great disadvantage.  Even if I am willing to help out, my income has been taxed, so I have much less ability to give at all!

Get to the point.

My point is this:

The more that our decisions are made for us–especially moral or ethical ones–the less those moral and ethical thoughts become a part of who we actually are.  If some body of people somewhere is feeding the hungry with money taken from me regardless of whether I want them to, it will take a good deal of insight from me to initiate feeding the hungry on my own.  The effect is inversely proportional to the cause.  The more that government doesforme, the less I will do on my own.  That starts with my actions and my ability to do those things financially–but very quickly it creeps into my head and becomes part of my character.  All of this happens on a wide scale in society.

Where morality, kindness, and charity are unneeded–in low demand–they become less valuable across the board.

Back In Positive Land…

Let’s turn the picture around now and, using the same logic, see what happens:

The government disappears completely (which, by the way, I’m not in favor of.  Just almost.)

All-of-a sudden I have more money in my paycheck because nothing is being taken out of it!  On the other hand, a TOOOON of people have just lost their ability to survive which was being satisfied by the government using my money.  Those people, then, have no other choice but to turn to other people–families, friends, neighbors, churches, and charitable organizations/professionals.

What is immediately created is TOTAL demand for kindness and charity on the part of those without much (like our elderly or sick who are unable to work).  They must turn to society once again for help.   Society, then, gets the choice of doing something that they haven’t been able to do for a while–DECIDE to help.

The question that remains is: will they do it?

I believe very firmly that they will, but we must always understand that Freedom involves a risk.  If you decide not to get health insurance in a society where costs of medical care demand it (which is probably not a free socity in the first place), you run the risk of not having medical care when you need it.  You may lose your life.

On the other hand, in the past we found people helping one another simply because of goodness.  You may keep your life and health…and receive help from a good, kind soul…not from a government…and not from taxes taken from people who now have no more desire for goodness.

I, for one, desire freedom more than so many things here on earth.  Some parts of it are risky and scary.  The risks, however, will never come close to the benefits.

Thanks.

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8 thoughts on “The Economics of Morality and Freedom

  1. Do you have a right to clean water, safe electricity, and to walk down the street and not get shot? Everyone has the RIGHT to healthcare. Didn’t you know we are part of a civilized society?

    • No one has a right to any of those things you’ve mentioned. You are probably suggesting that members of civilized society are entitled to those things – which is not the same as rights.

      http://www.learnliberty.org/content/what-are-rights

      At what cost are you suggesting clean water, safe electricity, protection from being shot, and healthcare should be guaranteed as an entitlement? At ALL costs? What are your definitions for clean and safe? Does healthcare include cosmetic surgery? Liposuction? Dental implants? Hip replacements? Bone marrow transplants?

      http://www.learnliberty.org/content/positive-rights-vs-negative-rights

      In particular, the point Prof Skoble makes around time stamp 2:55 points out that scarcity is a simple fact of life. Everyone can’t be entitled to everything they want. We, therefore, have to prioritize and make choices. And to insist your list of entitlements should be the standard for everyone else is tyranny.

      • My point is that we have the right to decide what our rights are, yet we are never given the opportunity to do so. In a country where our individual rights can be erased on a whim, such as Habeus Corpus, and as a tax payer, I find there to be fundamental problems with our system.

  2. aneepple-
    I have to start my reply with an apology. We haven’t interacted before, so I’m having trouble getting the tone of your reply. At the same time, I visited your blog (which is REALLY cool looking, btw), and saw a lot of things that I agree with. So, to help me out (and please don’t let this offend you)–were you intending irony/sarcasm? This will help me to reply…or maybe delete this reply.

  3. This is an awesome topic. You first got me thinking about morality in terms of economics when I read your comment on Tim’s blog. I wrote a blog post related to it here: http://northwoodsmomblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/liberty-is-community.html, but I forgot to send you a link. I was thinking about some examples of people I know and how I am more motivated to help when I know someone is not receiving from the government.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I hope you will write some more about this. It’s definitely a thought-provoking topic.

  4. Pingback: At What Cost? | txfatherofseven

  5. “I, for one, desire freedom more than so many things here on earth. Some parts of it are risky and scary. The risks, however, will never come close to the benefits.”

    I just wanted to add an “amen” to this statement. I want freedom so much more than anything government can provide for me (with other people’s money), even with the risk involved. We try to live outside the system to the best of our ability, but find that it’s pretty much impossible to do. When our system redistributes wealth to try to “help” everyone, there’s not much left for most people to practice personal responsibility with. If you try to avoid the system and just support your own family with what you can provide, you end up outside the law sooner or later. It’s a crazy, upside-down world where practicing too much self-sufficiency is illegal.

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