paying for stuff you don’t want

“I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s [insert thing here]!” says the conservative. From health care to education to contraception, the conservative argument is the same. But at its core this is an un-patriotic and anti-capitalist argument. It’s time for liberals to start pointing this out.

“I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s health care!” whines Sean Hannity. “Why should healthy people have to subsidize sick people?” “I shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s contraception!” opines Rush Limbaugh on the same day, a few hours earlier. “Why should I have to pay for someone else’s lifestyle choices?”

The fact is, Mr. Conservative, the government provides a service. Actually, the government provides a broad range of services. These are services that you benefit from, even if you don’t want to benefit from them and even if you don’t believe you benefit from them.

You benefit from these government services, Mr. Conservative, because when everyone is able to go to school, the job creators have a better pool of local talent to choose from when hiring.

You benefit from these government services, Mr. Conservative, because the fees you pay for hospital care go down when that hospital doesn’t have to offset as much expense for uninsured emergency care that it provides to poor people.

You benefit from these government services, Mr. Conservative, because crime is lower when people can go longer than a month after they lose their job before they lose their home, as well.

You benefit from these government services, because you live within a community. As a citizen of that community, you inherently benefit from its existence. It does not matter if you “pull your own weight” and it does not matter if you don’t use the bus. The fact is, no matter how rich you are, you live in a community that buys your products and builds your roads and makes it possible for your wealth to exist at all.

Mr. Conservative, you always talk about how America is the greatest land in the world. Well, to me that sounds like an outstanding service that your citizenship is providing for you.

Why aren’t you willing to pay for that service?

And if you come back to me and tell me that you want government to do only some things (e.g. defense, police, etc) and not others (e.g. education, health care, etc), then I will remind you again that you live in a community. You don’t get to decide what’s important for everyone else.

Let me put it simply, Mr. Conservative, so that you can understand: When you buy a candy bar, you do not get to say, “Well, I only want to pay for the chocolate, I don’t really enjoy the caramel that much!” The Free Market has determined that the candy bar should have both chocolate and caramel in it, Mr. Conservative. That’s why that candy bar company is in business. And if you personally only like the chocolate, then you have the option of not eating the candy bar.

Nobody is forcing you to be a patriot. Nobody is forcing you to live in the greatest country in the world. You don’t like the whole candy bar? Don’t buy it, Mr. Conservative.

But you ate the candy bar, sir. You are here.

Now pay up.


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  1. Chester Mealer says:

    1. Not all services are the same. If I believe paying for (materially enabling) someone to contracept or abort is a sin, should the government have the power to force me to violate my religious beliefs?

    2. On education I agree with you except I want the government to go further, not just everyone should be provided with enough education to have a “decent” life, but that parents should be able to choose which schools their children can attend through some sort of voucher system.

    3. first see my #1 point. Secondly, I don’t know that this falls within the government’s mandate to do. If they want more people to be insured the proper way to do it is to offer incentives to companies to make employer provided health insurance cheaper and/or to make personal health insurance cheaper. However, ANY government action in the healthcare area will at best only shift what I pay from actual healthcare bills to taxes.

    4. Assistance and charity are good things. However, the bigger the organization providing them, the less effective they are. The government should begin a program to phase from taxes being collected for government unemployment and assistance, towards incentivized giving to local programs. (e.g. If i give to local charities that provide assistance, it should offset the taxes that go to unemployment since there will be alternate, perhaps better, programs helping people.)

    5. Producers are already paying taxes both in their roles as producers and consumers. They are helping to build the roads and infrastructure that they use. Secondly, people are buying what they produce, because they are producing something people want. The producer is already providing something to the community.

    It’s sort of like if you’re selling apples and I’m hungry. I want to buy your apple, and you tell me it’s $5. Then I say, well if I’m going to pay you for that apple then you should pay for my gas to come buy your apple. In this scenario I’m completely neglecting the fact that I did not have to grow an apple tree and harvest an apple.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      You made a lot of good points, and I hope that at some point I have time to address all of them. For now, though, I wanted to talk about your first one.

      You said: “If I believe paying for (materially enabling) someone to contracept or abort is a sin, should the government have the power to force me to violate my religious beliefs?”

      The problem with this, as a moral and philosophical question, is that there is an EXACT parallel on the “liberal side” of the political spectrum that we have come to accept for a long, long time: war. My taxes fund our military.

      Now I’m not so radically anti-war that I think we shouldn’t have an army: I understand the need for both defense and certain types of foreign military operations. However, there is a lot of activity that our military is engaged in that I personally not only disagree with in some “abstract intellectual” sense, but that I find outright morally repugnant. I probably feel AS horrified by some of the things that our military does as some pro-lifers feel about what some abortion doctors do.

      So how can you defend FORCING me to use my tax dollars to pay for something that I find morally repugnant and unethical?

      Well, there are lots of arguments! Public welfare, protecting our rights as a sovereign nation, reducing the amount of injustice in foreign lands, and on and on.

      The problem is, exactly the same types of “big picture” moral arguments can be made for things like public education, medicaid, and yes, even abortion. You can make all kinds of “big picture” arguments about helping society, reducing poverty, improving living standards, protecting the freedom of the mother, and on and on.

      So when it comes to “big picture” moral arguments, there’s a kind of stalemate that happens, if you’re going to be honest about it. The fact is, society decided long, long ago that it’s OK to force some people to pay for some things that they don’t like, because it helps society.

      The responsibility of society, as a whole, then, is to decide what those things are: what falls into that category, what doesn’t.

      You think abortion doesn’t fall in that category; I think it does. We can debate why or why not.

      But simply arguing that NOBODY should have to pay for something they find objectionable is a non-starter. People do that all the time, and have for almost all of human history.