I did promise it, didn't I? Fair warning: it's not real to me until I see it in print; final editing occurs after blog entries are posted. This is a difficult topic. I plan to get one version done and posted, go do other things, then come back and see if it wants adjusted. It's not fair but that's how it works.
I watched a good portion of Gattaca tonight. I love that film. It's a pretty movie with a marvelous cast (look, having Ethan Hawke as a Christmas present is not really all that much to ask for, it it?) and the soundtrack is exceptional, but that's not why I love it.
See, I'm probably not supposed to be here. And not just the "Midwestern chick with almost no college holding down a seriously tech-y job" thing, either. I had rheumatic fever, a serious case, when I was 4 and 5 years old; spent most of a year in bed, in pain. I was dreadfully nearsighted as far back as I can remember and concealed it (I didn't know any better!) until I was in third grade. Until I was an adult, I got strep every time we vacationed and not just a sore throat: scary high fevers requiring medical intervention. Two serious car accidents in my teens and twenties and another bout of rheumatic fever in between: the odds are that, like Vincent in Gattaca, I should have been dead a few thousand heartbeats back. I'm not. In fact, thanks to luck and hard work, I'm in excellent health. My heart's unharmed.
We are not just our genetics; we are not just the product of what happens to us. We're fixable.
But nobody owes it to us to fix us. I believe that forcing our fellow citizens to carry that burden is immoral.
Let's consider a family with a very ill child. They cannot afford to give this child the help it needs, so they go to the government.
Governments, interestingly enough, do not create wealth. They cannot conjure money from the air; when they try, they make the money they issue worth less and less until eventually, it is worth nothing at all. This functions exactly as a tax does: value which you have earned is taken from you. This is usually too much bother for governments, so they get "their" money more directly, by taxation.
Taxation is most usually universal; everyone, or nearly everyone, gets tapped. It may or may not be progressive, asking a greater percentage of persons with greater wealth, or it may be based on consumption of all or some commodities as a sales or value-added tax. But usually anyone with any money is made to contribute.
This includes the vast bulk of the population, a group which is generally just scraping by. Near the lower end of the fat middle of the bell curve, we have single-parent households of modest income and large families with two wage-earners and at the upper end are the semi-professionals and skilled trades with smaller familes or none at all, but the middle, the biggest group of taxpayers, is a group without much to spare and plenty of problems of their own. They set their own priorites and the vast majority of them do not rely on public assistance; they have probably got very basic insurance coverage for emergencies.
Now our family-with-sick-child comes along (multiplied by their hundreds) and thanks to a Government Program, picks the pockets of, mostly, people who had little if anything to spare. Your Tiny Tim, with a chance of survival even worse than mine as a child, counts for more than the machinist's son with a broken arm? Counts for more than the widow's ability to pay her gas bill? --Maybe to you.
Look, if you'd like to ask the people of your "village" for help, most of them would, as much as they could actually spare. That's not the same as having money -- an amount they have little control over -- taken from them to help you.
Worse yet, your own need will be weighed-- by some panel or board or bureaucrat -- against the needs of others. It may be denied or restricted. They don't care a fig for your child, only for whatever rules or ideals they have been given to follow. In the interest of "fairness," most are given little discretion.
If the help you are freely given by individuals and voluntary associations is not enough, I'm sorry. I am deeply and sincerely sorry. But our world is neither perfect nor is it pefectable. It is not acceptable to harm others to improve things for you and yours. Not even a little harm.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
5 months ago