Is it Obnoxious to Support Health Care For the Poor?


Here is Gary Silverman in the Financial Times:

What I like about Obamacare is that it shows some respect for “those people” — as Hudson called them in Giant — who are good enough to work the fields and mow the lawns, and build the roads and sew the clothes, and diaper the babies and wash the dishes, but somehow aren’t good enough to see a doctor from time to time to make sure there is nothing wrong inside.

Along with a passage from another author about Palestinians, this makes Tyler Cowen unaccountably angry:

I am not in this post seeking to adjudicate ACA or U.S. policy in the Middle East.  The easy target is to go after these two authors, but I am interested in different game.  The deeper point is that virtually all of us argue this way, albeit with more subtlety.  A lot of the more innocuous-sounding arguments we use all the time come perilously close to committing the same fallacies as do these quite transparent and I would say quite obnoxious mistaken excerpts.  One of the best paths for becoming a good reader of economics and politics blog posts (and other material) is to learn when you are encountering these kinds of arguments in disguised form.

I’m stumped. What’s obnoxious about this? There are certainly technocratic arguments to be made for and against universal health care, as well as the particular implementation details of Obamacare. But the core reason most of us have for supporting Obamacare is exactly the one Silverman makes here: we think everyone, even the poor, should have access to decent health care. A great many conservatives prefer to simply turn their heads away from this human suffering, often because they prefer to keep their taxes low. A great many liberals prefer the opposite.

This isn’t a secret, or a hidden agenda, or anything like that. It’s always been the primary motivation for universal health care. More generally, our values are the motivation for a large share of human activity, especially including political activity. What’s wrong with that?

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