“The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours."
– The Duchess, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
Sometimes I don’t think poor working class people understand why the rich oppose economic justice. Universal health care is but one example of that.
To someone with an income less than $35,000 a year when I see how much is taken out for health insurance as opposed to how much would be taken out if we had universal health care I get depressed. I would save money.
Where I have been wrong is assuming the rich would too. They wouldn’t and that’s why they oppose universal health care. I have had conversations with those who make considerably more than me and when I say it would be cheaper they challenge that. Let’s for arguments sake say that health care had a 5% tax. That means for me it would cost $1700 a year for health care. That is considerably less than private insurance (the average is over $7,000 a year). But what if I made $250,000 a year? That is $12,500, which is almost double the current average. No wonder the wealthy oppose it. Viewed through a lens that shuts out all others but themselves it makes sense. Who cares if this puts a huge burden on those with considerably less income? Who cares if it costs more across the board?
This highlights the real issue of health care. Across the board it would be cheaper since most of us don’t make the incomes of folks like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. But how do we communicate the importance of this to the affluent sector of America?
All economic decisions I can even think of include more than one person. That is to say that economic freedom is one side of a coin while economic justice is the other. The solution to this is participatory self-management. For anyone to have economic freedom requires that all have economic justice which means all must have an equitable say in economic decisions to the degree that one is affected by them.
Furthermore, a right, freedom or liberty is only a right, freedom of liberty so long as it does not infringe upon the rights, freedoms and liberties of others. Maintaining that balance is the purpose of participatory self-management. If I don’t have the right, freedom or liberty to do something in a participatory society it is because the act would infringe upon someone else’s right, freedom or liberty. We currently do not have the right, freedom or liberty to chattel slavery because it violates the would-be slave’s rights, freedoms and liberties.
(However, with it being Earth Day it could be noted that one could still carry out their activity that is undesirable to others if they agree to compensation. For example, if I wanted to produce or consume certain pollutants that others opposed me producing or consuming because it adversely affects them then the price I pay may include not only the production of said pollutant but to the remittance for those who are affected by it. This is something of an environmental insurance that could be adopted to stop would-be polluters from polluting – if the external costs were calculated the producers and consumers might be more inclined to seek out less damaging technology or products.)
That disproportionate amounts of wealth get siphoned off into the hands of a small group of people is evidence that they are utilizing existing ownership rights, remuneration standards, divisions of labor, and allocation processes that trample the rights of others. The use of progressive taxation or just a flat tax rate for programs like universal health care could and should be used to moderate and/or right the wrong of unjust distribution of wealth and resources… in the short term. In the long term we need to address the existing institutional boundaries of economies so that the injustices are prevented in the first place.
Trying to appeal to the wealthy on grounds that universal health care is cheaper is like pissing in the wind. They see economic freedom through an individualistic lens and for them they rightly see that they would pay more for it. If we are going to have any impact on them in terms of bringing them to our side in favor of universal health care it may be that we need to convince them of how the individualistic approach is fatally flawed and how they unjustly acquired the wealth in the first place. This will require us to be more conscious of the institutional boundaries mentioned above (i.e., ownership, remuneration, division of labor and allocation).
While it is true that across the board the issue is a mathematical dilemma (private insurance is more costly and burdensome than social insurance) but we must face the fact that they don’t see it from an across the board perspective. They see it from an individual perspective and from an individual perspective the issue is an ethical dilemma: Is opposing universal health care on the grounds that it would be more expensive for the rich but cheaper for society as a whole ethically sound or not, and are the institutional boundaries that create this dilemma ethically sound or not? Can we get them to understand and empathize with how their gain is our loss? Can we get them to understand that the reason the mathematical dilemma doesn’t configure into their equation is because they monopolize wealth and resources unjustly and unfairly? Maybe we can but before we consider appealing to them we need to be clear amongst ourselves in the working class poor on what is going on.
We are being cheated and it is due to how the economy is structured. Understanding this and coming to a broad agreement on what needs to be (un)done is our immediate task at hand. What are the institutional boundaries of our economy, how are they linked to other aspects of society (i.e., sexual, generational, race and political relations) and what can we do to reshape them in a more just and fair way?