In the Republican Presidential debate on Monday, September 12, this dialogue occurred:

WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR AND CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: … Ron Paul, so you’re a doctor. You know something about this subject. Let me ask you this hypothetical question.

A healthy 30-year-old young man has a good job, makes a good living, but decides, you know what? I’m not going to spend $200 or $300 a month for health insurance because I’m healthy, I don’t need it. But something terrible happens, all of a sudden he needs it.

Who’s going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?

REP. RON PAUL, (R-TX.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, in a society that you accept welfarism and socialism, he expects the government to take care of him.

BLITZER: Well, what do you want?

PAUL: But what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced —

BLITZER: But he doesn’t have that. He doesn’t have it, and he needs intensive care for six months. Who pays?

PAUL: That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody —


BLITZER: But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?

You can read Ron Paul’s unprincipled answer in the transcript. Here is my answer.

No, society should let you let him die.

That is, such a decision by right is for each individual in society to make. Your question reveals your socialist premise that decisions regarding whom to help live and to let die should be made collectively by society, overruling the rights of individuals. Your question also reveals how socialist schemes such as Obamacare require death panels, denials notwithstanding. Everyone dies eventually from current limits to health care. Resources are limited. If all the medical resources are controlled and dispatched by government instead of by private owners of those resources, then government decides who gets medicine and who does not. Maybe the 30-year-old who needs a half million dollars of care will get care initially, until socialized medicine collapses entirely, but there will be some cut-off of age and expense for which the government will just say no. Consequently, no matter how much wealth an individual produces and wants to spend to save his 75-year-old mother, or very sick brother or best friend or wife or even himself, the government will just say “No, society cannot afford it, the lives of younger or less sick strangers, or strangers with more political pull, are more important.”

As for my own individual decision on this 30-year-old in a free society, would I pay for his emergency and let him off the hook? No. But I would consider investing in a private fund that made loans to such individuals, if the return on investment were attractive. The 30-year-old would in effect have to take out a mortgage without getting a house; and he would have to pay high interest for his uncollateralized loan, or he might even have to pay a high percentage of his income—say, 30%—for the rest of his life. Such a burden would be great; indeed, it would be more than half the current tax burden under the welfare state. But the man would have his life, his investors would have their profit, and everyone would retain that precious asset possessed by Americans: freedom.

For a far deeper and more original answer than mine above, see Ayn Rand’s essay, “Collectivized Ethics.”(The Objectivist Newsletter, January 1963, pp. 1, 3–4. Reprinted in The Virtue of Selfishness, New York: Signet, 1964, pp. 80–85.)

This is a slight revision of a post that originally appeared on Ron Pisaturo’s Blog.

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