In the Republican presidential candidates debate Monday night in Tampa, CNN's Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical question. Normally, a hypothetical question should not be answered, but in this case it revealed something about the questioner and sparked a controversial, but necessary answer from Rep. Ron Paul.
For those watching the two Monday Night Football games, the question was: "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?"
The question was designed to appeal to the status quo with the federal government picking up the tab, but Paul cut through the question to give a powerful answer: "...what he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself. ... 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 interrupted: "...are you saying society should just let him die?"
Some in the audience shouted "yes." They must have come from the previous debate where Gov. Rick Perry's pride in executing convicted murderers was wildly applauded.
Responded Paul: "...We've given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves and assume responsibility for ourselves. Our neighbors, our friends, our churches would do it. This whole idea, that's the reason the cost is so high. ... We have lack of competition. There's no competition in medicine. Everybody is protected by licensing."
What first needs to be said is that federal law prohibits anyone from being turned away from a hospital emergency room, whether in a coma or not. But Paul's larger point should not be missed. He is old enough to remember a time when families, neighbors and churches cared for each other. Now, in our two-income households when we buy so much stuff we must rent public storage units for the overflow, we hardly have time for our own families, much less the concerns of others. How many of us know our neighbors?
I was intrigued by a story I read last month in London's Sunday Times. The story followed street rioting that shocked Britons and caused Prime Minister David Cameron to lament the loss of moral teaching in British schools and society. The headline read "Tory Ministers to 'Adopt' Jobless Families."
Some of the jobless have been without work for several generations. A recent survey found that in many homes, no one had ever worked and had no desire or expectation of employment.
The ministers have pledged to set an example for others to follow by volunteering to become "family champions" to the unemployed. Emma Harrison, who is described by the newspaper as a "social entrepreneur whose company has a 300-million pound contract to help people into meaningful work," wants the middle classes to follow the ministers' example.
Why couldn't this work in the U.S. government? Why can't President Obama and his family, his cabinet members and agency heads each "adopt" an unemployed family and help them find meaningful employment? What about the Republican presidential candidates? Michele Bachmann and her husband are experienced in adoptions. How about all of those rich congressmen and senators? Warren Buffett and Bill Gates think we should pay more taxes. Can't they be asked to personally do more to help others? They would be a fine example.
If we want smaller government, we will have to pick up the slack. Helping change another life for the better may be the most satisfying work we do on Earth. It is part of my own ethic and I can testify to the satisfaction it has given me. Make it a fad and it could become a trend. Ron Paul's answer, which to some sounded crass, might prove itself to be the ultimate in compassion.