Well, Ron, Nobody can really afford a child who can't eat and trouble breathing, can they? Folks don't plan for the unlikely; they mostly don't really foresee it happening to them, and put it into the realm of the "What do we do when the aliens land? business expansion plans." They decide to wing it. (How willl the Alien landings affect your business plans, Ron? Will you be able to afford air?) And thanks for the person shot the the folks, by the way.
I'm not trying to be a jerk. I am trying to remind you that just as actions have consequences, consequences can inevitably be traced back to choice.
I don't agree with you entirely here, Ron. You haven't filled in the details about whose actions lead to consequences for who, and whether or not all events fit into direct chains of cause and effect that have anything to do with people at all, let alone the people that you'd like to make responsible for things, whatever these particular things may be.
For that matter, cause and effect itself is an artifact of human convenience which may or may not be the way things actually work in the world. It is a nice way to fix blame, but you'll notice that in scientific reasoning, the concept is not so popular as the notion of correlation, which is simpler to show. It's to my mind, and I will willingly grant you the somewhat skewed nature of that beast, a more legalistic concept, and one more suited to the fixing of blame, though it does have some circumscribed utility. You seem to think that it is more important than I do. I'll go with you on such items as "Cause of Death," at least much of the time, but speaking about the "Cause of World War II," I'd wish to put the notion aside.
Choice I agree is important, if only because of the amount of self definition that is accomplished in the making of choices. I like to think of myself as being in many ways an existentialist, at least on Mondays. And I like the notion of Freedom. I also am aware of the number of accommodations that people make for me every day as part of the social network through which I navigate, and that I do not discharge my obligation to these people simply by paying a fee. I have an obligation, for example, to treat the police I meet with a certain respect and courtesy, even knowing that I have some potential disagreements with them, because I know that they work to protect me with their lives if need be.
There are webs of obligation such as this extending throughout the world that I am born into. If I die without money, somebody will bury me with at least an effort toward minimal dignity. This is part of being a member of a social species that is capable of feeling love and grief.
If you are very successful, at least in this country, then you are able to take advantage of tax breaks and tax shelters and shield a large amount of your income from the government. The government and your own efforts at politicking the government do this for you. T. Boone Pickens has mentioned a time or two that he pays proportionally less in income taxes that his secretary. The folks at the other end of the scale are not quite as successful in their politicking, but they have managed to get something of a safety net. I am not sure whether is is as large an amount of money as what the seriously rich folk get in corporate welfare, but it is something.
The "you" you speak about when you say, "you can't expect other people to shoulder the cost of your choices either[,]" is something of a mystery to me. The Rich certainly seem to expect this; the poor certainly seem to expect this; and the middle class are complaining that they can't seem to expect it themselves.
"I" expect that a society take care of its members as best it can, with the emphasis on the poor and the folks who can't for one reason or another take care of themselves. I'm not a Christian, but that is, traditionally, "The Christian" thing to do. It's traditionally the ethical thing to do.
Ayn Rand has written, however, of "The Virtue of Selfishness," and she seems to have turned away from these particular values, as is her right. And folks who support her method of thought seem to follow her conclusions as well. I was taught to bow twice when entering the dojo when I studied Aikido, an art I never learned. This much, however, I did learn We bow once to the O-sensei, who gave us our art, and once to the mat, which keeps us from breaking our backs.
It is useful to remember the unbroken back, and the mat that keeps it that way. It is useful to sweep the mats, to keep them clean, and to keep them in repair. Even when the mats are working well, many of us still get injured despite our best efforts.
Obligation is something best imposed from within, not from without. You can't pass a law to make people care. Unfortunately, you can pass a law that makes people stop caring. You can effectively tell people they don't have to help the homeless or infirm, because hey, the state will do it for you.
Nobody has passed a law saying that you need not support the homeless.
Those who would not support the homeless are perfectly willing to fasten on any excuse. That the government helps, is as good as any. If you feel that is sufficient reason not to do charity, you will, I suspect, always have a ready reason not to do charity. These folks have some guilt about it, or at least some reason to think they need to offer an explanation. At some point they may change their minds.
My notion about the usefulness of the safety net, however, is not solely because of the fact that it is charity. It is charity, and it is good for all of that. But it cushions the effects of economic downturns, and makes the cycle less damaging for the entire economy. It mitigates to some extent the cycle of boom and bust, and makes sure that the lows are not quite so bad, and the the recoveries happen more quickly, thus providing a benefit for everybody. Not to supply this sort of cushion is not only uncharitable, but it prolongs recessions and undercuts everybody's stability.
Careful, Bob. You seem to be reinforcing the stereotype of the person who expects to solve every problem by throwing more and more money at it. And it's almost always someone else's money?
I must beg your pardon again. I was asking for targeted plans to stave off the end of all life as we know it in this universe, that wouldn't involve building up too much of a debt after the coming Heat Death of Everything. Targeted.