Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Compassion is economic consideration

In Do the Poor Deserve Life Support? Steven E. Landsburg takes on the bleeding hearts at Kos. Money quotes:
Bloggers, most prominently "YucatanMan" at Daily Kos, are appalled because "economic considerations," as opposed to what the bloggers call "compassion," drove the decision to unplug Ms. Habtegiris (a terminally ill cancer patient, dying on life support, whose family had run out of money to keep her alive a little while longer). I conclude that YucatanMan either doesn't understand what an economic consideration is or doesn't understand what compassion is, because in fact the two are not in conflict.
Here, for the edification of bloggers everywhere, is an example of an economic consideration: If you ask people—and especially poor people—what their most dire needs are, you'll find that "guaranteed ventilator support" ranks pretty low on the list.
At that point, there's a powerful human instinct to come to the rescue. Well, more precisely, there's a powerful human instinct to demand that someone else come to the rescue. (I'm guessing that in the wake of the Habtegiris case, nobody at the Daily Kos has taken to funding ventilator insurance for the poor.)
And finally
Accounting for "economic considerations" means - by definition - trying to give people what they'll value the most. In other words, economic considerations are the basis of true compassion.
Well spoken, Mr. Landsburg, although I must admit that I had to think about this a bit. Read the whole thing to understand his reasoning. It's common sense to the max.


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