Why care? Because if you don’t, you still lose.

“I work hard. Why do I have to pay for other people’s misfortunes? Why must my hard-earned tax dollars go to support lazy leeches who have only themselves to blame for their lot in life?”

“Why should I care?”

In last week’s Great Society post, I tried to answer this question. The reason you should care, in short, is because it’s the right thing to do. But for those who need a better reason, consider the incentive. Without social safety nets (like Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid) that all of our tax dollars pay for, individuals fall further behind the socioeconomic curve and are wedged more deeply between the cracks. This is relevant because people left to their own devices to survive don’t simply disappear from society. They’re still here. You still have to deal with them.

Individuals who don’t have health coverage that show up to receive emergency care, still receive care and somebody still has to pay for it. People who don’t have enough money for adequate food and housing still gotta eat, and still need shelter. And someone will pay for it – through the normal channels or the alternative ones, someone will pay for it. Self preservation is a universal value. Thus, if you choke off folks’ access to a better life, they’ll find another way to take opportunity. Both the French and American Revolutions proved that people won’t stand to be ruled indefinitely by aristocrats and elites who look out for their social class alone. We can choose to participate on the front end, like civilized people who’ve learned the lessons of history, or we can wait for rebellion, or revolution to persuade us.

I know some Americans yearn for an existance that mirrors a 19th or 20th century one, where folks engage each other on Sunday at church or once a week at the general store. You could connect to your fellow Americans on your terms because it was likely that the patch of land you lived on was sufficient to your survival. Well, friends, that reality no longer exists. There are more than 300 million Americans; you can’t escape us.  And you can’t escape the fact that our fates are connected.

When face to face with the decision to save lives vs. teaching a lesson in personal responsibility, saving lives is more important. The lesson can wait.  Great societies prosper when they acknowledge the value in cooperation; the value in each other; the value in helping each other. And you don’t stop helping folks because a few are ungrateful for it. And you don’t stop helping folks because your method of dissemination is flawed. You make it better, you make it work with what you’ve got.  This ‘me and mine’ only approach has been, on almost every occasion, disastrous. Remember that failing to heed the lessons of the past dooms us to repeating them.

So why should you care?  Because it’s in our best interest for you to.  Our best interest — yours and mine.  And because if you don’t, we all lose.  We all do, you included.