“Calling universal healthcare and public education ‘free stuff’ is the same as calling a Navy aircraft carrier a ‘free ship'”
That’s what I said last week on Twitter.
That tweet and an expanded version posted here were prompted by a brief IM exchange as explained in my original Facebook post.
The original tweet has now been shared and liked several thousand times and seen by more than a quarter million people.
A number of you have said that you don’t get Twitter, you don’t see the purpose. Well, like any medium, like any technology, Twitter is what you make of it. For me, at least in part, Twitter is a way to test the waters, to toss out ideas in thumbnail fashion and see what comes back.
What came back, in this case, is interesting.
Interesting in the many ways my comment was interpreted. Both liberals and conservatives retweeted my comments and said “See? Exactly!” and both were certain they were making some profound statement about the other.
Noted writer and futurist Karl Schroeder responded that while universal healthcare and education are not “free” NOT having them costs a hell of a lot more than having them. Karl comes from a country where he’s in a position to know since he lives in a place where warships and access to healthcare and education successfully share equal priority.
But that wasn’t my point. Not exactly.
Or maybe it was.
See, more common was the sentiment expressed by somebody named Joe McDermott, to wit: “I get no benefit from your education and health care that I have to pay for. We all benefit from the ship.”
I, me personally, get no benefit from your, you personally, education and healthcare, that I, me personally, have to pay for.
We ALL benefit from the ship.
Do you see it? That’s the difference between a Canadian like Karl Schroeder and an American like Joe. Karl views education, healthcare, and defense, all, as the duty of civilization – that advanced technological civilization can’t exist without all three and more. Joe, on the other hand, views only the warship as a benefit to the public at large. For Joe education and healthcare are individual matters which aren’t his concern.
Karl sees the big picture, Joe is looking at a selfie.
Here in America, when a liberal such as Bernie Sanders suggests we as a nation should make college affordable, or perhaps “free” (in the sense that the student will not have upfront costs but will get an advanced education and, therefore, access to a better livelihood and, therefore, will pay it back with interest in taxes and increased contributions to society), or a liberal progressive such as (pre-presidential-candidate) Hillary Clinton suggests single-payer universal healthcare should be a right of all Americans (who will then be more content citizens and pay back the cost of their increased health in productivity and contributions to society), certain conservatives inevitably respond with “LIBERALS JUST WANT FREE STUFF!”
HOWEVER, when conservatives such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson suggest that instead America would be strengthened far more by new aircraft carriers and bombers, nobody says, “YOU JUST WANT FREE SHIPS!”
While I believe such is the nature of the world that any nation must certainly invest in its national security, I think unfettered access to education and healthcare, especially for the young, are equal if not more important to a healthy and vibrant society.
Ultimately, warships and bombers are only as good as those who build and wield them.
Healthy societies, the ones we admire, advance by education, by science and technology, through sustained innovation, strong social bonds, and most especially via optimism and pride. It’s hard to innovate, it’s hard to be an optimist when you’re sick and uneducated.
The societies we despise advance by the sword.
The thing is, only an educated and healthy civilization knows the difference.
Those who believe their civic duty extends only to warships and not to education and healthcare are fools.
Post originally appeared on Facebook. Check out Jim’s great site, Stonekettle Station. You’ll be glad you did!