The Left is terribly concerned that "we" are spending too much money on keeping people alive as they get older. But Ted Kennedy didn't seem to mind that "we" provided state-of-the-art cancer care for him, presumably through his wonderful insurance as a US Senator; I have yet to hear of a single "Man or Woman of the Left" -- as they like to dub themselves -- who would object to healthy (and wealthy) aging for themselves. I don't see George Soros checking out the suicide clinics in Holland. I don't hear any eagerness to cut short Jimmy Carter's lifelong support for bloody-minded Islamofascists; but Mr. Carter is 85 already. Are "we" the taxpayers now paying too much for his presidential medical care? Should Obama's own medical care be discontinued at some specified age? And should Nelson Mandela be encouraged to call it quits? After all, Mr. Mandela is 91 now.
A rather surprising inconsistency, you might think.
With the blessings of modern medicine, women live almost a decade longer than men. Should they be deprived of life-saving treatments for the sake of gender equity, so that we all drop dead at exactly the same age when we have exhausted our medical allotment? I haven't heard a call for that yet. Or maybe it's just the non-Leftist elderly who need to shuffle off this mortal coil?
Our new Doctor Death, Ezekiel Emmanuel, is passionately convinced that "we" spend too much money on elder care. He believes that caring for people with dementia is unjustifiable, like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. But their loved ones might still love them, the way Nancy Reagan loved Ronnie until he died. And what about kids born with Down Syndrome who will never be smart enough to meet Dr. Death's high standards? You can be demented at birth. Is that going to be a death warrant under ObamaCare?
According to the Left "we" are losing money on keeping sick people alive. "We" have to economize, and where better than at the end of other people's lives? The Netherlands had a quiz show designed to prove that with a finite pot of money and free medical care, the only sensible thing was for the sick and elderly to stop being a burden on society. Once all medical resources are under Obama's control, everything becomes a zero-sum game.
When my parents were getting older and eventually passed away, none of us thought they were "a burden on society." We were painfully aware of their aging and eventually, of their passing. We can never repay them for the gift of life, and for so much else. We honor them, because we still bear them within us.
Maybe conservatives are just the people who love their parents? The thought sometimes occurs to me.
Funny thing about zero-sum thinking on the Left. It's plainly crazy. We live in a time of unprecedented expansion of all kinds of resources: The world-wide web is a huge expansion of computational and communication resources, which is why you can send emails all over the world without being charged for it. It makes no sense for Google to charge you for your gmails. The Green Revolution has done more to make India a net food exporter, and to stop starvation in the Third World, than any amount of foreign aid. Yet the Left still seems to live in a universe where the walls are closing in, with smaller and smaller boxes to live in. We can't even breathe the air any more without feeling guilty about exhaling CO2.
Every scientific and technological advance in the past five hundred years -- since the Renaissance -- has expanded human freedoms, expanded our personal capacities and our productivity. If I buy a computer, I don't take one away from you. If I take an aspirin, I don't give a headache to some poor guy in India. That's the huge creativity and productivity of capitalism, technology and science. The universe of resources is constantly expanding.
When "we" own our own property, "we" can take care of ourselves when we are lucky enough to get older. When the state is entitled to everything, "we" have to knock off the elderly, the demented, the Down Syndrome kids, the unborn babies, and yes, the babies who are born alive, but who just aren't good enough for Princeton "Ethics" Professor Peter Singer.
Which makes me wonder: Who is the "we" whose wealth is being squandered on the elderly? If it's in my family, it's not your wealth to spend.
Giuseppe Verdi wrote some of his most famous works in his 80s. George Burns and Bob Hope lived to 100, laughing all the way. Today, Jacques Barzun and Claude Levi-Strauss are over 100. "We" should be focusing on expanding every life, not on persuading people to give up.
In the civilized world we honor our elders; they are our teachers, our best exemplars of courage, wisdom and morality. In the dystopian world of the Left, the elderly are just bags of carbon compounds ready for the garbage heap of history.
So -- which political philosophy is more humane? Which is more compassionate? Which is more moral?