Romney invoked the so-called free-rider problem as recently as two years ago in defending his state healthcare overhaul.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way,” he said on MSNBC in March 2010.
When they show up at the hospital, they get care; they get free care paid for by you and me. . . . If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is.
These quotations illustrate a dichotomy in US political thinking. US conservative Republicans and “libertarians” are fundamentally in favor of redistribution of wealth and socialist government, despite claims to the contrary. The points at issue concern not so much communitarian ideals as notions of fairness and efficiency.
It seems to Republicans a better use of resources if various government entities provide unlimited support to large for-profit concerns and allow these corporations to distribute products and services, as they see fit, to the most deserving. Generally speaking, money stands in place as a measure of social value, since someone cannot have a lot of money without seeming to have at least some social value, whereas someone without money obviously has no social value–not because they have no money, but because having money is a sign of one’s willingness to provide a valuable social function. Thus, money is the fairest measure of personal worth, and the most efficient stewards of community resources are those who have the most money. This, in sum, is the modern ideology of libertarian conservatism.
It is impossible to be authentically libertarian, however, while opposing laziness, which is merely the tendency to take advantage of the social weaknesses of others. Anyone who is too lazy to learn math becomes an editor; anyone who is too lazy to read becomes a musician; anyone who is too lazy to practice music becomes a factory worker; anyone who is too lazy to work in a factory becomes an engineer; and so on. Laziness is only symptomatic of a moral deficiency if the hard work being avoided is the same work you do with pleasure. So, the most efficient distribution of labor is to let lazy thieves become politicians, let lazy pimps become equity fund managers, and let lazy whores become corporate executives.