Christmas is a time to think of the neediest. Although I think that the free market is the best philanthropist, every year at this time I make a tax-deductible $20 charitable donation to some worthy cause against my better judgment. I must admit orphans in Darfur just make my eyes glaze over. There are so many of them and they are so far away and I'm afraid anything I do will just prolong their misery. I want to help someone closer to home. But who?
Then I stumbled over this tragic story on The Corner, which brought a tear to my eye. Conservative pundit and humanitarian John Derbyshire received some devastating news this Christmas: "My health insurer has just notified me, in a brief form letter, that my monthly premiums are to rise from $472.33 to $857.00 on January 1st. That's an increase of 81 percent. ***E*I*G*H*T*Y*-*O*N*E* *P*E*R*C*E*N*T*** Can they do that? I called them. They sound pretty confident they can. Ye gods!" This news put quite a damper on the festivities at the National Review Christmas party, where they were singing such Derbyshire-penned conservative carols as "Shi’ites Roasting in a Mosque on Fire."
My heart went out to Derbyshire, who has shown great compassion in the past for those who have had health care problems. When a 24-year-old Guatemalan illegal immigrant fell off a roof and broke his back, Derbyshire wrote, "He is currently in the hospital at Huntington (my home town). Cost of treatment so far: $260,000 - 'not counting fees for the services of more than a dozen physician specialists' and 'with no end in sight.' You have to feel sorry for this young man as a fellow human being. On the other hand, he's darn lucky he fell off a roof in the U.S.A., rather than one in Guatemala. As soon as he can be moved, he should be sent back to the care of his relatives in that country."
John Derbyshire is a fellow human being, too, and although he was born in England, he is here legally, as far as I know (someone might want to check that out). In fact, Derbyshire suffered horribly under the British system of socialized medicine in the care of a drunk, sadistic doctor, who with shaking hands removed Derbyshire's tonsils, adenoids and appendix though luckily left his heart intact. As a youth Derbyshire woke up many a night screaming, "Where's the rest of me?"
So you can understand why Derbyshire has expressed some skepticism about just giving health care away to people who might not be ready for it. In a 2002 piece called "Unpleasant Truths" he wrote, "Quality health care for all is not possible. Quality health care is what rich people get. The rest of us must wait on line to be misdiagnosed by ill-trained, paperwork-swamped, litigation-shy doctors, assisted by nurses imported from the less hygienic parts of the Third World, and unionized hospital staff with no-way-you-can-get-me-fired attitudes. This could only change if the U.S.A. devoted her entire Gross National Product to health care; and even then, it probably wouldn't stay changed for long." Derbyshire does believe something should be done about health care in his adopted country but because he can't figure out what that is, he thinks it would be best to do nothing at all for the time being. "Health care is a big knotty issue that I have never been able to come to firm conclusions about," he wrote. "I really don't see how it can be done without SOME public provision, though I certainly don't want to return to the state socialism of my childhood." We wouldn't even need the government to do anything if "private employees and 'friendly' associations that flourished 100 yrs ago, in which people pooled resources to provide care for the old, unemployed, disabled, and sick, could have been nurtured & expanded," Derbyshire points out.
Instead of solving the health care problem all at once, Derbyshire agrees with Hillary Clinton that we should fix things in baby steps. Deporting all illegal immigrants might be one small thing we could do. But they aren't the only group bankrupting our health care system. "What proportion of health-care costs in the U.S. go to treating diseases peculiar to male homosexuals?" he once demanded. On another occasion he stated that "male homosexuality is a public health problem" and found it appalling that homosexuals believe that "AIDS has been a ghastly tragedy for them, deserving of widespread sympathy from the rest of us, not to mention lavish government-research funding paid from our taxes." So another small step we could take to fix the health care system would be to eliminate homosexuality.
But these measures are unlikely to help Derbyshire, who suddenly feels a new sense of urgency about doing something to reform health care. "Anyone who says right now that our entire health-care financing system is nuts to the fourth power, won't be getting any argument from me," he says. Although he sounds just a little ungrateful for being allowed to live in a country that has the best health care in the world, I'm sure that this is just a momentary reaction to his sticker shock.
You might expect liberal bloggers to feel some compassion for what he is going through, but instead they have reacted with shockingly uncharitable glee, gorging themselves on Schadenfreude pie. "Was he somehow unaware that his own principles leave him with no grounds for complaint when something like this happens?" sniffed Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings. "You see, John, there is this thing called the "'market,'" Brad DeLong explained with just a smidgen of condescension. A Washington Monthly reader wrote: "I've heard people say a conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged. Then maybe a liberal is just a conservative who suddenly got this in the mail."
Are liberals really living up to their principles when they seem to care so little about Derbyshire's tribulations? That is why I would like to challenge them to consider making John Derbyshire their charity this Christmas. I don't think he would accept direct hand-outs, as he is very proud man, so instead I think you should send him health care vouchers of a very low amount that wouldn't cover the entire cost of his insurance. That way we can be sure that he will be required to work and won't just live off the welfare of others. If you have something that needs to be done, say a lawn mowed or a garden tended, you might offer him some kind of workfare. I think he would appreciate that. You could also suggest that if he gets sick he might want to return to England where he won't be an undue burden on American taxpayers.
Although I haven't seen the movie It's a Wonderful Life in a long time, since I rented an edited version from Wal-Mart, the ending always makes me cry. If I remember correctly, at the end of the film irascible but good-hearted capitalist Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, discovers he is about to go bankrupt. So the people of Pottersville, remembering how he helped them build modest but affordable homes with loans whose interest was only a little above the market rate, rally around him. They scratch together what little money they have left after paying their mortgages to Potter's bank, and give it to the old man who is brought to tears by their generosity. So this Christmas let's think of John Derbyshire as our Mr. Potter. Let's show him that Americans really are a compassionate people.
Update: John Derbyshire responds: "Thank you very much for your kind concern, Jon. I await the envelopes stuffed with checks. You might want to tell readers that they can mail their contributions to National Review (215 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10016). Cash is OK too--but no coins, please. JD"
More Worthy Causes: If you have some Christmas loot left over after helping Mr. Derbyshire you might consider taking care of these worthy members of our blogroll:
- Shakespeare's Brother-in-law had some bad luck.
- Digby needs some love.
- Wampum could use some help keeping the Koufax Awards running
- Bitchlab is having some difficulties
Let them know it's Christmas time.
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Jon Swift, Christmas, Darfur, John Derbyshire, Health Insurance, Health, Health Care, Medicine, National Review, It's a Wonderful Life, Politics