Why would I pay for something I don’t need? – How this question hurts Canada

At the heart of conservative thinking is a question about efficiency. The question goes like this. “Why would I pay for something I don’t need?” It seems like a reasonable question, but it ultimately leads to problems when it is applied to an economic vision. There are two problems with the question.

The first problem is the word “I”. The question is self-serving. It is the opposite of altruistic. For example, the closure of court houses in British Columbia as a cost saving measure makes sense for the world live in, because never have trouble with the law, and I rarely need court services. I don’t suffer from a mental illness or an addiction, and if anyone in my family did have problems, have the means to get them to the court house in the next town without too much inconvenience.

Similarly, the reduction of the number of public school teachers and the consequent increase in class size is not a problem as I see it, because my kids are not learning-disabled, and am able to afford education fees like the $400 fee attached to International Baccalaureate exams in my high school if my kids wish to pursue and IB diploma, or private tuition if I want my kids to receive religious education. If my kids struggle in school I can afford tutoring.

There are many examples of this reasoning: don’t get mail delivered to my door, and don’t make my living delivering mail, so why should care if Canada Post stops door-to-door delivery? This focus on the self and on protecting one’s own pile and no one else’s is natural, but shortsighted, especially when a government uses this focus as a basis for its policy.

The second problematic word in the question is the word “need”. Of course I don’t need door to door mail service, but it would be nice to have. Do we live in a wealthy country or not? I don’t need smaller class sizes, but they benefit everyone. Most of the time, I don’t need to be helped right away in the emergency room. I mean I probably won’t die from the broken ribs I sustained, but it would sure be nice if I didn’t have to sit there for two hours.

Governments must reframe their question to “How can we make life better for all citizens?” We have all this wealth, and we’re worried about protecting our little piles of money to the point where we would have other citizens go without something that we have. This is a sense of entitlement. It’s really quite antisocial, when you really think about it.

The people who are generating all the wealth need to spread it around better. Private interests are characterized by competition and profit motivation. If they won’t willingly give back to their country, they need to be made to give back to make the country better. This is accomplished first through a change of attitude to a real patriotism, in which one views his society’s success on the basis on how well-off all people are. We need to be proud to pay taxes, and proud to offer good services. Corporations need to be happy with a lower profit margin. And secondly, this attitude needs to be protected by legislation.

Certainly there are limits to altruism. We have finite resources. But during this, the most materialistically wealthy time ever in history, the fact that the income gap is widening is proof that we have gone too far. And who is willing to give something up to stop this trend? Well, if you are debating whether your next new car should be a Mercedes or a BMW, we’ll start with you.

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One thought on “Why would I pay for something I don’t need? – How this question hurts Canada

  1. Yes we seem to be following the American lead towards the us and them. Most horrifying was the quote from Romney last year about the 47% of the people who are takers, yes the selfish pensioners and children who are not contributing enough.
    The transit debate in Vancouver is another perfect example. No matter how we get around or even if we rarely leave the house, we all benefit from the efficient movement of goods and people and yes we all will have to pay for it. With out transit the congestion for cars would be much worse, It is not just the commuter on sky train who benefits from the transit. How much worse would the Granville corridor be if those 100,000 people a day from Richmond were in cars.

    To those that say, I don’t have kids, why should I pay for school. Well you went to school, the government paid for you on credit, now its time to pay for services rendered, it is part of our provincial debt. Besides can we not think that if we want to compete with the world for good hi tech jobs, are we going to do it with a poor, under funded educational system? We need to provided opportunity to everyone and education is where that starts. Why would we not want our best and brightest to get a good start so they can add value to our society as adults.

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