Rugged Individualism Isn’t Always The Best Option

“[I]f you are too much of a rugged individualist, it might actually indicate that you are… selfish, in a childish, willful kind of way.”

― Alexei Maxim Russell

There is a story I was once told that illustrated the quote: A man closed his eyes in death and, opening them, found himself facing St. Peter at Heaven’s Gate. St. Peter told him, “Enter!” The man took a step back and said, “You telling me what to do?” Peter, somewhat shocked asked, “You don’t want to go into Heaven?” The man answered, “I didn’t say that, I just want the right to choose.” Peter shook his head and said, “Well, the only choice you have is Heaven or Hell. You really want to go to Hell?” “Of course not, I’m not stupid!” the man answered (still grumbling to himself) as he strode through the gate. An Angel, observing the exchange, asked Peter if the man was Heaven material, since he exhibited such a willfully defiant personality. Peter responded, “Why do you think the Boss calls them his ‘children’?”

I find it amazing that, in a situation where there is no other intelligent option but to sensibly go with what is obviously in their own best interest, most people will do so, yet all the while bitching about it.

Case in point: Recently I was part of a three-way conversation about health insurance and Medicare. One said that she was contemplating enrolling in Medicare as soon as she was eligible in order to get the double coverage it would give her with the health insurance she has through her employer, because together they would eliminate most – if not all – out-of-pocket expenses, like co-pays.

The other acknowledged that it’s smart to have a supplemental health plan in addition to Medicare, and that there are so many supplemental plans to Medicare out there to choose from. Her friend explained that they are not an option, that her insurance plan through her employer was mandatory as long as she was employed, even if she was also covered by Medicare.

The other was aghast, that her friend’s employer was denying her freedom of choice! Knowledgeable of the first person’s employer health plan’s coverage, I stated that for her friend choice was unnecessary.

She was horrified that I was apparently unconcerned about a denial of choice. Started saying that was Socialist. I knew (from past discussions with her) where this was headed – into a tangential rant about socialist subversion of free-market capitalism – and bowed out of the discussion.

But I would have explained (if she’d even wanted to listen with an open mind) that with her friend’s company plan being infinitely better and at a lower cost to her than even the best Medicare supplemental plans on the market, that even if her employer’s coverage wasn’t mandatory, the end result would be the same, she’d still choose it as the best and least expensive plan, so the whole thing is moot.

But she wouldn’t have understood my point, I’m afraid, and would have carried on about needing the “right” to have a choice (as if there was any real, more sensible and intelligent choice to be made, even if allowed).

Some people need to feel they’re in control, say they won’t be told what to do or not do, yet grudgingly go along with things once they recognize it’s in their own best interest to do so, yet, still bitch about it.

Like “Obama Care”, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that has allowed millions of Americans to acquire health insurance they otherwise couldn’t get (for any number of reasons that insurance companies wouldn’t insure them) at a reasonable cost. It came about because those uninsured needed medical insurance – without any, in the event of some catastrophic illness or accident, their medical bills could throw them into bankruptcy (not to mention the resulting financial costs to our society). And now that they can get insured, enrollment through the ACA has continually grown every year since the Act passed.

What they bitch about is that the Act requires every American to have some kind of medical insurance (in any plan that meets minimum coverage standards or through Medicare if they qualify) – it isn’t enough that they need the insurance afforded through the ACA, it isn’t enough that they actually like being insured, it isn’t enough that the government subsidizes the costs for more than 80% of them through tax credits – it’s that they complain that they no longer have the choice to be uninsured (as if being uninsured is a sane thing to be.)

Ah, well. It’s the American way, really. We bitch about everything. Rugged individualists, we. Selfish and definitely willful, ever insisting on our “right” to do what we individually want, even if it might not be in our own best interest or our society’s as a whole.

Insisting, just like children do.

– Bill

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