A Rant About Free Stuff


I wanted to take a few minutes and vent about something that encompasses many of my work’s points. It is sort of a tough topic, and it has multiple sides and angles. I won’t be able to hit them all, but I do want to hit on a few. Understand that these are just things to consider. I’m just opening up a dialog here. You don’t have to agree. Consider it “spit-balling.” That being said, we need to talk about the free stuff.

When did this nation become a nation of mooches? Why are we so eager to jump on the “Free” bandwagon anytime someone offers it? There used to be an issue (probably pride) trying to get someone to take anything. Well, now there is a problem if something isn’t offered for free. For instance, do you remember when flu vaccines were offered for free, and people lined up without even researching what they were about to inject into their bodies? It was lunacy! Of course, I’ll bet we’ll see that again in the near future.

Perhaps it boils down to greed. Maybe the idea of “keeping up with the Jones'” has really taken its toll on the American public. Perhaps “free” is so important because so many Americans simply do not have a lot of money anymore. Maybe it’s all these reasons and more! The irony is, however, that by subscribing to the idea of “free,” everyone is unknowingly making their situation even more difficult.

Perhaps our culture has shifted. It seems like it’s all about more money, more toys, and less work – if we have to work at all. Children no longer want to grow up to do something great and be famous for it; they simply want to grow up to be famous. And don’t get me started on the idea that kids want to start at the top of a company coming right out of college and feel as though having certain jobs is somehow beneath them.

Few are considering or teaching the errors of these ideas. Instead, they have created television shows that exploit this and exacerbate the problem while the American public gladly watches it. Not only do they watch it, but they follow these people as though they actually mean something. They buy their magazines, their products, and their sales pitch. Kim Kardashian is a great example of this. Sure, she is kind of pretty, but who cares? Does anyone have a good reason why she is famous? Meanwhile, do you have any idea who Moses Cardenas or Shannon Kay is?

The point is that our priorities as a nation have become distorted, to say the least, and this is a big reason why we are in the boat we find ourselves in. As demonstrated in previous articles, we are following the path of other Republics that have come and gone before us. Ignore it if you want, but the problem remains.

The idea of something for nothing (or for very little) seems as though it is some kind of standard in the United States. Criminal immigrants come here to exploit that very idea. Free healthcare, free monetary benefits, etc. It is beyond that, though. Our own citizens are constantly finding ways to exploit the benefit programs. What is even worse is that if one does not qualify for a benefit, and cannot figure out another way to go about getting it, then they sometimes resort to frivolous lawsuits.

That’s actually a huge problem. In February 1992, Stella Liebeck ordered a cup of coffee at the drive-thru at a local Mcdonald’s. Keeping in mind that the car was not in motion, Liebeck was adding sugar to her coffee. While removing the cup’s lid, Liebeck spilled her hot coffee, burning her legs. It was determined that Liebeck suffered third-degree burns on over six percent of her body. Ouch!

Originally, Liebeck wanted $20,000 in damages. Granted, she had doctor bills. Of course, McDonald’s refused to settle out of court, but they should have. Liebeck was finally awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was reduced to $160,000 because she was found to be twenty percent at fault. Not bad, but she was also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages. Soon after, McDonald’s was forced to label everything to avoid further situations of people burning themselves because too many people are stupid.

She ordered it, paid for it (so she gained ownership), and opened it in her car. I’m sorry, but it is common knowledge that hot coffee is hot, and she spilled it on herself. Aside from handing this person a boiling cup of joe, how is McDonald’s at fault, and why should they have to pay? Was it “too hot?” Perhaps. But if you look into this story, you see that there is fault on BOTH sides and that a lot of actually falls on to Liebeck (in my opinion).

Many people laugh about things like this, but the truth is that everyone else has to pay for it. Do you think McDonald’s paid for it out of their pocket? Sure, it might have only added a nickel of extra cost to your bag, but the public is who really paid for it. Of course, the public also paid the fines that this particular Mcdonald’s had received from health inspectors during the week prior, but I digress.

Frivolous lawsuits are extremely common in America today. Everyone is trying to get something for nothing. In 1996, a physical therapist in Florida named Paul Shimkonis sued a strip club, claiming he got whiplash from a lap dancer’s large breasts smacking him in the face. Shimkonis said he felt that he suffered physical harm and mental anguish from the large breasts. He went on to say that the breasts felt like “cement blocks” hitting him. So Shimkonis tried to sue the bar for $15,000. Although it was denied, the point is that this is yet another example of people just trying to get something for nothing – while engaged in behaviors that they initiated.

These may be dated examples, but I use these because they are sort of famous and rather ridiculous. There were literally hundreds to choose from; however, the point is that the idea of something for nothing has poisoned our society in ways that are almost impossible to reverse at this point. The fear is that the cause-and-effect scenarios of such ideas have, in fact, already begun to play themselves out.

Related is one of the many reasons why healthcare costs remain so high. Medical malpractice insurance covers doctors and other professionals in the medical field for liability claims arising from their treatment of patients. Some estimates show that malpractice insurance costs anywhere in between $42,000 to $129,000 per year or even higher. These prices are steadily increasing due in great part to frivolous lawsuits. Once again, it is the people (you and me) who end up paying the costs.

It works like this. A doctor or a doctor’s office has a “service” they provide. They have expenses to pay as well, just like any other business. These expenses need to be recouped and are often added to the price of their services. So as the price of their services increases, the price that a patient’s insurance has to pay goes up. So if the insurance company has to pay more, the amount the patient has to pay increases as well.

Frivolous lawsuits and malpractice lawsuits are affecting more than just the price of healthcare; it is affecting the way doctors are doing their jobs. More than 40 percent of doctors reported avoiding prescribing proper medication because they knew the drug might be mixed up in legal action. Well, guess what? Thousands of people die each year due to medical neglect and mistakes. Under-prescribing out of fear just happens to be one of the many issues. Think about that.

Another good example would be Aspirin. Even though for a good number of people, Aspirin is helpful (having such results as lowering cholesterol, reducing fevers, ridding someone of their headaches, etc.,) companies like Bayer are still facing lawsuits from people who had side effects using the drug. It gets worse. Back in 2001, Bayer was facing more than 8,000 lawsuits, of which 6,000 of those lawsuits were being filed by people who did not even experience any side effects. According to a Towers Perrin study, the US tort liability system cost each US citizen $721 in 2001 ($205 billion total).

It is because people want something for nothing, and these lawyers who are prompting these class action lawsuits and other frivolous lawsuits are reaping massive benefits as well. Personal injury lawyers walk away with 30-50 percent of any jury award to the plaintiff, plus an additional percentage of the award to cover expenses. Of course, your healthcare is going through the roof. An estimated $50 billion per year is spent on unnecessary test procedures designed only to guard doctors and hospitals against malpractice claims, and almost half of the money spent by physician insurers goes towards defending cases that ultimately are closed without compensation paid to the claimant. It is ridiculous.

Yes, we could discuss the lack of competition between insurers or the inability to sell health insurance across state lines as a massive culprit to the price of healthcare, and while we definitely need to address that, it’s just a different topic. For that matter, we could probably discuss the doctors and medical groups that charge the social programs unbelievable amounts for the tiniest things. The point here is that when someone receives something for “free,” someone else has to pay for it because there is always a cost to goods or services used. Who gets charged for exploiting these social programs? The American Tax Payer.

Honestly, we could discuss retail or any other industry as well. I once watched a girl lie down in the vestibule of a big box store and start to scream. She said she fell. It was insane. She was just fine, but she could have won an Oscar. The point here is that when there is an opportunity to exploit and acquire the good or service for free, or when someone figures out a way to force that industry to pay them above and beyond the service or good, the costs are passed on to the other customers. That is sort of the base point here. But it’s a complex point that many don’t see from more than one angle.

Take the Affordable Care Act, for instance. Did you really think that YOU would not be the one to pay for it? People have been warning of the repercussions “Universal Healthcare” for years. I’ve tried to see a bigger benefit, but as the system is set up now, I see nothing but higher taxes, higher deductibles, and canceled policies if we go down that road. Your benefits and services provided by “free” healthcare will eventually be reduced because the cost will simply outweigh what can truly be offered. We already see that in some cases, and we’re not even under that system yet. By the way, this is not speculation; this is a recognized cause-and-effect scenario coming with a ridiculous amount of evidence from other nations that have attempted similar programs.

The Europeans and Canadians are now forced to reduce much of what they used to offer simply because of the rise in healthcare costs and system abuses. A 1996 front-page story in the New York Times detailed the European cutbacks. According to the article, Britain, France, and Germany were all being forced to limit access to care. Rationing, already extensive, is increasing even to this day.

So what do the cutbacks really get you? Over time they get you lowered standards. In October of 2007, a startling report was released that showed what a “universal” type of healthcare could result in. Appalling standards of care and an enormous list of failures contributed to the deaths of 331 patients in the worst outbreak of a hospital “superbug” ever recorded by the British National Health Service.

Due to crowded wards and a shortage of nurses as well as numerous financial problems, 1,176 people contracted Clostridium difficile over two and half years at three hospitals in Kent, a county in southeast England.

How could social medicine really be to blame? Well, the Health Secretary, Alan Johnson described the failures that led to that outbreak by saying nurses were so rushed they did not have time to wash their hands, and though the “superbug” was widespread in the wards, managers failed to act. Isolation units were not set up, and patients were left in soiled beds. Furthermore, bedpans were not decontaminated properly, and in general, linens were not cleaned as well as they should have been.

If there will be no office visit bill to pay, people will be able to run to the doctor every time they stub their toe or get a sniffle. Perhaps the elderly person will increase their visits as well—mostly because they are lonely, and it gives them someone to talk to. I can imagine a lot of scenarios here.

Some might think this is a good thing because no one would have to let any medical problem at all go unattended. In discussing this situation with many people that use the Canadian socialized medicine system, at this initial level of the system—it is a good thing. In Canada (not as much as in some of the other countries and depending on the province), people are generally able to get in right away for any of these types of appointments.

The problems generally occur when the doctor discovers what he believes might be a more urgent problem, say, suspecting lung cancer or something similar. The waiting list to get in for diagnostic testing such as MRIs or other more high-level procedures is long. Some specific cancer tests are run at the rate of only one per month—that is what is available to the entire population. One screening per month, even if there are 250,000 suspected cases!

That means that if you needed to be screened and diagnosed for that certain type of cancer, you could be waiting for years to get the screening appointment. Then there are the follow-up appointments with the oncologist once you have a positive result. Needless to say, by the time you actually get to the point that you have a solid diagnosis and could begin treatment—you are probably dead or, at the very least unable to be saved. This keeps their numbers looking good—if someone dies but has never been actually diagnosed with lung cancer—they do not have to count it as a failure for their health system.

It does not matter how much money you have if you are in the socialized health care system. It is illegal to buy services outside of the system (in Canada, at least). Canadian officials have been known to send Canadian mothers in distress to hospitals in the United States for treatment occasionally, among a few other patients as well, but these practices are few and far between. For the most part, there is no way out or no way around it. Essentially, your options become limited because your options are reduced and/or governed by another.

There are similar reports from various socialist health care systems around the world, such as people having to pull their own teeth because getting a dentist appointment can easily take a year or more. In some countries, because of the abuse of free doctor appointments at the lowest levels of the system, you have to wait for weeks or months to be able to be seen for even the smallest medical concern.

Now imagine the DMV. Do we have faith that the American government could handle the challenge any better than the Canadians, Australians, or Europeans when push comes to shove? What makes anyone really believe that our government will do a good job with healthcare?

Perhaps the cost of free is much more expensive than the alternative. There is always going to be a catch somewhere, and to think otherwise is naïve. Besides, what gives anyone the right to take from one to give to either themselves or another without just compensation?

Yes, there is a problem at hand, but the good news is that we can change it without resorting to such ideas. Perhaps it starts with creating a way to penalize those who file frivolous lawsuits along with the attorneys involved in the lawsuit is found to be frivolous. If we are going to enact laws, why do we not enact some type of law that would fine those who abuse the systems provided? People might become less apt to follow through with such abuses for fear of the system coming back on them. Better yet, why not completely overhaul or rid ourselves of these illegal systems altogether?

This article has provided many different things to consider, but I would like to clarify the point. Nothing is free, not even your freedom. Now, we also need to understand that there are some things that, while expensive, are probably worth the investment to provide to our citizens. A great example of this might be education. Aside from the fact that guys like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine advocated it to ensure a free society, the reason I suggest it is because studies have shown that the more educated a community is, the more prosperous that community and local government tends to be. So when we have an educated community, we all tend to benefit both directly and indirectly. Things that work like that could (or perhaps should) be seen as an investment. And frankly, if we can design programs in such a way, I’m totally open to it. It’s just something to think about and perhaps something to work towards. And if you doubt that perspective, click on the link I provided in this paragraph and hear me out.

True, a similar argument could be made about the general health of the community. If people were healthier, costs would be reduced. I get it, and I concede to that point but I believe that point is moot until costs can be reigned in, frivolous lawsuits can be reduced, people start taking care of themselves, and when medical performance can be increased. Understand that as it sits right now, obesity is on the rise, and when it comes to high-income nations, the United States generally ranks first in cost and last in performance in medicine. Not exactly a good mix. Of course, we could probably talk about the fact that most medical doctors on not trained on either the causes or treatment of the leading causes of death and how much that adds to the price tag. Perhaps I will write something about that in the near future.

I am off track. The point is simple. When no universal societal benefit is had, and when a social program only works at the expense and lack of compensation of another, we are generating a bigger problem than the program was attempting to solve. It is clear that the further we go down this road, the more decay and destruction we see. Now, I may not have all the answers to this, and you may not agree with everything I’ve said here. That’s more than okay, but we definitely need to start having these conversations. Let’s tear the problems apart and see what kind of solutions we can come up with.