The Morality of Making Money on Religion, Education, and Health

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One of our socialist readers from Across the Pond posted an interesting comment yesterday. He concluded:

Three things should be eternally free from commercial interests - religion, education and health. Making money from any of those is morally contemptible.
-- Har Noah Neemus

I would like to address these seriatim.

1) Religion

Here, we might assume that our friend Har is obviously correct. But let us look a little deeper. Should a rector of a church with 100 members and one weekly service be paid the same as a rector of a 10,000-member church with four weekly services? The rector of the larger church has many more visitations to perform, more burials, baptisms, and weddings to perform, and he has more outreach ministries to oversee.

Although not it's primary mission, one of the missions of a church is ministering to the poor. If one televangelist raises $10M for the poor in Africa, while another raises $100M, should the second not be paid more? One might think he is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons (his own income), but would you rather have that second televangelist go into another business, and that that money not go to the poor at all?

2) Education

I need not go into detail about the declining quality of our public schools. Private schools, in general, do a better job for less money. The teachers are paid less in private schools, not more. Capitalism wins hands down.

If one teacher gets 80% of his students to the next level, and another get 95% there, should the second teacher not be paid more? If one high school gets 50% of it's students into college, and another gets 80% into college, should not the faculty of the second be paid more (assuming comparable student bodies)?

By not paying teachers according to their ability to teach, we lose the best teachers to other professions. When we pay Math and Science teachers, of which there are too few, the same as we pay History and English teachers, of which there are many, we lose our best Math and Science teachers to professions that will pay them what they are worth.

This socialist, egalitarian morality is destroying our children's education.

3) Health

The analogy with the above cases is clear. Certainly a doctor with a 90% survival rate should be paid more than one with a 50% survival rate.

If there is no reward for developing new drugs, they will not be developed. Much of the income from a successful drug goes into the development of newer, better drugs. MRI technology has improved dramatically because of commercialization. People are developing alternatives to the CPAP machine, not for altruistic reasons, but for money. Their lust for money, their base greed, could save many lives that would be lost to sleep apnea.

There are a few altruistic people that will work on such things for the love of their fellow man. Some might do it for fame. But families have to be fed. (Food is even more necessary than health care -- should no-one make money from growing food?) If there is no monetary incentive, then someone with a good idea, an idea that could save many lives, might just say, "I can't afford to pursue this -- it would cost too much to develop, and I wouldn't be able to make any money on it. I've got a family to feed."

Conclusion

I doubt that our friend Har refuses all medications, vaccines, and technologies developed by morally contemptible companies such as Merck. Yet most of those medications and vaccines simply would not exist without the profit motive. Aspirin, Tylenol, and Advil would not exist, either. So he'd just have to suffer through the headache this post is giving him.

The profit motive is a strong incentive for people to do better in all fields of endeavor. Take away that motive, and we all suffer.

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4 Comments

Well done, Jack. It is amazing how dependence on the state warps one's perception of reality.

Leaving religion aside - which is what most of Europe seems to be doing anyway - how can anyone say with a straight face there should be no "commercial interests" in health and education - two of the most important elements of culture. If smart people cannot support themselves in health or education-related careers, they will do something else for a living. Or does Mr. Noah Neemus believe, a la Atlas Shrugged, that smart people should be compelled to toil away purely for the benefit of others?

jacob said:

Joe,
Did not uncle Karl say
"Each according to his abilities, each according to his needs."

Therefore it must be a good idea!

Your plan only leads to us having 'greedy' doctors, 'greedy' hospitals, 'greedy' insurance companies. Don't you know that working for the benefit of others is the only 'proper' frame of mind?

I have only one major disagreement with this. A pastor is someone that cannot do any other task because God has called him to be a pastor. If someone could do anything other than be a pastor, they should not be a pastor. If someone thinks of being a pastor as a way to make money, they need to leave that "job" and get a out of the church. The worker may be worthy of his wages, but those wages should be the median wage of the people attending his church.

As to teaching, I can say only that while I agree in principle, I find that I am constrained in much the same way. When I ran for Clerk, I actually had a strong hope that I would not win. I love teaching. It doesn't pay. (I paid more in taxes as an IT Director than the gross pay I receive now as a teacher.) But there is a reward in getting nearly every one of my students to pass the SOL this year. There are students that I tutored long into the evening, and other I came early to help in the mornings. And when I see those students passing what they thought they would not pass, it makes my day, week, month and year! I am sure that if things were different, I would be back to IT in a heart beat, but as it is, as long as I can stand the negative cash flow of being in teaching, I will. (I'm hoping that the increases in my taxes will eventually stop outpacing the yearly increases in salary, and that could eventually make it a "break even" proposition.)
Money is fun to have, seeing a student grasp a difficult concept (that is, seeing "the light bulb go on") is truly rewarding.

While that is true, I also understand that I'm the exception. Not many of the teachers I meet are converts from industry. Few in fact. I've not met any successful industry "convert" that wasn't dedicated to teaching. Having pay related to subject has been done in some areas, and from what I understand, it has had success. That said, I am still in a place where I'm paying forward what was given me, and more satisfied doing it than what the obvious lack of money would explain.

Jack said:

Brian:

I, too, have been a teacher. There is no doubt it can be rewarding. But for some teachers, those rewards are not worth putting in the extra time to work with students outside the classroom. If another teacher, teaching the same class as you, just did the minimum, got 80% of his students through the SOL, and then got the same raise you did, wouldn't you be just a little ticked?

On the flip side, if he saw you get a bigger raise than he, is there not a chance he might put in the extra time next year to get all of his students through?

Do we not owe that to his students?

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