If Government Gives You a Lawyer, Why Not a Doctor?

Let’s take a local story that has broader implications. I’m going to try to go Dave Ross here. Let’s take an issue that carries little controversy and ask why a broader issue gets so many up in arms.

The question is, “Where do you personally draw the line?” It stems from Josh Farley’s story, “‘In-House’ Public Defense Proving Cheaper

The story is about how the county is saving money by hiring more lawyers. The county has to provide defense to people who can’t afford to hire an attorney. This, some might call it an “unfunded mandate,” has its roots in a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright. Gideon argued he didn’t get a fair trial, because he couldn’t afford an attorney, while his accuser could. The Supreme Court agreed. Felony defendants are now guaranteed a lawyer.

On Farley’s story there was some question about conflict of interest, but lay that aside for a while.

Whether the assigned attorney is employed by the county or contracted locally, taxpayers are footing the bill. Having one on staff is cheaper, so the county is increasing the number of lawyers on staff.

If you are generally against bigger government, how is this OK? Or is it? Should we instead pay a higher cost to keep government smaller?

The bigger question is where else do we do this? When we decide we need roads our government generally hires that work out. Nonetheless, the building of roads appears to be constitutionally protected under the “general welfare” clause. If it were cheaper for the city and county to build its own roads, should it be its own contractor? In many cases it is already. Should this be a decision based solely on cost, even if it might mean government gets bigger?

What if “general welfare” applies to health care? We know that almost anyone who needs care gets it. The cost is the issue, which is why we’re having the national and state conversation we’re having. Those who can pay for it do. Those who clearly cannot get theirs paid for. Some struggle, file bankruptcy, or make difficult decisions because of the cost.

Where do you draw the line? If the government is accusing you of a felony it will still get you a lawyer. If you have cancer, it won’t guarantee you care. It’s left to you to decide whether you’re going to pay to live, or at least try to.

Americans, and most countries now, have decided a balance between private service provision and public works is ideal. The question seems to be where the line is drawn. Where do you draw yours? When should government be the provider of services, when should it contract it out and when should it get out of the way?

One thought on “If Government Gives You a Lawyer, Why Not a Doctor?

  1. I think the key issue here is that when you need a lawyer, it is the government that is your antagonist and is accusing you of a crime. In other words, the government is working actively to remove your freedom and send you to jail or take your resources as a fine. When you need a doctor, the government is not involved and does not stand opposed to you.

    But further, look at the legal “care” given to you in the name of a ‘public defender.’ If it gets contracted out a private lawyer gets a little over $1,000 for a felony, a little over $200 for a misdemeanor. No private lawyer wants to go to trial for $1,000, so the tendancy is to cop a plea and get you over with as soon as possible. Anyone who equates this kind of legal “care” with someone who can afford the several hundred dollars an hour a criminal lawyer charges has got to be crazy. It’s apples and oranges.

    So do you really want the government to ‘take care of you’ if you need a doctor? If they do so like they take care of you if you need a lawyer, you may as well be dead.

    So yeah, I draw the line. If the government is out to get you, they get to ‘help’ you with your defense against them so we canall pretend you obtained the best in legal advice. If they are not involved, the best thing to do is keep them not involved. Your health depends upon it.

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