When horses are growing old, and are no longer any use as studs, or they can no longer race, or have broken a leg, the traditional way of dealing with such superannuated animals is to shoot them. As human beings we like to think ourselves to be more sentimental than that, time are changing, and human beings (especially as business leaders) are far more concerned about the bottom line than they are about the people involved. In a world of scarcity, people fight over space on the lifeboats, over whether it is better to care for the elderly and the weak or make a better world for the young and the strong. Do we save the women and children or do we save ourselves?
The expression, “They shoot horses, don’t they?” appeared on the comments for a story that said that New York Yankees catcher and designated hitter Jorge Posada, who is about to turn 40 years old, has been benched (possibly for good) because of his declining offensive performance as a baseball player . Baseball teams are run like businesses, looking only at what their players and coaches have done for them lately. If you look like your skills have gone, you’re gone—cut, released, benched, or traded. There is little loyalty. The hope is that you work your way up the system and get cheated when you are young (unless you are a high draft pick) in the hope of showing talent and getting a big salary as your skills decline. You either get paid on the front end or on the back end—rarely both (unless you’re a lucky stiff like Peyton Manning). Everyone knows the expectations, and thinks that they will be able to succeed given the rules of the game.
But what if the rules change? What if the choice is between paying a clearly over-the-hill slugger like Jorge Posada or paying for a young up-and-comer like Jesus Montero? What if you have to choose between who gets opportunities—do you show loyalty to those who have paid dues, or do you try to train and plan for the future? What if you can’t do both, and can only do one or the other? You never want to have to make decisions like that—because you are choosing either to betray your responsibility to take care of the old, or choose to condemn the young to a lifetime of misery and lost opportunity. You want plenty, you want prosperity, but what if you’re stuck with scarcity? What do you do then? If you can’t make the pie larger, you have to shoot a horse—which one do you shoot?
Now, let us talk about life and death matters, not about sports. You are a nation rapidly approaching bankruptcy. Do you choose to invest in educational and physical infrastructure, planning for the future, and knowing that roads and bridges of the literal and metaphorical kinds need to be built, or do you pay for social security and Medicare for the old people? Do you put money into unemployment because your nation cannot provide enough jobs for your able bodied younger workers, or do you put money into disability for those who are unable to work? Do you cut medical care for the young and infants, or cut corners in taking care of the old who have already lived their three score and ten? Which horse do you shoot?
Do you condemn the young to generations of misery, leaving them with none of the entitlements and all of the bills? Is that just? Or do those who have enjoyed what this nation has (perhaps unwisely) provided as entitlements sacrifice themselves to make life better in the future? There are no easy choices, no easy answers. Someone is going to have to pay. Who will? Will it be those with ballots, or those with bullets? Will it be those who have a lot, those who have something, or many who have little or nothing? Will people model self-sacrifice and so encourage everyone to tighten their belts a little, or will there be class war, generation war, and every other kind of war among ourselves? We will choose—what will we choose? Given the selfishness I have seen so far in my short life, if a horse has to die, I don’t plan on being the one taking the bullet. I have suffered enough already for the sins of others.