This was indeed an appalling, mob-mentality moment—more medieval, even, than the crowd applauding Gov. Rick Perry for winning the death-penalty derby at the previous debate. What it clarified, however, was less the cruelty of the Tea Party crowd than the absurdity of the health-care positions of all of the Republican candidates. The GOP contenders relentlessly attack “Obamacare” as “socialized medicine.” But they won’t speak up for either of the other two choices available to them: the arguably more socialized system we have hitherto lived with or the Blitzer option of letting the uninsured die in the streets…

The third option is that of the Tampa Tea Party mob: Let the young man go to the devil. You can sugar-coat this, as Ron Paul tried to, by suggesting that private charity will step in to help. But we no longer have an extensive system of charity hospitals. If emergency rooms treat the uninsured, whether because of a legal requirement or because they are good Samaritans, they will be passing the bulk of the cost along to the rest of us—and we’re back to our current system of socializing the costs of treatments for the uninsured…

Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann seem to share some version of Ron Paul’s libertarian position that death is a great instructor of personal responsibility. Details remain to be worked out around the disposal of corpses and the distribution of orphans. But, say what you will, theirs is not a socialist approach.