Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Benevolence: Health Care and More

This summer while vacationing I had a civil, back-and-forth discussion with a neighbor about the raging health care debate:  I maintained that charity should be left to the charities.  His response was that the resources of the charities would be inadequate to provide health care to the truly needy.  I replied that an inadequacy of private benevolence should be no justification for coercing one's neighbor and further damaging the dreadful financial condition of the country.  It seemed a pretty harsh response to him despite the fact that for most of mankind's history, the poor have had to survive on their own, supported only by their wits and the voluntary benevolence of their neighbors.  (The discussion never reached the stage where we might address the factual assumptions supporting the argument for any legislation.)

My neighbor's position was a variation of the moral duty and "but what about . . ." arguments.  He did not understand why I felt no moral duty to coerce my neighbor to be benevolent, even though I patiently explained that there is nothing moral or benevolent about coerced giving.  His starting point was that society ought to take care of the poor, and he seemed blinded to any challenge to that assumption and was incapable of evaluating it on a deeper level.

A large part of the support for universal, taxpayer-funded health care is the prevailing notion of moral duty held by both the left and the right:  They believe that benevolence is something that is owed the recipient.  The difference between the left and the right seems to be that the right is inclined to limit the duty of benevolence to that which is practical.

As Stephen Hicks succinctly explains in "On 'Giving Back'," the origin of this idea lies in philosophy.  And it is their implicit philosophy which forms the foundation for the left's fervent belief that they are doing justice by imposing on "society" the cost of caring for the poor, the disadvantaged, the needy, the victims, etc., terms which seem to have floating definitions.  (As an aside, note that the health care bill proposed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee proposes to raise the definition of the poverty level by 50% in order to impose on the States the financial obligation for the new regime under Medicaid.  So much for the idea of the truly needy.)  This is an intractable problem for those of us who prefer to practice benevolence on an individual level and who object to bearing the cost of someone else's notion of social justice.  The problem is exacerbated by the lack of any serious public opposition to this dark concept of duty.

The idea that benevolence is "owed" has spawned a welfare state of gigantic proportions and an entire class of people (swiftly becoming a majority of voters) who believe that they have a rightful claim to society's surplus (whatever that is), and more; and the mere fact that they are victims or disadvantaged gives them that right. 

The claim to your "surplus" (and more) is facilitated by the collectivist fiction that it is not an individual that owes the duty, but the anonymous, faceless, collective "society." While many recipients of this kind of "benevolence" would shrink from pointing a gun at me and taking my money, they have no qualms about doing the same when they do not have to face me but use the guns of a surrogate (the government) and pretend that it is voluntary.

For decades few have effectively protested the coerced benevolence of the welfare state, probably because it was not sufficiently painful and because, frankly, many people don't mind parting with a little here and a little there to help the truly needy -- and the fact that taxation was involved didn't seem to bother them much.  But the foot was thus in the door.

Finally, however, people are becoming agitated about the size of "society's" recent and proposed  benevolence.  The government bailouts of private enterprise were justified by our presumed duty to keep people from suffering the consequences of risky behavior, poor judgment and fraud (rather than leaving them to seek recourse from the culpable).  The government's attempts to make housing affordable to those who could not afford it has crashed the economy.  And huge sums were paid to murky leftists with questionable backgrounds to assure that people had full access to the benefits of the welfare state and the ballot box, with predictable results: embezzlement, voter intimidation and fraud, and a takeover of neighborhoods by political outsiders.  Now comes the proposals to "reform" the entire health care system, with a huge price tag, justified by our "moral duty."

A great many people are aghast at the sweeping health care legislation being proposed and a majority of the voters are against it.   But, still, few challenge the basic justification underlying the entire matter, that "we" owe a duty to provide health care to those who cannot afford it (whatever that means).  Without such a challenge, opponents  of the legislation are left only to dicker about the price.

Further reading:  David Kelley, "Is There a Right to Health Care?"

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Coercion, Pure and Simple

The Wall Street Journal today has more about health care legislation:

Chairman Max Baucus's bill includes the so-called individual mandate, along with what he calls a $1,900 "excise tax" if you don't buy health insurance. (It had been as much as $3,800 but Democrats reduced the amount last week to minimize the political sticker shock.) And, lo, it turns out that if you don't pay that tax, the IRS could punish you with a $25,000 fine or up to a year in jail, or both.

Under questioning last week, Tom Barthold, the chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, admitted that the individual mandate would become a part of the Internal Revenue Code and that failing to comply "could be criminal, yes, if it were considered an attempt to defraud." Mr. Barthold noted in a follow-up letter that the willful failure to file would be a simple misdemeanor, punishable by the $25,000 fine or jail time under Section 7203.

So failure to pay the mandate would be enforced like tax evasion, but Mr. Obama still claims it isn't a tax. "You can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase," Mr. Obama insisted last week to ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos. Accusing critics of dishonesty is becoming this President's default argument, but is Mr. Barthold also part of the plot?
More . . .
Coercion, pure and simple (unless you agree with Harry Reid that paying taxes is voluntary).

Those with a thirst for detail will want to study the Kaiser Family Foundation's side by side comparison of the health care bills being proposed.  Seek truth from the facts, not from the statements of politicians.  Despite the shrill screams from the left,  Obama lies.  Look and see for yourself.

Racial Politics - The Double Standard

Mark Steyn discusses the double standard in racial politics in the National Review Online. (Hat tip to Robert Bidinotto.)

How can the left veer so far from their avowed principles and stretch the truth to paint conservatives with the racist brush?

It all boils down to philosophy.

It is really difficult for us regular folks to understand how all of this political correctness and interest groups based on race and gender came about.  How did this stuff suddenly appear on the scene, giving such far-out and/or corrupt people political power over us, our freedoms and our pocketbooks?  How do the member of Congress and their supporters justify what they are doing?  Where did the crazy ideas that they promote come from?  And make no mistake, it is the ideas and their unchallenged belief in them that energizes them -- the philosophy energizes them and gives them the conviction that they are "right" -- and deludes them into believing that they are entitled to subjugate the rest of us, like Martin Heidigger's philosophy justified the Nazis and gave the moral sanction for what they did.

You might remember that a couple of hundred years ago the fortuitous conjunction of grievances against English colonialism and the ascendency of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke produced a revolution and the construction of a limited government by united states in America based on individual rights.  Historians of philosophy have deemed that the "Modern" period.  But, it did not end there.  There is a subsequent "Postmodern" period of philosophy which now drives the humanities, journalism, political science, and related departments in our formerly great universities, who fill our children with twisted ideas and leave them with "mush for brains."  Modernism in these departments has been supplanted by Postmodernism. 

But what is "Postmodernism?"  To you, I am sure, the entire question is pretty much irrelevant and invisible.  But believe me, it is the fundamental thing that is driving us to ruin and placing us and our grandchildren on the Road to Serfdom.  You need to understand it in order to decide whether you ought to oppose it.  

A few years ago The Atlas Society funded a project by a young philosopher, Stephen Hicks, to write a book explaining Postmodernism.  It is remains in my top 10 books on philosophy -- of course behind Aristotle, Locke, Rand and some others, but there, nevertheless -- because it is both comprehensive and succinct.  It has been available on Amazon and elsewhere for a few years, and I have passed out many copies on my own.  You need to read and understand it.  

Dr. Hicks is posting the book on the web for free at  Please explore what he has to say about the development and nature of Postmodern philosophy and the left's use of it as a pretext to gain political power.  The philosophy is seriously flawed, yet it forms the unstated basis for the development of a very, very dark political and financial future for us, our children, our grandchildren and beyond.  We don't want that to happen.  And we need to gird ourselves, intellectually, for a major battle so that we can recognize and credibly oppose government encroachments cloaked in language such as "diversity" and "equality" when they are intended only to suppress and tax people who produce better than others and to distribute their hard-earned wealth to the favorites of government – a captive population of ignorant followers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Which is More Unreal?

Mark Steyn in the Orange County Register offers the answer to this rhetorical question when evaluating the speeches of President Obama and Moamar Gadhafi at the U.N. this week:
Barack Obama is not to blame for whichever vagary of United Nations protocol resulted in the president of the United States being the warm-up act for the Lunatic-for-Life in charge of Libya. But it is a pitiful reflection upon the state of the last superpower that, when it comes to the transnational mush drooled by the leader of the free world or the conspiracist ramblings of a terrorist pseudo-Bedouin running a one-man psycho-cult of a basket-case state, it's more or less a toss-up as to which of them is more unreal.
Read the entire article here.