Why Liberty Matters or, the Pursuit of an Ideal is Better than the Pursuit of Nothing


DSC01965One of the more famous quotes from early in the American Revolution was Patrick Henry saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” The less quoted part of his conclusion in his speech, attempting to sway the Virginia house to commit to war against the Empire, was this:

Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

“Give me liberty or give me death” seemed to be the rallying cry for the Virginia militia and eventually Continental Regulars. They were willing to die before having their liberty officially taken away from them. For them, the pursuit of the ideal of liberty was so important that it was worth giving one’s life in that pursuit.

Of course, as is true of anything, in pursuing any ideal there are imperfections. The most glaring imperfections in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War was the prohibition of voting to women, slavery, and the eventual genocide of the Native American people. In pursuing an ideal, that ideal is not always acted out perfectly, but in pursuing the ideal the hope exists that we will move closer and closer to liberty. Our nation has never achieved its mantra of “Liberty and Justice for all,” but it has worked toward that direction. In many instances, that direction came with the threat of life. The slaves who did all they could to escape north before the Civil War, to risk their lives for liberty. The men – both black and white – who fought against slavery in the Civil War thought that liberty was more important than living. And after this all, our nation still inhibited the liberty of our black brothers and sisters by segregating them away from the rest of the population, but even in this there were movers who put their own safety on the line (and gave up their lives) to reach equality in all things, including liberty.

Liberty is important because it goes to who we are as people. A dog is happy on a leash, he is happy in a fenced-in backyard, he is happy when an owner feeds him. A dog only becomes unhappy when abused. A dog, however, is a beast, and men are not dogs, but in many ways are far worse. A man who is kept on a leash, forced to live within a fence, supplied food and water, is a slave. Even if he is treated well, then he is only a well-treated slave. He is treated as lesser than the one who owns him and has no real freedom. Human beings, being rational, need the freedom to think and then act on these thoughts, this requires true liberty. When liberty is taken away, even for seemingly benevolent reasons, it opens the door for oppression to occur. Putting a whip in the master’s hand will allow him to protect you from any wolves that come after you, but it will also allow him to whip you for not obeying him. Liberty is important because it provides a check against human rights abuses by those in authority.

Even today, we struggle with liberty, but the difference between today and previous generations is that today we no longer pursue the ideal of liberty. We pursue the ideals of safety and tolerance, and those two couldn’t be further from liberty. In pursuing safety we happily give up our rights. Consider the latest NSA fiasco and how the NSA has now admitted that they actually do listen in on phone calls without warrants. This is done in the name of “national security” and “fighting terrorism” and so the public remains at ease. Our pursuit of tolerance has ruined liberty because we’ve somehow made “free from being offended” and “tolerance” synonymous. Thus, if a business owner refuses to participate in an activity he doesn’t agree with, that owner is sued and we try to make the government force him to act against his conscience. Why? Because it’s offensive to us that he would have a conscience different from our own.

On the issue of safety, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to safety. There is no compromise between the two, even if our President thinks one can be found. Either you pursue liberty and allow for safety within the pursuit of liberty (meaning that we can still listen in on phones and the like, but only with a warrant, only with just cause) or we allow for liberty within the pursuit of safety. The former is how strong nations develop, the latter is how tyrants form.

On the issue of tolerance, one cannot pursue liberty, but then give precedence to tolerance. I cannot say I support freedom of speech (which includes conscience) and then sue with any speech I disagree with. While it is true that we must protect citizens from the tyranny of other citizens, we must do so within reason. Forcing people to act against their religious beliefs does not protect liberty. The whole irony in the pursuit of tolerance is that it actually leads us to be quite intolerant of those we disagree with. “Tolerance” becomes a code word for, “Those who agree with me.” Traditionally, tolerance was saying, “I disagree with your position, but I’ll fight for your right to believe what you believe.” Now it means, “I disagree with your position and I’ll fight for the government to force you to act against that position.”

Tolerance has become a way for us to say, “It’s okay if you believe this way, but you better not act according to that belief.” That’s not liberty, that’s tyranny. If a Muslim wants to bow to Mecca five times a day and there are those who want to stop him, those who want the government to intervene, then a true lover of liberty would stand guard over the Muslim as he bows so as to protect him, even if he disagrees with Islam. If a Christian man doesn’t want to use his business to support a homosexual union, then a true lover of liberty would respect his decision and either boycott his business or start a competing business that catered to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Either way, he wouldn’t ask for government intervention to change how someone thinks and acts; again, that’s tyranny (just look at 1984). We used to believe that, “I disagree with you, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” Now we want to silence our opponents, and this happens between both conservatives and liberals (think of how many people attempted to stop a mosque from being built near Ground Zero, even though the First Amendment protects all religions).

In giving up the ideal of liberty for the ideals of safety and tolerance we have put a time limit on this experiment called America. The America that once was, the one that was highly imperfect, but still pursuing liberty, will simply cease to exist. It only has a few more generations and, in truth, we may already be on the precipice of generations that are more willing to embrace tyranny. How long before the definition of “terrorist” is loosened and other people are included? The pursuit of safety and tolerance leaves open the door to persecution of those we disagree with, or who are labeled “intolerant.”

“But that would never happen here! We have laws that protect citizens from being persecuted by their government!” Yes, a government agency would never become corrupted to the point that it would target those who disagree with the policies of an administration so as to make their lives difficult. That would never happen in the United States, correct? I need not point to the Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany for examples of what happens when safety and tolerance (eradicating those who disagree with you) are put into place above liberty, I can point to our own history. I can point to the FBI targeting civil rights groups in the 1950s and 60s, or Congress targeting suspecting Communists in the 1950s, or the Executive branch forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during WWII, or Nixon wiretapping his political opponents, or the IRS targeting conservative non-profits. There are many other examples within our own history of our government abusing any power it receives  of the examples I listed, only one was actually illegal under the law (the IRS issue is still being investigated).

When you give your master a whip to protect you from those you fear, you inevitably allow the master to whip you. When you allow the oppression of those you disagree with, it doesn’t take long before you disagree with the establishment on something else and you find yourself oppressed. This is not fear speaking, this is a voice from history. We were always told that those who didn’t study history were doomed to repeat it; but the study of history is not enough, we must understand it. We must realize that when liberty is no longer the ideal for a people group, the citizens become slaves, they face oppression, and it eventually results in the collapse of that society. That is the direction for America as it stands, but it is not too late to change our pursuit.

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Christians Should Just Shut-Up!


For the past couple of months I’ve repeatedly posted articles which pertain to cultural transformation.  In these articles I’ve argued that Evangelical Christians should stop investing the majority of their time and money in ‘top-down’ approaches to cultural renewal (i.e. political activism and legislation) and focus their energy on transforming the culture from the ‘bottom-up.”  In the midst of this I also argued that we should break out of our subpar subculture and live as if every aspect of life is sacred–with the understanding that the Christian Worldview has something to say about everything we do.  Unfortunately, some people have taken this to mean that I’m asking Christian voices to be completely removed from the public square; or, to put it more plainly, that Christians should just “shut-up!”

Due to this misconception of what I’m saying, I’d like to go on record as stating that I do not, in fact, believe Christians should shut-up and completely remove themselves from the public square.  Allow me to explain.

First, let me make a crucial distinction.  The topic of discussion has been that of true cultural transformation.  The question has been: how can one truly, effectually, and authentically transform or renew a “Post-Christian” culture?  The answer could not possibly be simply through top-down methods (i.e. political activism) because they do not cultivate virtue, engender faith, or transform hearts; all of which need to happen in order to effectively transform a culture.  This, however, is not equivalent to saying Christians should, therefore, not participate in politics and should remove themselves from the public square.  It is simply to point out that authentic cultural transformation does not occur through legislation–something that Evangelicals seem to believe (even if they do not realize it).

The problem I’m addressing is that with all of our focus being on political activism we have largely lost sight of our own personal responsibility to live virtuous and just lives and to make disciples.  To use one example I made recently, it is not enough to simply shout and scream and stomp our feet about the nature of marriage: we must demonstrate what true marriage is by living it.  The nature of marriage is not determined through a vote, and we are not successfully preserving it within our culture simply by ratifying laws which will be changed by the next generation.

Now, if we were examining the question of whether or not Christians should have a voice in the public square, and participate in politics, my answer would be a resounding and emphatic yes.  This should be clear from my recent post regarding the sacred/secular split.  I consistently argued that we must break out of our subculture and exist and move and have our being within the general culture.  Repeatedly, I argued that the Christian Worldview has something to say about every vocation–this includes being a politician, a political scientist, a lawyer, a judge, a legislator, or even a journalist.  It also has something to say about every academic discipline: and this most certainly includes political philosophy, and matters of human rights and social justice.

Furthermore, I explicitly stated in one of my articles that political involvement is necessary when it comes to matters of human dignity and social justice.  The two biggest issues that come to mind being: abortion and human trafficking.  Both abortion and human trafficking are horrendous evils and laws must be made to help protect the destruction of more innocent lives.  This, by default, assumes that one would need to engage in politics.

Should Christians just shut-up?  Certainly not.  However, Christians should be more shrewd, more tactful, more intelligent, more just, more merciful, and, above all, more loving whenever they lift up their voices within the public square.

Transforming Our Culture From the Bottom Up (Part One)


Our culture is changing and many say for the worse.  Studies show that the general population is beginning to change its attitude towards organized religion and Evangelical Protestantism in particular.  Unlike past generations, people are growing increasingly suspicious and even ambivalent towards Christians.  In the mean time, our government and, in fact, all of our social institutions  are becoming increasingly secularized.  Organized prayer has been removed from schools, the Ten Commandments have been taken down from public spaces, and the push for same-sex marriage is growing stronger than ever.

Conservative Evangelicals look upon these changes, along with the atheism and skepticism pervasive among our universities and the rampant materialism and immorality propagated by the media, in horror.  Filled with indignation and fueled by fear they have, for years, waged a ‘cultural war‘ in an effort to stem the rising tide of secularization.  Through political maneuvering, legal battles, boycotts, public demonstrations, radio shows, and a host of other devices, Evangelicals have attempted to reclaim American culture for Christ.  It seems, however, that no matter how loud they cry or how forcefully they push, the tide will not be pushed back.

Young Evangelicals are growing dissatisfied with the religion of their parents.  Many are leaving the church and embracing the plethora of experimental, ‘post-modern’ expressions, of Christianity which are far more liberal and, therefore, less resistant to the political and ethical stances of secularism.  Some are rejecting religion outright, joining the ever increasing ranks of the ‘New Atheists.’  On top of this, advocates for Gay-Rights are growing increasingly more powerful and influential.  Mortified by this, Evangelicals are pushing back even harder–continuing to utilize the same political/social methods to “save America from moral decay” as they have for the past thirty years.

The tragedy in all of this is that these ‘Top-Down’ methods–the political maneuvering, the legal battles, the boycotts, the public demonstrations, the petitions-will never transform our culture.  You simply can’t transform a culture from the top down.  You can’t cultivate virtue, engender faith, or change hearts, through legislation; but these are precisely the things that need to happen in order for our culture to change.  Cultures develop within communities which are, in turn, built upon individuals.  When individuals change, the community will change, and eventually, so will the culture.  Cultures are transformed from the bottom up.

Before his Ascension Jesus told his followers to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  This Great Commission is the key to real cultural transformation and is, coincidentally, the very mission of the Church.  Until Evangelicals begin to take this seriously, they shall continue to wage a futile battle for our culture.

The Real Battle for Marriage


The real battle for marriage is not taking place in the political arena.  It’s not being waged on the street corner with ‘colorful’ signs and bull-horns.  It’s not occurring at your favorite chicken restaurant  with a side of waffle fries.  The real battle for marriage is being waged on an entirely different front: our homes.

With every broken promise and broken heart, every adulterous wife and lecherous  husband, every abusive or neglectful parent, every struggling single mom, every distant and removed father, every argument or divorce . . . there you will find the real battle for marriage taking place.  Have you ever asked yourself why it is that the majority of young people are rejecting the traditional definition of marriage?  Certainly, there are many factors which are contributing to this trend–one of them being the overarching influence of Secular Humanistic, Nihilistic, thinking in our universities and in the popular media–but I’d like to focus on one factor which is often downplayed by Evangelicals.  The factor to which I refer is the uncomfortable reality that there are very few examples of stable, long-lasting, healthy, heterosexual, marriages for young people to look up to.

It’s one thing to talk about how the ‘traditional’ conception of marriage is of God’s design and will lead to true intimacy, fulfillment, and joy.  It’s quite another thing to demonstrate the truth of this proposition.  Conservative Evangelical Christians, along with the rest of the population, have pretty much failed to model the very institution they claim to be the foundation of society (just take one look at the average divorce rate among Evangelical Christians).

Hence, while Evangelicals scream for traditional marriage, young people often go most of their lives without ever seeing a good example of a traditional marriage.  Whether it is logical or not, when the people ardently in favor of a position fail to exemplify their own ideals, it becomes harder to see why their position is important or even preferable.  Evangelicals are like the mother who punishes her children for saying a curse word right after calling the driver who just cut her off on the highway an “F-ing idiot!”  In light of such hypocrisy, we shouldn’t be surprised when we discover young people fail to see why a seemingly ‘rigid, restrictive, outdated, ineffective, outmoded, socially contrived institution’ like traditional marriage is desirable.

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing Christians scream, and watching them hold signs, and attend rallies, and sign petitions in order to defend traditional marriage.  When are we going to start taking marriage and the family seriously?  When are we going to practice what we so ardently preach?  Where are the godly men, unwaveringly committed to one woman, actively engaged with their children, giving of themselves to their families as Christ gives of Himself to the Church?  Where are the godly women, remaining true to their husbands, in the good times and the bad, pouring their hearts and souls  into their marriages and into their children?

Instead of waging a hopeless ‘culture war‘ built around the naive idea that we can transform our culture from the top down, I have another idea.  Why don’t we start demonstrating traditional marriage?  Why don’t we spend as much, if not more, energy building, cultivating and nurturing successful, loving marriages so that the world might see God’s design in action?  After all, actions speak louder than words.

If You Disagree With Me . . . You Hate Me


As you read this post please keep in mind that if you disagree with anything I have to say . . . you hate me.  In fact, if you disagree with the statement I just made, you are probably one of the most hateful people on the planet.  I’ll take it one step further:  if you think the statement I just made regarding my first statement is somehow wrong, you’re no different than the KKK.  I can think of nothing more spiteful, more degrading, and more uncivilized than disagreeing with someone.  The sheer audacity and arrogance it takes to suggest that somebody is wrong is just shameful.

It is because of my desire for peace, love, and harmony for all of mankind (and the rest of the animal kingdom) that I have dedicated my life to the fight against hate.  The first point I wish to make clear is that hate is wrong . . . well, not “wrong” wrong; but just, wrong.  Okay, okay, I wouldn’t say it’s wrong because that would be a hateful thing to do.  What I really mean to say is that hate is just not right . . . that is, I strongly disagree with people who hate.  Hold on a second, that’s not right.  Disagreeing with people is hateful, and I disagree with hate; so, I can’t disagree with people who hate because that would be hateful.  Wait a minute, I think I just disagreed with myself!  Oh my goodness!  I hate myself!

As you can see, hate is terribly destructive.  This is why it is important that we seek to include everyone; quite frankly, everyone’s opinion is valid and should be accepted.  After all, to say that someone is wrong, that someone’s opinion is invalid, is no different than saying that person is a worthless pile of dung.  This is why I have a dream!  I envision a society in which everyone is accepted for who they are and everyone is allowed to think or believe whatever they want without the fear of some arrogant bigot saying they are wrong.  In fact, the only people we would not accept in this harmonious society are those who disagree with us.  This society, like Boston, would be on the very cutting edge of inclusion.  I believe we could make this dream a reality—all we have to do is force, by law, everyone who disagrees with our inclusiveness to shut-up; and if they don’t shut up, we’ll just throw them in prison.

Don’t like what I have to say?  It’s because you, my friend, are a hater . . . oh, and please don’t leave any comments because I would consider any feedback about this article a hate crime.

Go Therefore and Wage a Political Cultural War, Legislating In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!


The Battle for Chick-fil-AIt is time for Christians to stop thinking like politicians, to stop attempting to effect change in our culture through political legislation and activism, and to start loving people.  If the values in American society are crumbling it is because people have turned away from God and embraced Secular Humanism—and this problem, the hardening of man’s heart against God, will not be solved through polemics and legislation.  We can rally together at Chick-fil-A, draw a line in the sand, and fight for our rights to free speech; but even if we “win” this battle, it is only a temporary solution.  We are dealing with a deep sickness and attacking the problem with political activism is as ineffective as trying to heal cancer with a band-aid.  The real problem is not a political one but a spiritual one.  The real problem is that people are lost and, in consequence, held captive by vain, irrational, dehumanizing forms of worldly thinking.  While we puff ourselves up, stomp our feet, and scream about our “rights’ as American citizens, lost souls are desperately searching for meaning and love and finding it in all of the wrong places.

The truth of the matter is:  we have lost our youth.  They do not accept objective moral values, they don’t understand what truth is, and they are not interested in the Christian worldview.  They are impulsive, emotionally driven, materialistic, superficial, and have absorbed Secular Humanistic, nihilistic, thinking without even realizing it.  In about twenty years, when these kids in our illustrious high schools are doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians and entertainers, we will find that all or our political grandstanding was ultimately a waste of time.  The very democratic system that we are currently relying on to fight the “cultural war” will be turned against us in the end; because this was never a political battle in the first place—and, more to the point, truth is not determined by a vote.  So, we are faced with a choice: we can drum up huge crowds of evangelicals to eat at Chick-fil-A, to fight for our right to free speech and “take a stand for marriage;” or, we can start focusing our efforts on loving people.

When I speak of loving people I don’t mean having a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  I mean loving them with the same self-giving, sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.  I mean that we start truly caring for the left out, down hearted, misunderstood, people in our society.  That we stand against hate crimes against homosexuals and alongside hurting families who have had loved ones commit suicide because they were gay; that we stop drawing a line in the sand and start opening our arms.

This is not to say that we give up our values or compromise our beliefs.  It is to say that we value people more than our own right to free speech.  The fact is, Christians in America are simply scared of persecution.  Much of the political posturing we participate in is simply done out of fear:  fear of losing our right to free speech, fear of Secular Humanistic ethics dominating our legal system.  Fear, however, is contrary to the teaching of Jesus who explicitly told us not to fear and who said shocking things like: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

How many of you considered it a blessing when the media lashed out at Dan Cathy for simply making the statement that he believed in the Biblical definition of marriage?  How many of you rejoiced and were exceedingly glad when the mayor of Boston stated that Chick-fill-A was not welcome in his city?  Or, were you simply indignant, angry, and fearful?  It’s difficult for us to wrap our heads around Jesus’ teaching on persecution because, quite frankly, we have it so easy.  We are not really persecuted in America; but one day we might be if we continue waging a hopeless political battle.

A culture is made up of people; we, therefore, only effect change within a culture if the people who give life to a culture have a change of heart and mind.  People are changed by Christ, not legislation, and this only happens when Christ’s people die to themselves, start demonstrating His love to the world, and make true disciples.  Jesus said it best: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).  Please note how non political sounding Jesus’ final command to his followers was.  The kingdom of God is brought about through His people bringing the gospel to the world in a tangible way; not through manipulating the democratic political system.  Only love, the self-giving, self-sacrificial, love of the cross can change hearts, renew minds, and ultimately revive a culture.

The Problem of Healthcare: A Christian View and General Solution


Today the Supreme Court essentially upheld most of the Affordable Healthcare for America Act (AHAA). While I do disagree with the individual mandate as being Constitutional (as a tax, yes, but as a mandate, no), to me the biggest problem is in the wisdom of the legislation. While the practicalities of such legislation are complex, the underlying issues behind healthcare are pretty simple. From the Christian perspective we should desire that healthcare be available and, more importantly, affordable to all.

For Christians, all humans are made in the image of God, thus all humans have intrinsic worth. This means that while all life is a gift, human life is seen as unique and special. Therefore, when we see that someone cannot get medical treatment for the simple reason that they lack money, we should see such a thing as an injustice. It’s simply not right for a human to be denied healthcare because he cannot pay for it. While we wouldn’t call the denial of an elective procedure that has no real health benefit (such a plastic surgery) an injustice, any denial of service that can lead to more serious health issues is a massive injustice; not to mention that it does violate the Hippocratic oath (how is one to treat patients if one refuses to see them due to lack of payment?).

The above is why some people have said that the healthcare system in America is broken and the AHAA (or derogatorily, “Obamacare”) is the solution. Of course, both aspects of that argument are absolutely wrong. First, the healthcare system is no more broken than a Mercedes is broken; the problem isn’t the quality of the product, it’s the cost of the quality. Thus, Obama’s solution, while possessing some good things in it (such as making it illegal to refuse insurance for pre-existing conditions), doesn’t do much to address the actual problem in our healthcare system. The AHAA may lower the cost of insurance, but it won’t lower the cost of quality care. In other words, bringing more people onto insurances without lowering the cost of the healthcare service is either going to (a) bankrupt the insurance companies, (b) eventually drive the cost of healthcare up, to the point where hardly anyone can afford it yet will be penalized due to the individual mandate, or (c) result in the government having to provide universal healthcare. Option C is what many people naively think is best, but it doesn’t work because the government either goes bankrupt (government’s do not have unlimited funds) or it has to cap the price of medical procedures, which of course drastically lowers the quality of healthcare.

Such a system might work in smaller nations or in nations geared more towards socialism, but it will not work in America. While it works in Norway, Norway isn’t the United States; there are certain cultural ideals, economic beliefs, and so on that allow such socialized medicine to work in one nation but not in the other.

At the same time, we have to do something to make medical procedures cheaper. Making insurance cheaper makes little sense – so long as the medical procedures cost money and the cost rises, so too will the insurance. Car insurance is cheap because there’s a natural cap to it; the average person will only spend $10,000 to fix a car. Any more than that and the insurance will simply cut a check and the person gets a new car. In other words, the idea behind the AHAA that car insurance is cheap because a lot of people buy it (and are forced to if they own a car) is somewhat false; while more people in the system helps, the real reason that car insurance is affordable is because there’s a natural cap within the industry. Within health, however, such a cap doesn’t exist because the average person cannot simply replace their body or life. Thus, it tends to be quite a bit more expensive, to the point that even if more people buy in it won’t have a significant impact. Not to mention that the most affordable of car insurance hardly covers anything; shall we desire the same thing for our health?

From a Christian perspective we want to create an option that maintains the quality of healthcare (and improves it) while making it cheaper. The point in making it cheaper isn’t just so that more people can afford health insurance, but so that charities can do more to help those who can’t even get cheap health insurance. Making healthcare cheaper benefits everyone. Yet, all of this must be done while respecting the dignity of being human, that is, we cannot tax the people into oblivion to accomplish our goals. We cannot nationalize private industries in order to make them cheaper as this robs people of their well-earned property. In short, we can be neither socialists or pure capitalists. We cannot trust socialism as this would rob people of their property and rob the market of its resources to continue to research. At the same time, we cannot simply leave healthcare to the market and let the market decide because supply and demand doesn’t work when it comes to essential services. The government has always had to regulate essential services, even in the early days of our Republic.

In addition to the above, the Christian view of man is one that views man as both angel and demon, both good and evil. This means we cannot suppress the profit motive within the business and expect everyone to perform medicine out of the goodness of their hearts, but we also cannot expect people to be motivated by more than profit. Within the socialist approach, the motivation for the doctors should be the greater good of society, not their own income. But no one goes into a business to break even; everyone wants to make a profit. In healthcare making a profit is vital because a lot of that profit goes back into research and development for better medications and treatments. At the same time, we don’t want our doctors to be solely motivated by profit. When motivated solely by profit people will cut corners and cheat their way to more money. No one wants a doctor that is in it solely for the money because the doctor, at the end of the day, could care less if the patient is healthy or not.

With the above foundations for healthcare, which stem from the Christian perspective (though they are not exclusively Christian), I think there are a few very broad practicalities that could help lower the cost of healthcare while maintaining the integrity of our healthcare system (and even improving upon it). I leave the specifics to the politicians, but I think some generalized solutions could possibly get people going:

Eradicate the Patent System for Drugs and Medical Equipment  – before the conservatives jump down my throat on this one, I’m not saying we should eradicate profit. Rather, I’m pro-free market because this fits best with the dignity of man. A patent, on the other hand, is not a free market solution. A patent allows the developer to hold a monopoly over their invention for quite some time, allowing the company to charge whatever price they want to gain back the money that went into developing the item. 

The problem should be obvious – if Company A can charge whatever they deem necessary to recover their research, then the price of their product will increase. Now, some argue that the market is a natural check on patents and in some cases it is. If Apple has a patent for a new iPhone, it means no one can copy any innovative component of that iPhone for the duration of the patent. Of course, Apple can’t in turn charge $30,000 for the iPhone because they’d never gain their money back; no one could afford the iPhone at that point and thus no one would buy it. In cases like this where competition exists a patent has a natural check on it.

In the medical field, however, where there is no natural check (remember, insurance companies will pay for it because they have to pay for it; the medicine is essential), a monopoly causes the price of medication to rise up. In such a system you really have only two options: a free market solution or a regulated solution. The regulated solution is one that most people would reject, which is where the government puts a limit on how much medication can sell for. Thus, if a company puts $100 million into developing a drug and it will take them 15 years to gain that money back, but they sell it at a price so they’ll gain it back in 10, the government would come in and force them to go with the lowest price. This solution would work, but it wouldn’t be as efficient as a free market solution; it would provide less incentive to develop a drug if the maker figured they’d never make a return on it, likewise it wouldn’t make things cheaper because the cap would still be relative to the amount of money put into developing it (if anything, creative companies would fudge the numbers to make it look like they put more into the development than they actually did, thus increasing their cap).

The better solution is to eradicate the patent system entirely with drugs and medical equipment and instead force them to create a license. In a license, a royalty fee has to be paid to the creator of the drug/equipment by any manufacturers. Under a licensing system, some companies could simply move into research and development and simply forgo manufacturing their drugs or equipment; they could instead license out their discoveries to multiple manufacturers. In turn, the license would last longer than a patent allowing the company to make back their money and then make a profit. The best benefit, however, is that if you end up with 10 companies manufacturing the same drug, all with the same licensing fee, the original developer will make their money back, yet the drug will be cheaper due to competition. Obviously drugs would still be expensive, but they wouldn’t be as expensive as they are now. It would lower the cost and make it far more affordable, which is what we’re aiming for.

Multiple Safety-Nets for the Uninsured – Right now if a patient goes to a hospital and cannot afford treatment, there’s no established system to help him find a way to pay for his treatment. This is one area where the federal government and state governments could really help out. The state governments should create a database of charities that help people who need healthcare coverage. These charities would simply register with the state or the federal government, depending on if they intend to help people in their state or nationwide (thus, a local collection of churches may only help people in their city, but the Catholic charity may help people from any state). 

Each hospital, in turn, would then help the uninsured go to these charities first. The person would help with paperwork, help them fill the paperwork out, and exercise all private options first before turning to a government option. The government option would be either the government simply pays for the debt, or the person can enroll in a government loan (if eligible) that can be paid at a minimal payment relative to the person’s income.

The reason for the above is that right now if someone doesn’t pay, that cost is passed onto the next patient. In other words, we already have universal healthcare coverage, it’s just not structured and it’s poorly designed. If we were to put together a cohesive system where charities could be contacted or some accountability is built in for the person paying the bill, we could limit how much (if any) unpaid bills get passed on to other patients. This would lower the cost of healthcare and insurance, since insurance companies wouldn’t have to pay for other patients. This is where the AHAA works as a short-term solution; if most people have insurance, less unpaid bills are passed around, which lowers the cost of healthcare. But this one component doesn’t fix the cost of the entire system (as I explained above).
Create More Competition – there needs to be more competition between hospitals, between insurance companies, between medical manufacturers, and so on. Competition creates cheap prices. The more natural competition that exists in a field, the cheaper products are in that field. How this competition is to be created is up for debate; as a distributist I would support the idea of constructing medical guilds, each one in competition with the other, where they are in charge of handing out licenses and then creating degrees of licensing. While there would be government oversight of the guilds (to prevent them from turning into monopolies), the guilds would essentially be left determining the quality of their doctors. In doing so, competition would exist. But I don’t want to get bogged down in details on this point because I first have to defend having guilds and then defend placing guilds within the medical community.

In short, the above three solutions are not perfect. But they hold to the basic principles that everyone deserves healthcare, but we don’t have to destroy individual freedoms to secure it. Certainly the above would require much debate, some things changed, but overall it’s a solution that I think goes to the heart of the issue while trying to appeal to both liberals and conservatives. Most importantly, however, is I believe it’s part of an overall system that respects the dignity and freedom of man.