Empathy Goes a Long Way or, The One Where Matt Walsh is Wrong (Again)


DSC01434I’ve done quite a bit to avoid writing about Matt Walsh, mostly because I really don’t want to give him the time of day. His posts typically consist of the following pattern:

[Sarcastic strawman of position he’s going to argue against]

[Saying, “Yeah, but that position is just wrong, and you’re stupid if you believe it, let me show you how]

[If you believe x, and I don’t believe x, then you’re a moron. QED]

Go through most of his writings where he’s contra-anything and you’ll see that tends to be his typical pattern. Recently, he wrote about how he thinks white men can have an opinion on any issue and that one cannot be dismissed simply because one is a white man. To be fair, he’s mostly right; being a man, woman, black, white, straight, homosexual or anything does not preclude one from forming an opinion on any issue. After all, if I read that Nigerian terrorists are kidnapping women for simply going to school, I do not need to be from Nigeria nor a woman in order to form the opinion that what these terrorists are doing is wrong. Likewise, on the issue of abortion, I need not be a woman in order to make the argument that killing an innocent human being is wrong, nor do I need to be a woman to make the argument that a fetus is an innocent human being. There are far too many people who simply dismiss an argument by saying, “Well, you aren’t a man/woman/military member/pacifist/etc, therefore you cannot make a valid argument on this issue.” It’s not just liberals that do this either; argue that the war in Iraq was unjustified and someone will might argue that since you’re not a veteran, you can’t have an opinion on the matter.

Had Walsh decided to make a well-reasoned argument, showing that it’s a logical fallacy (poisoning the well, ad hominem, and so on), then good on him. Sadly, of course, you don’t get to his level of popularity without polarizing the issues (which is probably why we at The Christian Watershed will happily hover in our current readership). Thus, instead of saying, “I get where you’re coming from, but here are some good reasons as to why you’re wrong,” we get, “Man, you’re an idiot and it’s stupid and you’re a liberal and I’m right and I’m white so I’m going to mock you and never make an actual point.”

However, Walsh then explains why he’s chosen to write about this specific issue, and it’s in this moment that I realize he’s wrong. He states,  Continue reading

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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.

Sowing what we reap or, This isn’t the Government we need right now, but it is the Government we deserve


DSC02086Forty years ago to the week, May 17, 1973, the nation was engulfed in a scandal when it was revealed that President Richard Nixon’s administration had broken into the Watergate Hotel in order to gain an advantage of his Democratic contenders. This week has seen scandal after scandal from our present administration that rival – and in some cases surpasses – the crimes of Nixon. For those looking for a post that bashes President Obama, however, please stop reading now. This post will point out his flaws and how his administration has been complicit in some troubling matters, but ultimately the blame is on us, whether conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat; the society of America (or lack thereof) is to blame for what has occurred.

There are too many scandals to really mention. The two biggest that have broken lately would be the IRS targeting conservative groups and individuals who spoke out against the government and the Department of Justice tapping the phones of the Associated Press in order to find out who their sources were. The IRS not only targeted conservative groups, but they leaked confidential information about those groups to the media. What is sad is that there is still more to this scandal that we haven’t seen. The man in charge of investigating the actions of the IRS in its targeting, however, may not be the most trustworthy investigator. Eric Holder is embroiled in his own scandal of wire tapping the AP’s phone lines. When asked for documents explaining why the phones were tapped, the AP was provided with 100% redacted documents. Thus, the man in charge of investigating government overreach and corruption is accused of overreaching the limits of the Constitution by tapping the phones of a news agency. It’s like sending a lion to investigate the death of a zebra by another lion. All the while, other major scandals that have cost humans their lives have gone relatively unnoticed.

Perhaps you heard of Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy. What you probably didn’t hear about was Kermit Gosnell, a trial that has flown relatively under the radar considering the subject material. One reporter did ask President Obama for his thoughts on Gosnell – considering that Obama supports the “right” of abortionists to kill babies born alive after an abortion – but he declined to answer because it was an “ongoing trial” (I think that’s the first time Obama let that impede a response, especially considering his comments about the Crowley/Gates scandal as well as Trayvon Martin’s death). But now? Perhaps someone should ask him again how he feels.

Not to pick solely on President Obama, consider the absolutely unreported scandal that thousands of Christians have died in the Middle East ever since we decided to invade Iraq in 2003. In fact, the most likely scenario is that Christians will become extinct in the Middle East – where Christianity began and has survived for 2,000 years – quicker than polar bears in the Arctic. US foreign policy, starting with George W. Bush, is responsible for the deaths and displacement of thousands of Christians. Bush gave the Iraqi government money, the same government that turned around and persecuted Christians. We simply looked the other way. Obama is giving guns to the Syrian rebels, who in turn have killed and kidnapped Christians. We cannot say, “Well that’s how Islam works,” because Christians have lived under Islamic rule there since the 7th century. Yet, today is the greatest persecution Christians in the Middle East have ever faced, and that’s even if we include the Roman Empire. Even at home, our corruption seems to ruin our freedom.

A Saudi student can’t even walk across campus with rice in a pressure cooker without being investigated by the FBI. When found innocent rather than issue an apology, the FBI tells him to be more careful. No, “Sorry that we’re racist,” rather they justify their bias and blame him. What is more sad is that most people would probably rationalize such an action, they would rationalize the eradication of freedom in the name of security. Of course, the irony is lost on most people; the price to live in a free society is that we must give up our freedom. That is to say, we’re no longer concerned about freedom, but more about security.

Our government is corrupt. While all governments are corrupt to a certain degree – that’s simply the nature of power, since all humans are corrupt to a certain degree – some governments excel at corruption. The US government has always had corruption, but typically it was the type invented in order to make money for a few individuals. The politicians knew that if they threatened individual freedoms that their ruse would collapse and all would be lost. Thus, the corruption was kept to money exchanging hands. Modern corruption, however, is more about seizing power than anything else.

The “corruption” is really a philosophical point of view, one that it is better to control society than let society grow on its own. It is better to control society because through control we can obtain better security; it’s better to give up freedom for the greater good. How did our government get to this place?

We can point to the Democrats or we can point to the Republicans, but we’d be mostly wrong. While each party has contributed in its own way, the fact is that they’ve been allowed to get away with it. A government is only an extension of the society it comes from, thus, the more corrupt the society is, the more corrupt the government will be. For too long, Americans have wallowed in egoism, hedonism, and relativism. We’ve lived by the mantra, “Do what feels right so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.” But now we feel we can complain when our leaders live by the same mantra we’ve been chanting? We’re all moral relativists when it suits us, but become the most ardent ethical absolutist when we feel threatened. In short, the current government we have is the government we deserve.

We don’t deserve a good government, one that cares for us, one that knows its role and operates within that role appropriately. In order to deserve that kind of government, we would have to be people that had a strong moral foundation. As it is, America lacks a strong moral foundation, or any moral foundation. We are a society without morals; if our society were an individual, that individual would be a sociopath. The government we have is the result of our society chucking morality to the side and living for whatever whim came its way. We’ve made our bed and now we must lay in it.

Why the Republican Platform isn’t Pro-Life


Understand that when I write this, I am not writing this as an endorsement for Obama or encouraging anyone to vote for either candidate. I am simply pointing out the realities of the situation; that the Republican platform is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform. While the Democrats explicitly support abortion on demand and lately have almost celebrated it, Republicans have an implicit support for abortion. I am not talking about their perpetual backing down when faced with the opportunity to limit abortion, nor am I speaking of how passive they really are when it comes to the issue in practice. Instead, I’m referring to their political policies that undermine the poor and disadvantaged, the stigma they create for anyone who has to go on government assistance.

When Mitt Romney mentioned that 47% of the nation is simply taking from everyone else, he was speaking to a Republican crowd who didn’t even bat an eye at what was said. The reason they saw nothing wrong with his statement is within the conservative mindset the only reason you should ever take aid from the government is if you were too lazy to conjure up your own money; and even then your aid should be limited. While there is no doubt in my mind that social programs geared to help the poor are in a serious need for restructuring (Democrats want to increase money to them, Republicans want to take the money away, neither wants to fix the problem), the Republican solution of just cutting the funding doesn’t fix it. The idea is that the majority of people on welfare, food stamps, or other forms of government aid are simply leeching off the rest of society so they don’t have to work. Such a view is ignorant of the fact that in order to qualify for many of these things, people actually have to hold down jobs (which, of course, tend to be low-paying and offer little room for advancement, creating a lack of hope and thus perpetuating poverty).

Because of this stigma, many women who have an unintentional pregnancy fear that by being pregnant, they’re not going to have any support throughout the pregnancy and the child’s life. Consider that nearly 42% of abortions come from women below the poverty line, it’s easy to see that the personal well-being of the mother comes into play. And who can blame her really? She’s facing a pregnancy and most often already has other children to care for. Food stamps only cover so much (and by “so much” I mean not nearly enough) and if she’s like most women at the poverty line, she’s working in a job where she can’t really afford to take time off work to have a baby. In short, there’s little to no social structure available for her to use. Even if she takes the brave step of having the child she still has 18 years of providing for the child, sending her to school, and so on. At best, by having the child she’s perpetuating a life of poverty, at worst she feels she has no choice but to kill her own child.

From a moral standpoint obviously we should never intentionally kill the innocent. At the same time, how is it moral to claim to be pro-life, but then undercut any social programs that would help to actually promote life? How is it moral to slap the pro-life idea onto a political platform alongside other items that stigmatize anyone who has to use government aid? The Republican Party platform, which teaches across-the-board cutting rather than reforming, is no more pro-life than the Democratic platform; neither emphasize the value of human life. The Democrats lower the value of life in the womb and even at birth while the Republicans lower the value of life post-birth. They want to protect a child inside a woman, but God forbid tax payers pay for that child once he’s born.

Certainly we should support charities that help these women throughout their pregnancies and well into the development of the child. But charities are not enough, we need the government to get involved as well. Those of us who are pro-life have no problem stating that we’re supporting a moral issue and trying to get the government to decide on a moral issue. All major legislation comes down to being moral and not political – segregation was legislated out of existence, as was slavery, but no one would dare say this was purely political and not moral. The moral issue gave rise to the necessity of political intervention; any moral issue of grave importance will necessarily rely on the government to involve itself. Abortion is no exception to this as it involves the taking of an innocent human life.

But if we’re willing to concede that abortion is a moral issue first and a political issue second, wouldn’t this mean that many issues that impact innocent humans are moral issues first and political issues second? If I have an obligation to protect the innocent within the womb, what about the innocent outside the womb? That is, if I’m truly pro-life, won’t I want my government to help pay for pre-natal care, for doctor’s visits, for the education of the child, and so on? Or, on a better note, would it be so bad to suppor the government paying for daycare and even paying for a woman’s education (or partially paying) should she choose to advance her life? After all, if we have to shell out 4-5 years worth of aid so she can find herself in a well-paying job, one that pays so well she doesn’t need government assistance, doesn’t that make sense? And if we’re truly pro-life, aren’t we going to want to help to advance both the woman who kept the child and the child himself?

In short, to be pro-life means you support the whole of life.  You support not only the right to exist, but also support any program that helps advance a child out of poverty. If we’re going to force women to carry their children to term, the least we could do is provide them with an infrastructure that helps them both during the pregnancy and after. If we seek to undercut such an infrastructure, or are simply anti-abortion and not actually pro-life, then we might as well be pro-choice.

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.

Rethinking our economy


Imagine you live in a town where everyone needs to have widgets. Because everyone needs to have widgets, there are about twelve different companies dedicated to making widgets. Since all these companies compete against each other and the supply matches the demand, the price of widgets is low. But then one company becomes innovative and creates a higher quality widget at a relatively cheaper price. As time goes on, only about 2-3 companies are left who produce the widgets. Since these 2-3 companies all produce equal quality widgets, they each claim they have to raise the price of the widgets because the quality is so high. While the owners of each company never talk to each other, they watch each other and keep the prices of the widgets about the same, slowly raising the price.

The workers, seeing their bosses make more and more money from the widgets, demand that they get a share of the profit. They go on strike until the bosses begin to share their profit with the employees via benefits and an increase in wage. The bosses, however, don’t want to give up their total profits, so they increase the prices of the widgets. The workers realize this and demand more money and benefits; after all, the cost of living in the town has gone up because the price of a necessary item (the widgets) has gone up. The cycle continues until the bosses realize that the widgets are going to simply cost too much.

Thus, the bosses begin to have the widgets produced overseas at a much cheaper price, but keep the price of the widgets the same. Because people in the town are now out of jobs (since the 2-3 widget producing companies are the only ones left and they’ve shipped the jobs overseas) they struggle to pay for the widgets. The bosses open stores in the town where people can buy the widgets and employ the people to work in those stores, though at a reduced rate and with no unionized labor; thus, the employees are at the mercy of the stores.

People begin to rise up against these bosses and demand the government do something. The bosses, realizing the government could bring an end to all their profit-making ways, contribute money to politicians. Two companies contribute funds to one politician while another company contributes money to another politician. Either way, whichever politician wins will owe his victory to one of the companies, meaning he won’t be able to come down against them. And even if he can, there are multiple politicians in the town; so long as the company can purchase the majority of them, nothing can be done to the companies. The town is then left without recourse to change the way things are.

What is sad about the above scenario is that it’s not hypothetical; I believe it adequately summarizes the United States’ economy post-WWII. Since WWII, more and more small businesses and small corporations have been consumed by bigger corporations. In doing this, we’ve moved from a three class system (rich, middle-class, and poor) to a two class system: Job creators and the employed. Some may not see the problem with having these two classes, but think on it for a moment.

A job creator has no reliance on the employed. If he opens his business in America he is typically leaving it open for skilled labor only. Even then, if he can ship it overseas to make money then he will do so. Thus, the employed are almost literally a dime a dozen, but completely reliant upon the job creators. Why do we value the job creators so much? Because we apparently base the strength of our economy on the number of people employed, or number of people who have jobs. But this is a false measure for the strength of the economy. Having a job is nothing more than being a wage slave – your income is completely artificial and in a bad economy, that income is cut. Thus, you may have a “job,” but that doesn’t mean the economy is healthy – we could employ all the out of work people in America and put them on minimum wage, but it wouldn’t mean our economy is healthy.

To go back to our analogy, let’s assume that a mid-level manager for one of the widget companies makes a comfortable salary because he’d educated. Yet, within 10 years the majority of the town has the same education, meaning there are others out there who are willing to work this manager’s job for less pay. He is then left with having to take a major pay cut or lose his job entirely. This is why being paid a wage isn’t always ideal, that same wage can be devalued in an instance even if the product you sell isn’t.

Instead, the real measure of a strong economy is how many people own capital producing property. This means that, in some way, they have control over their income through being part-owners in a business or complete owners in a business. In this case, one’s income is only reduced when (1) the demand for the product is reduced and/or (2) a better product comes along. Thus, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, the problem with Capitalism isn’t too many capitalists, it’s too few. Or, the problem isn’t that people own private property, it’s that too few people own private property. We are the town in the analogy where only a handful of companies ultimately run everything, meaning that capital producing private property is held by a few people. To liberals this is a social injustice, but to conservatives this must be understood as the destruction of the free market. In other words, the current system we have in our nation is not a free market system; it’s something that neither conservatives nor liberals can tolerate (hence the Tea Party and Occupy protests being so similar in their complaints, but different in their solutions).

The reality is we need a complete reformation of our economic system. The practical aspects of that can be debated and discussed by economists, but I believe the following philosophical principles need to undergird it:

  1. There is no utopia. Any system we developed will have inherent flaws to it, corruption will still exist, and injustices will still happen. The goal is to create a system that minimizes these realities and does all it can to delay them. Within the system there should be a series of checks that allow for penalties when corruption is found, but we should acknowledge that corruption will never be completely eradicated. There will always be the rich and the poor, the have and the have-nots, Peter will always make more than Paul, there will never be economic equality, and so on. The goal is to lessen these realities, not eradicate them.
  2. Any economic system we develop must value human beings as people with inherent rights. In other words, they cannot be part of the collective as they are in Communism, nor can they be means to an end as they are in Industrial Capitalism (or Objective Capitalism). The primary motive in any economy cannot be profit; while it must be a motive, it cannot be the motive. The primary motive needs to be the betterment of individuals and the local community.
  3. We must allow for the free market, but in a true sense of the word. The free market is the best way to value human beings because it allows them to make something of themselves. But the free market must truly be free; when left unregulated or free from government involvement, eventually the free market collapses. When only a handful of companies control the market, it’s not a “free market.” Thus, the government has the obligation to protect the free market, by limiting the growth of certain companies, or by ensuring that in corporations that are necessarily large (such as car companies) the overall power of the company is in the hands of the many and not the few (more on this later). At the same time, this means the government must keep their hands off small businesses and let those businesses develop within reason. It means the government’s job is to protect and support the ownership of private property, not make it more difficult via taxation. Thus, the system cannot be socialist, but it cannot be capitalist (as presently understood) either.
  4. In necessarily large corporations, the power within the company must be divided. While we need leaders and people who are visionaries, as a company grows, so too must its ownership. This simply means that the workers ought to get a share of the profit via direct profit share, not through wage increases. In many ways, this makes all the workers types of owners. On big decisions, such as moving the company or the like, everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion. While this allows for corporations, it takes away the power of the corporations and especially of those at the top – the richest people in the corporations still don’t have enough money to influence elections. It also lowers the gap between rich and middle class (which is a problem). While the owners and CEOs will still make quite a bit of money, in having to share the profits of the company with the workers, that gap is reduced. Furthermore, when people know that working harder will bring in a higher profit bonus, most people will be motivated to do so, which makes for better products put out at a faster rate, which does make for a better economy.
  5. The government must regulate the market to protect the free market. That is, they must protect the market against monopolies and de facto monopolies (when 2-3 companies rule an entire region). In cases where a monopoly become inevitable – such as an energy company – the government holds the job of regulating the cost and preventing the cost from getting too high. They also hold the responsibility to ensure that in large corporations the workers are given a profit share and treated as co-owners.
  6. The government must watch its regulation and not peddle when some companies fail. Failure is a good thing because it allows for learning and growth. While painful it is a necessary part of an economy. Thus, if a company is about to fail, let it fail, even if it’s a large company. The temporary pains won’t destroy the economy, but the government getting involved and ruining the free market will destroy an economy.

The goal in all of this is really to respect and protect the dignity of man. The most important point that I did not include is that we must have a moral society. We must drop the moral relativism that we’ve bought into and realize that objective moral values exist, naturally so, and that when we abandon them there are negative consequences to be had. While the above points would make for a better economy, what would ultimately help the economy is for people to realize that acting ethically allows for a more sustainable economy. Acting ethically may cap a business owner’s income to a few hundred thousand instead of a few hundred million, but it will allow for a stronger economy for everyone else and still give him enough money to live comfortably. But we have to be willing to do what is right and that requires us to reject subjectivism when it comes to ethics.

Thus, if we wish to fix our economy and overhaul it, the first step has to be an ethical one. It has to be a commitment to doing what is right and encouraging others to do what is right as well. The economy we have today was founded in the 60s and 70s, the self-love and individualistic ethos. To fix our economy we have to fix our social ethic, I’m just not sure anyone is willing to do that.

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.