Obama’s World without Giving
Last week we learned what happens to health care when you impose ObamaCare upon it. For we learned how the prototype ObamaCare health plan is wrecking health care in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Gov. Deval Patrick (D) just rejected 90 percent of proposed health insurance rate increases from the non-profit Massachusetts health insurers. The governor is running for reelection. The insurers responded by shutting down the insurance market.
Why are the health insurers raising rates? It turns out that the good people of Massachusetts have been vigorously responding to the Bay State’s preexisting condition mandate. When they get sick, they sign up for health insurance. When they get better, they cancel it.
No wonder that ObamaCare provides fines and penalties for people who don’t carry health insurance.
Liberal politics is all about rights. For liberals, the ideals of individualism, of life, liberty, mutual benefit, and equality — what Charles Taylor calls the Modern Moral Order — can be achieved only by political will expressed through government programs. That’s because the order of mutual benefit and exchange doesn’t benefit all people equally. Some people benefit a lot, and some people lose out, so the community must help those that miss out.
The great dividing line between liberals and conservatives is: How? How can we help the unfortunate? Liberals say that we must erect a system of distributive justice and equalize outcomes by force, taking from the fortunate to assist the unfortunate. Conservatives say that we should help the unfortunate as much as possible by voluntary giving and help them as little as possible by force.
Are fortunate people too selfish to help other people unless they are forced?
Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton says no, people are not too selfish. They are perfectly capable of giving, and they do. In “Gratitude and Grace” in The American Spectator, he reminds us of our heritage of kindness and gift-giving. It is communicated in the Christian love of “agape” or “caritas.” It “comes down to us from God. It is received as a gift and then distributed by each of us to our neighbors as another gift.”
When I give something I am present in the gift: it comes from me and is a symbol and an out-growth of the free self that is the moral heart of me. The gift comes wrapped in affection, an out-going of me to you that is created by the very act of giving. Even if the gift belongs to a context of ritual and reciprocity, it is something more than a bargain or a contractual exchange. It is I, going out to you.
In this society, we have a charitable, gift-giving culture, and it comes from our religious heritage.
If we try to fit all this stuff on the Procrustean bed of Michal Novak’s three sectors of society, we see that the political sector is the sector of force and taking, the economic sector is the sector of trust and exchange, and the moral/cultural sector is the sector of faith and giving.
Conservatives say that the bigger the political sector, the more that people will demand their rights, and the more they will slide into a culture of taking, scamming the system like the good people of Massachusetts.
Suspicious of the power of religion, our liberal friends work to fold the moral/cultural issues into the public sector. Thus their welfare state has taken over the functions traditionally performed by charities — education, health care, and relief of the poor. Liberals say that this is what a compassionate society does for the poor.
Conservatives say that compassion has nothing to do with it. When they expand the welfare state, liberals shrink the giving sector and expand the taking sector.
In The Faith Instinct, Nicholas Wade of The New York Times tries to understand religion from an evolutionary perspective. He finds that religion defines the quality of a society.
The quality of a society — its cohesiveness, its freedom from crime, its members’ willingness to help others, the rarity of lying, cheating and freeloading — is shaped by the nature of its morality and the strength of people’s adherence to community standards. Both of these … are set or heavily influenced by religion.
But the secular religions of the last two hundred years have not succeeded in getting people “to help others” or to refrain from “lying, cheating and freeloading.” Their leaders have always chosen the path of big government and thousands of pages laws and regulations: a culture of compulsion.
The great challenge facing conservatives is not merely to roll back an ObamaCare abomination that will corrupt all Americans into emulating the freeloading health consumers of Massachusetts.
The great challenge is to reverse the liberal Culture of Taking and build a movement to restore a Culture of Giving.
Guess who will be leading this movement: women.