Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Defense of Liberty

"Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."

John Adams

"It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . . . degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution."

Thomas Jefferson

"[In a republic, according to Montesquieu in Spirit of the Laws, IV,ch.5,] 'virtue may be defined as the love of the laws and of our country. As such love requires a constant preference of public to private interest, it is the source of all private virtue; for they are nothing more than this very preference itself... Now a government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it . . . Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education; but the surest way of instilling it into children is for parents to set them an example.'"

Thomas Jefferson copied into his Commonplace Book.

"If the public safety be provided, liberty and propriety secured, justice administered, virtue encouraged, vice suppressed, and the true interest of the nation advanced, the ends of government are accomplished . . ."

Algernon Sidney


Finally, something old and something new.

"Today it would be progress if everyone would stop talking about values. Instead, let us talk, as the Founders did, about virtues."
George Will

"Righteousness exalteth a nation."
Proverbs 14:34


Doug Hagler said...

No Chris. Amazingly, all of your selected quotes support your position.


Now I'll make a virtues argument:

Justice would dictate that each should receive their due. The argument for nationalized healthcare is that a person deserves basic health care, which as of now is not provided by our private system. Justice would also dictate that everyone should have access to the same quality of health care, which is also not the case now.

Wisdom has to do with the discernment of the good. The USA has the worst health care system in the entire industrialized world, paying twice as much as others for poor health and low life expectancy. Wisdom alone tells us that we must change our system. If we look at the best standards of living, we look to Europe, and European nations have nationalized healthcare.

Temperance is the virtue of seeking the middle way between unwanted extremes. We have a system, currently, where the cost of health care and the profit margins of health insurance companies are both extreme - ergo, something must change. Even if we take the free health care in other nationalized systems as intemperate, something must be done to temper our current system.

If you think that unregulated capitalism leads to temperance, feel free to lobby to repeal our anti-trust laws.

As for fortitude, endurance of suffering for the sake of the good, it is what we greenie weenies call upon to deal with arguments like "profit-motivated health care is best" despite overwhelming evidence from all over the world to the precise contrary.

It is also what I call upon in the hospital, sitting at someone's bedside while they die a lingering death because our private health care system does not allow them to receive live-preserving or life-saving treatment.

Of the theological virtues, I'll choose love, or in the old-timey sense, charity. It is the love of other people and seeking the good for them. Whether conservatives want to acknowledge it or not, it is primarily charity which drives the push for nationalized healthcare. It isn't government-worship or greed or stupidity or a secret desire to collapse the US economy - all things I've read implied on this blog for example.

So now my virtues rant is done.

Fr. Chris Larimer said...

Scripsit Doug: "Justice would dictate that each should receive their due. The argument for nationalized healthcare is that a person deserves basic health care, which as of now is not provided by our private system. Justice would also dictate that everyone should have access to the same quality of health care, which is also not the case now."

Doug, I was trying to highlight the necessity of personal virtue for the maintenance of liberty. However, my aside on Algernon Sydney's concern for limited government may have made you think the whole thing was about healthcare. My apologies.

But your statement above does not hold true. Justice does not demand equal distribution of goods. Communism does (and it's always failed miserably at it because humans are left in charge); but justice does not.

Nor is there a dictate that basic health care as a human right. There cannot be because basic health care means different things all over the world, and has not existed in any recognizable form until the last 300 years.

Your statement about Americans having the worst health care system in the industrialized world only makes sense if you assume that a health care system is supposed to grant equal care to everyone (part of your justice demand) - and since that was just ipse dixit on your part, will need to be fleshed out further.

However, one of the chief reasons we pay a good deal for our medical care is because we are subsidizing medical research...Europe has flagged behind on this. Look at the number of drugs released in just the past year. Who released them? The US releases more than twice what other countries do because we have the money to advance it. By their own admission, socialized control stymies R&D (just look at how the bottlenecks in the FDA approval process already muck things up).

As for the argument towards charity, I don't think restricting access and future development is charitable at all. The free market is the only one that drives down costs while improving product. That benefits everyone - the charitable thing to do is to let that innovation keep happening. More people can afford healthcare now than could 50-100 years ago. We should expect that to increase at a natural rate. Most people are happy with the access they have now (relatively free care in our nations ERs - admittedly, not the best option for primary stuff; solid support by employer-subsidized insurance; and what they can get on their own) - the administration is looking at a relatively small segment of the population that has no real long-term access and - based on them - going to mess it up for everyone else. That's not just, wise, or charitable.