Posted by: Loran Blood | August 13, 2013

Obamacare: Ground Zero

My general position here is that, as in all other aspects of the the human, mortal world, political ideologies, perspectives, and policies must be able to pass gospel scrutiny before they can claim, or anyone can claim for it, intellectual or moral legitimacy.  This should, for Latter-day Saints, be little more than pedestrian.  Our relations with our family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers etc., are all mediated by gospel principles.  Our business activities are mediated by gospel principles.  Our entire negotiation of the mortal experience, from the environment we create in our homes, the media/entertainment we allow entrance into our minds; the language we use, aspects of the philosophies found in the world we chose to retain or discard; our manner of dress and deportment, all of these and more are mediated and conditioned, at their core (if we are serious Latter-day Saints who take the gospel seriously), by the teachings of the church and the words of the Lord’s living oracles in our age.

Politics, which seeks to answer the question of how we should live together in an organized, civil society and negotiate our differences and uniqueness of perspective and predilection in an appropriate and workable way, and which imposes upon others our desires and conceptions of a legitimate society and state by the force of law, is a place in which, one would think, gospel teachings had a central role.

Often, however, LDS and others assert a separation between the gospel and politics, claiming that, somehow, any and all political positions, policies, ideologies, and perspectives are compatible with the church (the “big tent” theory of church membership) regardless of the actual content or their ideas.  This is opposed by what I’ll just call the “straight and narrow” theory, which is simply that politics, as with all other aspects of the human condition, are subject to critical inspection in relation to gospel principles.  If found wanting, they must then be rejected as incompatible with “light and truth,” or with intelligence, in a gospel sense (intelligence being both “light and truth” and “the light of truth” or that which discerns, exposes, and reveals truth, as a lamp illuminates a dark room).

With the teachings of the church as our template and fundamental frame of reference (in combination with education and learning out of “the best books,” rigorous critical analysis of competing arguments, and a calm, mature, reflective mind as free of the consuming flames of emotion as possible), we can approach politics through the prism of “the highest in us,” rather than the basest.

We can, for example, look at Obamacare through a gospel lens.  As with all forms of socialist or socialistic legislation, there are two fundamental ways of looking at Obamacare.  The first is to see it as “free” healthcare from cradle to grave (security) paid for by the state in which everyone will have equal access to care and in which no one will be denied care they need because they cannot afford to pay.  In this vision, market forces, the individual decisions and needs of several hundred million citizens (the market itself), and the laws of economics are the enemy, and must be overridden by government decree.  The fundamental principles of economics can be overruled and waived by political will and popular, democratic clamor.

In another vision, the same policy is seen as costly healthcare paid for through either rising taxation or through inflation from cradle to grave in which everyone (based on a wealth of historical knowledge relating to this kind of system) will have equal access to a system of healthcare of ever declining quality and availability (which means, in practice, that the terms “equal access” are deceptive in that as the availability of care decreases (through chronic shortages of medical equipment, drugs, and doctors as well as outright denial of care to patients subject to catastrophic illness as rationing of care sets in) its technical equal access becomes moot.  The laws of economics and the personal decisions and needs of each individual/family is respected as containing much greater diffused social and economic intelligence than the centralized “rational” planning and decision-making of distant bureaucrats and politicians who themselves have little if any understanding of medicine, medical practice, or of economics.  There is no “free lunch” in this understanding, as it is understood that each and every cost incurred in the delivery of medical services must be paid for by someone at some point.  How those costs will be borne and who will bear them is important for this vision, as an economy is a systemic human phenomenon.

In this vision, Obamacare (or anything resembling it) is both comprehensively dishonest and morally repugnant.  The reasons for this are apparent.  The ACA itself was “rammed” through congress without anything approaching adequate time for the vast majority of elected representatives to actually read and digest the bill and its provisions, with certain major political figures openly dismissing having read the bill before voting on it as ludicrous.

Many of its major provisions, as 2013 approaches, have or are now being either modified to push their implementation beyond the next mid-term elections or waving them outright (thousands, thus far) for specified, singled-out entities.  The stalking horse aspects of the bill – to create a intermediary system that will push most citizens out of their employee – provided plans, essentially destroy the private health insurance industry, and move the bulk of the population, eventually, into a thoroughly socialized, single-payer system –  have become apparent.

The long known and well-understood weaknesses and failures of similar systems (particularly in Canada and Britain, where the the levels of government control are the greatest), including chronic shortages of equipment, drugs, and procedures (including doctors to provide them), critically long waiting times, and skyrocketing costs (effectively hidden from the voters by the the nationalization of the system itself) are ignored in the class-war imbued rhetorical cauldron of “rights” and “equality.”

Now, in the gospel, we would, at first, expect politicians to be wholly honest and forthright in the presentation of their ideas and policies, and to let the chips fall where they may on the merits.  Our critique, from a gospel perspective then, is going to be

1.   The promoting of thousands of pages of legislation altering completely an entire sector of the economy and each citizens relationship to it without many of those promoting it having any real idea of its implications or consequences.

2.  The deceptive and/or tendentious nature of the arguments used to promote and defend the legislation.

3.  The very real economic and moral consequences of Obamacare and its next phase, a fully socialized, single-payer system, consequences of which there is a substantial literature and that has been well understood for generations.

So the first gospel critique is one of honesty and intellectual integrity, fundamental to all human relations and to our relations with ourselves, those we see in the mirror each day on at least several occasions.

The second critique is going to be one of underlying political philosophy grounded in the inspired constitutional framework of the nations and section 134 of the D&C.  The Founders intended – and from within a gospel context this represents the most advanced concept of what it means for government to be legitimate – that we were to live under a minimal state; a severely limited and clearly constrained state that was powerful enough to engage in its central responsibilities (primarily internal and external defense) but not powerful enough to invade and colonize much of the private life and decisions of the individual citizen and his family.  Obamacare, like the New Deal, Great Society, or Roe v. Wade before it (or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) seeks to define access to a number of specific goods and services as a “right.”  This kind of “right,” however, unlike the constitutional variety that asks each of us not to interfere with or violate the unalienable rights of others within the same body politic, asserts a preemptive claim of all against the property, wealth, time, talents, and liberty of all others; it indemnifies each citizen and his descendents for the costs of the medical care of others through the coercive force of the state and against the will of those who’s time, talents, and property have been co-opted and commandeered by the state for that purpose.

This kind of “right,” in other words, unlike the classical liberal kind, imposes claims of right against and in competition with the rights of one’s neighbors.  It sets up, as do all socialistic initiatives, a system of conflicting rights within which the state must decide, at some point, who’s rights are greater (which animals are more equal) and who’s of less overall value (the “value” here is to the idea of “the common good,” not what is of greater value to the individual in his own particular circumstances and context).  Obamcare takes individual responsibilities and choices, transfers them to the state, pays for them by shifting wealth around within the economy and hiding this shifting as “free” healthcare, and creates another preemptive claim by the state upon the wealth, property, and productive labor of the individual citizen, and hence his time, talents, abilities, and life, under penalty of punishment by law if not obeyed.

None of this, it appears to me, can so much as pass the sniff test of the teachings of the restored gospel.  First is the intellectual dishonesty and tendentiousness that surround and interpenetrate the entire initiative.  Secondly are the legion of violations of both the letter and spirit of the constitution, a document understood by LDS to be an inspired model of political and economic organization and universal in application.  Thirdly are the grosser impositions upon the agency, choices, and liberty of the individual in making each, without his consent, the sacrificial lambs of his fellow citizens, and they to him.  Fourth is the moral implications of the decline and deterioration of both access to and quality of healthcare, deterioration that those who supported and promoted this legislation could not have been unaware of in other nations that have followed the same policies.  The lust for power and control is, as Joseph Smith reminds us, in ” the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose…”  The present government of America, as with much of the rest of the Western world, is already far beyond “a little authority” to the point at which the concept of representative government is becoming little more than lofty rhetoric.  Those within it, all too often now, are willing to wield that authority, and expand its reach, without limit or understanding of its ultimate effects (or with such understanding, which is what should truly concern us).

Hence, we place Obamacare outside gospel boundaries on moral, general ethical, and rational grounds, as founded, no matter the good intentions of some, in a body of falsehoods and fallacies, economic, philosophical, and, ultimately, spiritual.


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