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Obama's World Without Giving

by Christopher Chantrill
April 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

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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 pre-existing 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 that 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 only be achieved by political will expressed through government programs. That’s because the order of mutual benefit and exchange doesn’t benefit all the 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 in Christianity.

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 are shrinking the giving sector and expanding 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, 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.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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