I’m somewhat taken aback by the elephant in the room in America’s healthcare debate. On one hand we hear from the libertarian position that healthcare choices are purely a personal responsibility and there’s no place for the government interference. Some of the more shrill voices equate universal healthcare to slavery. On the other hand we have the descendants of the moral majority taking the high ground in protecting the unborn from death by abortion, and demanding a strong government role in the pro-life cause.
Ironically, both causes are often championed by the same people. The Evangelical community rails against abortion, yet at the same time promotes the gross inequities of American healthcare. Go figure?
This bizarre juxtaposition begins to hint at the shape of our invisible elephant. On the surface of things, American morality assigns each life an infinite value, whether it’s the life of a fetus, the life of a loved one, or perhaps even one’s own life. No price is too much to pay to preserve human life (red blooded American life, that is.) When your child or parent is dying, no stone must remain unturned, no cost is too much for your insurance company to pay, no cost is too much for the government to pay, and ultimately no cost is too much for a moral American to pay. Life is precious, and this is a good thing.
American libertarianism, an evolution of the frontier ethic of self reliance, is one of the core values in our society, and has enabled us to conquer a vast and wild continent. But there’s also a sinister side to libertarianism, the materialistic side which obsesses on what’s “mine.” It posits that people with material wealth possess it because of their own hard work and efforts, and that those who do not labor successfully are, by definition, slackers. Any attempt to “redistribute” accumulated wealth to the slackers is inherently un-American (aka Socialism, Marxism, etc…) In short, supporting the common good is a personal choice, not something that flows from the elected government.
So we have a faction that vehemently insists on the supreme value of human life and we have another faction that prefers to hold fast to 100% of their material possessions, and specifically that the value of their lives as a group is demonstrably (in terms of health outcomes) greater than the value of the tens of millions of …