Among the Intellectualoids

Lash and Chain Morality

The last refuge of a self-regarding socialist -- and the only argument left to the Obamacare crowd.

By 3.10.10

Send to Kindle

David Ignatius writes in the Washington Post that President Obama should try to shift the health care argument to what Ignatius calls the high ground: morality. He says that what is lacking is the sense that Congress must act because health care for all is a matter of social justice, "required by our moral conscience." 

Ignatius cites the debate over "don't ask, don't tell" as an example of a policy debate that was finally decided on a moral basis. "By treating the issue as a matter of conscience," he writes, "the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff altered the national conversation." 

First: he has misread the "don't ask, don't tell" debate. The point of militaries is to win wars, not to promote social justice.  If homosexuals mess up military moral and effectiveness by forming sexual (eros) relationships instead of comradely (philia) relationships, they shouldn't be allowed to serve. Whether homosexuals do in fact mess up military effectiveness is a factual question, not a moral one. 

What actually happened in the "don't ask, don't tell" debate was that a number of military brass said that there were, in fact, no functional reasons not to allow openly homosexual personnel to serve in the armed forces.  Whether that's what they really believed is difficult to know.  In this administration it is almost certain, but at least likely, that any military person objecting to having homosexuals serve in the armed forces would be more likely to get a dead fish from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel than see another star on his shoulder. Political correctness isn't something that afflicts only campuses. 

Once the brass could no longer safely articulate a military reason for not having homosexuals serve, then -- but only then -- could they and the politician start grandstanding on the morality question. 

Second: Ignatius says providing basic health insurance coverage to all Americans is the right thing to do.  Of course, by "providing," he doesn't mean just making it available; he means requiring (on penalty of fine or jail) people to have health insurance -- because that's the way of socialism. Oh, and also, it's part of Obama's plan. 

Implicit in Ignatius's position is that a significant portion of Americans is unable to get health insurance today. That is simply not true. 

The number of people without health insurance is said to be 45.7 million. But a little fact-checking of the kind we know Ignatius to be capable of reveals that many of those uninsured have chosen not to be insured. Ten million of those 45.7 million have incomes of $75,000 or more.  Eight million have incomes between $50,000 and $75,000.

Suddenly, Ignatius's concerns seem less altruistic. Now we begin to understand why penalties are necessary to achieve full coverage.  Those 18 million people tend to be young and healthy and least in need of medical care, which is why Ignatius would have them follow orders to buy health insurance.  His morality hath taken on a strange hue. 

The Census Bureau also reports that about ten million of the uninsured are not U.S. citizens.  Raising the question, how far must our morality extend?  Must we cover everyone… including the bankrupt Greeks?

Fourteen million of the 45.7 million uninsured are poor and low-income people who are eligible for already existing government programs (Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP), but fail to enroll in them.

So who's left?  About eight million people, who can't get health insurance (the arithmetic is a bit fuzzy because there's overlap in the categories.)

So: in order to provide health insurance to less than 3 percent of the population we must mount a moral crusade to change the entire American health system?

That's not morality. That's madness. But madness is a medical term. 

The political term is socialism. And if the 20th century taught us anything, it was that there is nothing moral about socialism. 

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Daniel Oliver is a Senior Director of White House Writers Group in Washington, D.C. He served as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Ronald Reagan.