Friday, July 31, 2009

Natural Law and Government Health Insurance

1. Bureaucrats in the federal government aren't going to take as good care of your health as you and your personal doctor, unmolested by federal interference, would do. The government will waste much more of the wealth inserted into this system than the private sector would. It's wrong to overlook these things and to nationalize the health care system. They are so as a matter of natural law.

2. Outside of contracts, there is only one positive right: the right of the innocent in dire straits in your local community or vicinity to be given simple assistance. Other innocents in dire straits in more geographically and socially distant locations have much less claim to your assistance, but they have some. It diminishes as we move outward until the duty is gone at some distance.

This point of view is treated with contempt by libertarians who think that even your good neighbor who, through no fault of his own, lies badly injured before you has no right to your administering first aid, calling an ambulance, or any other action. The libertarian will agree that you would be rightly branded as callous, mean and wicked; but he balks when it comes to the question, "Did your neighbor have a right to your help?" But the fact is that you would have done wrong by your neighbor and he would have had a right to simple assistance. The censure may be appropriate punishment, but it is punishment for wrongdoing and all wrongdoing violates another's rights.

This position also angers leftists, who believe that you ought to have your wealth redistributed to the destitute, no matter what their social and geographical distance to you. At least libertarians are respectable. Leftists, on the other hand, are rich and give little to the poor, even while maintaining that it is a strict duty to redistribute the wealth. They oughtn't to be taken seriously, especially since there is not a single good argument for their strange position.

But I digress. The point is that #2 is correct and it reflects natural law. The alternatives do not and are not correct.

3. When forced to pay a fixed fee for unrestricted access to a good by a large national government, people will be unrestrained in their use of the good and the system will go bankrupt unless the fee is raised very high or the access severely restricted. The fee will be lower and the access less restricted if the good is provided by the free market at prices set by market forces. It is wrong to overlook this and cause our society to switch from private to public provision of goods. This is so as a matter of natural law.

Morality has contours impressed upon it by its conformation to human nature. There may be other moralities on other planets for other species of people with other natures. Not everything goes, as the meanings of "right" and "wrong" are not utterly ambiguous. But there is some flexibility to these terms across species and, within species, across societies. Yet within any given species, constraints of its nature obtain, rendering certain moral stances untenable. Foolishly running against human nature usually results in calamity. Nor is it that the fool's morality - his communism or what have you - better while we are by nature unable to attain to it. It is not better. It is wrong. It may be right for a species of people with utterly different motivations but it is not right for us.

Yet the lust for power renders one able to fool the foolish and hoodwink the ignorant. Human nature gives us constraints on what is morally suitable for us but it unfortunately does not usually give us the wisdom to be able to maintain our values within those constraints unmolested by the power-hungry and their useful idiots. I can't prove that 1, 2, and 3 reflect natural law here. The proof is in the collective historical wisdom of a society, conserved against the odds and grasped only partially by any of its members, some more fully understanding it than others. If you are unaware of any reason to think that the big-government welfare state isn't made more likely to be disastrous and the free market more likely to produce flourishing by natural law, then you are an example of the imperfection of human nature when it comes to practical wisdom. As a result of this ignorance, innocents will die from having health care withheld from them by the government. And vast sums of wealth will be taken from those who rightfully own it against their will and put into the black hole of government.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

National Food and Shelter Plan: A Proposal

Health care is a right. Every American has a right to health care. This is because health care is a basic need without which one cannot function. Yet, food and shelter are much more basic needs than health care. It is possible to live without health care if you are lucky. But you can't live without the food and shelter.

Health care is a right because it's a basic need. Food and shelter and much more basic needs. Therefore, every American has a right to food and shelter. In addition, food and shelter cost about as much as health care insurance, maybe more.

The analogy is tight. Americans have a right to food and shelter. It's time for a national food and shelter plan. Food and shelter should be provided for a monthly premium, which should be waived for those who can't afford it.

Having paid your monthly premium or had it paid for you by more fortunate Americans, you would simply show up at any grocery store and take your food. The government would pay the grocer to provide you the food.

Now, what the government would pay the grocer would be competitive. Some say that many grocers would fold because their income would drop. But I don't believe that. Others say that there may come a time that rationing of food might have to occur because being able to take whatever food we want simply wouldn't do. This is true, but it's acceptable. We can't all have filet mignon or name-brand cereals. The government will have to dole these out rationally.

This is the kind of vision that really gets to the heart of what it means to be an American: to grow the government very, very big so that it can take care of everything instead of greedy businessmen raping us six ways to Sunday. All men are endowed with unalienable rights to food, shelter, health care and to not having to worry about all those things or about greedy businessmen making a profit off of them. That way, Americans can be free to do what they like, like video games and picnics and hobbies. That's the core vision of American values. That's the American way.

Watch out for reactionaries who don't want government to interfere with and strong-arm business. Those people are fascists.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Natural Law, Secular and Indeterminate

But to get back, let me give you a small taste of what I mean. It's pretty clear once you think about it. Though perhaps we are accustomed to natural law being fully determinate of all issues of right and wrong and also dependent upon the existence of God, neither is the case.

The natural law we're considering here is of course moral law. But take an analogy from biology where we may also speak of natural law. There are certain environmental conditions to which human beings are suited to thrive and others which cause them to do poorly. Just run through a variety of conditions and you'll see this. 4000 degrees Farenheit is inconvenient, as is zero degrees. Oxygen in the air is nice. When there's too little of it, well.... Also, there is a kind of diet which enables us to thrive. You can see that. Rocks and twigs are not so good. An all-meat diet isn't good, either. Etc.

Indeterminacy remains, though how much of it is an open question. How much greens to eat? Equatorial climate, or one more like that of France or Pennsylvania? The question closes up when you press the considerations further and look at anthropological and biological evidence for the suitability of certain environment and diet and the unsuitability of others. An array of different and approximately equally suitable environments and a similar array of diets remain. Yet the complete malleability of human nature as a theory drops out.

Now, is it preposterous to think that social arrangements, ethics, and character virtues are also tethered to human nature? Of course not. On the contrary, it is preposterous to think that human nature is suited to only certain diets and environments but is not a constraint on our choice of ethics and character virtues. This constraint, this tether, is natural law. It has some slack in it. There is more than one decent and admirable set of moral values which fits with natural law. Again, it is an open question how wide the options are. But the more you examine the question, the more it closes.

Let me throw out a value or two:

1. Each person ought to be allowed to act as he prefers and not be forced by others to act in accordance to their preference.

2. Violation of #1 is a forfeiture of one's own protections under #1. In other words, if you force others to act in accordance with your will, you may rightly be stopped.

3. Self-reliance and industry are good, and sloth is bad.

4. One ought to help members of one's community who do not violate principle #1 but who fall into dire straights through no fault of their own.

5. Failure to distinguish between dire straights fallen into through no fault of one's own and dire straights created by sloth and foolishness is bad. One ought not to help the foolish and slothful.

Etc., etc.

There are caveats to all of these principles, of course. There are no moral rules, but only summary rules of thumb. But you get the gist.

How about your values? Are they likely to suit human nature? Or do you suspect they likely violate natural law, while you look away? Do you feel lucky where others have failed repeatedly?

But there is more than human nature working in natural law. There is an analytical core to it. Wanton cruelty is immoral. Small kindnesses done for innocent people are good. These are so by definition. The terms "right", "wrong", "moral" and so forth have meanings which are not utterly inelastic. For example, a bowling ball can't be "what is right." Nor can it be immoral. The point is that there is an analytical definition of "rightness" which constrains morality as well as human nature does. Natural law, then, is the fact that the meanings of moral terms and the kind of creatures we are constrain how it is good for us to live.

In any event, these facts about natural law are so even if God does not exist. Imagine a world in which He does not exist. In that world, these facts are so. Imagine another world in which these facts are so and there is a God who holds human nature constant while attempting to make it the case that these facts about natural law no longer obtain. He fails. Q.E.D. Even God can't make cruelty good and liberty worthless. He didn't make them, respectively, bad and valuable in the first place.

The upshot is that the dismissal of natural law as hopelessly absolutist (i.e., committed to absolute determinacy in all areas of morality) or hopelessly committed to divine command theory is a non-starter.

By the way, progressivism is wedded to that non-starter, just as a matter of fact. If you're a lefty, you need to reform your position to say that socialism and statism are consistent with natural law and even more adherent to it than the alternatives. Good luck with that. Principle #1 is a tough customer. And when you look at the prosperity that has issued from this liberty, you really have problems. Why don't you consider abandoning your desire to be a puppet master, a designer of society? You're in violation of natural law. You might want to reflect on what motivates you. It isn't the plight of poor people. After all, you don't give all your wealth above the poverty line to charity, now, do you? You don't volunteer at the soup kitchen 15 hours a week, now do you? What, then, would drive you to embrace values that fly in the face of natural law?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Federal Government's Authority Over Your Healthcare

The federal government has the right to prevent you from contracting with any agency for health insurance. In other words, you do not have the right to form contracts with another party for the purpose of health insurance coverage unless the federal government gives you that right.

You do not have a right to refrain from purchasing health insurance. If you fail to purchase it, you may be held to be in violation of the law if the federal government so desires. The federal government will then have a right to punish you and force you to purchase health insurance.

American insurance companies may rightfully be prevented from offering health insurance coverage by the federal government. They have no right to offer it if the federal government does not give them such a right.

If the federal government chooses to do so, it may rightfully put private insurance companies out of business by undercutting their premiums by selling federal government insurance policies at a loss. That's legal. The federal government may use such tactics to create a monopoly. It has such a right.

When there is only one insurance company left, the federal government, it will have a right to deny its customers medical treatment. As in Canada and England, the American federal government has a right to withhold medical treatment from its customers.

The federal government can afford to create another federal health insurance program at this time.

In short, rights come from somewhere: the federal government. And money comes from nowhere.
Natural Law and Indeterminacy

The modern American liberal feels a sensation of resentment well up in his esophagus whenever he is told that there are natural laws of morality which are written in human nature and cannot be successfully overridden by conventional morality. He consigns any such notion to antiquated religious zealotry, theocracy, and so forth, waving away any mention of the fact that this country was founded on "the laws of nature" and "inalienable rights." He sees admirable thinkers such as Clarence Thomas as religious zealots and theocrats. He changes the subject when the Founding Fathers are brought up in this connection.

Yet, of course there are natural laws. The Founding Fathers had thrice your intellect and learning. Think twice before you blithely contradict them. Just think for a moment about the real thrust of the leftist's distaste for natural law. Reflect for a moment what might be in your breast with regard to these matters.

You are deeply dissatisfied with traditional American values and ways of life and want the government to create a new social structure in which freedom is vastly curtailed in favor of wealth redistribution. You want rich, white, conservative Christians to have less wealth and power, and you want their wealth and power to be handed over to poor, non-whites who are not conservative Christians. Everyone who subscribes to the existence of natural laws says this is a very bad idea. So, you hate natural law and those who espouse it. This is the attitude which cost 100 million lives for your cause in the 20th Century and ruined the black American family. It's an attitude which kills by having the government of England and Canada deny health care to people who have earned enough money to pay for it and then gotten sick. But you persist. Your moral aspirations are based upon resentment. Think for a moment about what it is that you resent. It's not pretty that you resent it. I won't mention what it is. You know. It's a very dark place to be. Yet, there you are.

There is a way out of your detestable little conundrum. Think a minute. Take a breath.

Natural law does not entail the existence of God or the authority of religion. There is no divine command theory in natural law, which is a good thing, because divine command theory was refuted by Socrates in the Euthyphro 2500 years ago. So, relax. You can continue to hate mainstream American Christianity while accepting natural law.

Also, natural law is not fully deterministic of right and wrong. It sets up a large array of fundamental values which are inalienable from human nature. These have to do with the nature of justice, fair play, family ties, liberty, charity, and so forth. They allow for a considerable degree of flexibility and may be adhered to with equal fidelity by societies of vary different conventional moralities. There is a game with certain rules and structures and avenues of success, but there are many ways to play the games, many styles which take the game in differing directions with acceptable results. This means that a society can decide how it would like to live. In other words, it may maintain loyalty to its cherished values without violating natural law while other societies with different values maintain their values without violating natural law. All this is so, provided that the two societies in question are lucky enough and wise enough to have values consistent with natural law, of course.

So, relax, you can have your atheistic relativism, provided of course you see that the relativism is constrained in scope by natural law. You'll have to scrap the leftism, though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Founding Fathers Quotes

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. -George Washington, Circular to the States, May 9, 1753

A people... who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything. -George Washington, letter to Benjamin Harrison, October 10, 1784

Can you consent to wade through the vile mire of dependency, and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity, which has hitherto been spent in honor? If you can — GO — ...Go, starve, and be forgotten! -George Washington, letter to the Officers of the Army, March 12, 1783

But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. -John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people.... -John Adams, Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. -Benjamin Franklin, April 17, 1787

But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views. -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the, designs of ambition. -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 19, 1787

Liberty is the very idol of my soul, the parent of virtue, the nurse of heroes, the dispenser of general happiness...." -Arthur Lee, The Farmer's and Monitor's Letters to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies 1769

Friday, July 10, 2009

With Apologies to Montesquieu

As virtue is necessary in a republic, and in a monarchy honor, so fear is necessary in a despotic government.... -Montesquieu

But if you want to have a big-government society, then you need to cultivate sloth, ignorance, guilt, envy, and a distaste for self-reliance. You need a people who are spoiled, lazy and dull. For then, not only will they not resist your government, but they will demand it. The alternative of a small, liberty-based government will be incomprehensible and scary to them.