March 22, 2010

Freedom and Safety - Oxymoronic?

Note: At the time of this posting there are 214 google hits for "et tu Stupak?"
Like many, I got caught up yesterday in the "health care reform" vortex where all the words in quotes above are of questionable legitimacy. The only surprising disappointment - given that the vote was something of a fait accompli - was how Bart Stupak apparently folded "like an accordion" in the words of one blogger, despite Fr. Groeschel's initial enthusiasm for the executive order on Sunday Night Live. For one brief, shining moment I thought "pro-life Democrat" was not an oxymoron.

Alan Jacobs writes:
"I don't see how anyone can be as certain about the effects of this bill as partisans on both sides are. (Not the pols, that's their job.) Vastly ambitious endeavors (going to war, reinventing h. c.) always have significantly contrasting indicators of likely effects. Getting fair & honest assessments of the bill's likely results has been almost impossible; getting them for the actual results . . . yeeesh."
We can say that we don't know what impact the bill will ultimately have but past experience of government programs is that they run way over cost, especially in the realm of health care. My brother-in-law opines:
"Most experts agree one effective way to reduce the overall costs of medical care, some of the burden needs to be shifted onto the person seeking medical treatment -- there's no incentive to reduce costs if it costs nothing to visit the doctor. This bill actually goes the other way, which puzzles me greatly."
Heard one pundit say that the health care situation was ruined by employers paying for it. By shielding the true cost of health care, we were/are not able to make prudent decisions with respect to medical care. Just as we now expect to get our news on the Internet for free, instead of paying for it the form of a newspaper or magazine, we now expect health care to be nearly free. And that's a case where only a grossly inefficient middle-man, the government, can make it "look" free via large taxation and care shortages.

I think part of the reason the debate has been so fierce and polarized is that Americans treasure two things that are, to a certain extent, oppositional: freedom and safety. We can, perhaps, have greater safety in the health care system (except for unborn babies and as long as it doesn't bankrupt us/create doctor deficits), but at the price of some level of socialism. We can see in much of popular Protestant Christianity this hunger for both/and: we want our free will (in which we commit ourselves to Christ when we can make the decision ourselves, not via infant Baptism) and safety ("once saved, always saved"), even though admittedly most evangelicals are firmly in the camp for greater freedom and against socialized medicine.

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