Above my pay grade

Rights Reason & Religion — By on March 14, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Yes, the title is a cheap joke.  But I’m in the midst of submitting grades for the quarter, maintaining props for a major theatre production, and writing a thesis for my graduate degree, so I’m in need of some frivolity.  And I am, as a historian, merely a social scientist, living in a culture that values only hard science.

Mulready asks ‘what is the right to life?’  My concise answer: a lot more than the pro-life movement champions.

I was in DC for the inauguration, and on the day when my students and I were scheduled to meet our local House representative on Capitol Hill, the annual March for Life crowded the National Mall.  We arrived just in time for the scheduled concert, and even joined with the various groups marching for the cause of the unborn.

It burdened my heart, however, to see something ugly in that march for what I believe in.  The hateful manner of those marching had nothing to do with the cause of life.  Yes, abortion is the greatest evil of our generation, and yes, it deserves nothing but contempt.  But if we truly care about saving lives, we must change our approach.  Hate only breeds hate.  Grace is transformative, and only grace toward the opposition will change hearts and minds.

Okay, rhetorical critique aside, the question is: what is the right to life?  I have to answer with a quotation from my favorite children’s novel, because it’s in children’s stories we can most clearly see the truth.  We lie to ourselves, but not to our children, which is our saving grace.

At the end of Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes puts a critical line into the mouth of Rab, the revolutionary hero wounded in battle who Johnny idolizes.  When asked what his sacrifice is for, Rab responds: That a man can stand up.  It’s a simple phrase, but it ecompasses great truth.

The right to life must ensure that the weak among us survive.  Darwinism was an attempt to explain observed phenomena, not an attempt to define right action for a species’ survival.  It cannot guide human action.  Of course, I’m presupposing the existence of the soul, but this is a political discussion, not yet a metaphysical one.  With that assumption, however, every human life is precious.  The unborn, who live but live within the protection of a womb, must be protected and nurtured, whether through natural or artificial means.  The weak, the ill, the elderly, must be allowed the best care possible.  We cannot lock them away in substandard care facilities, or sequester them from human society due to inconvenience.

But these should not be controversial (and if they are, I’m writing a thesis on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, so don’t give me an opportunity to unleash my research on that slippery slope here!).  I think, however, that Mulready and I might not find common ground in my next point.

A system that promotes exploitation cannot claim to be a system that fosters the right to life.

Capitalism is a flawed economic system.  Our democratic republic falls into the same moral trap.  Though some (including my esteemed colleague) might claim that it offers maximum freedom and therefore offers the most opportunity to men to act on their greatest virtues, it also rewards those who trample people on their own path to power.  Class warfare aside, what this leads to is a direct violation of the right to life.  Let me illustrate my point with a personal story.

My mother’s mother smoked like a chimney.  Everyone in her generation did, and she was a model and a local talk show host, so she had an image to maintain.  Eventually that led to cancer, as it always seems to do.  Grandma Junie didn’t have health insurance (few did at the time).  When it became apparent she was in serious medical trouble, she tried to purchase it.  The law, on the other hand, in the interest of the free market, allowed health insurance companies to act as they saw fit.  They saw fit not in the interest of aiding the sick, but rather in aiding their pocket books.  They had the power to deny my grandmother treatment due to her ‘pre-existing condition.’  Before they would insure her, they claimed, she would need to go without treatment for six months.  Because she was not independently wealthy, she did.

It killed her.  My grandma Junie died of bone cancer, which had matastasized from lung cancer to breast cancer to bone cancer in the six months without treatment.  On the day of her death, she sneezed and broke ribs from the force of it.  It was painful, degrading, and completely unnecessary.

Did my grandmother kill herself by smoking cigarettes?  Without engaging in a debate on the ethics of the tobacco lobby’s advertising, I’ll admit yes, she did.  Did that justify this painful, humiliating death?  I can’t see how it did.

I realize this is an extremely personal example, and I’ve had more than one person tell me that they literally couldn’t argue with me because I had such a personal, emotional connection to it.  But isn’t that just avoiding the point?  People die because we venerate the free market over human experience.  People suffer so we can retain our economic freedom.

This isn’t the right to life.  It’s the right to stuff.

The last thing Mulready asked was about the government’s right to take a life.  This is hard for me.  I have a rather violent personality.  An eye for an eye makes a lot of sense to me, and grace seems strange.  As a historian, I’m fairly well-acquainted with what evils man is capable of committing.  And that leads me to crave violence in response.  That’s why I don’t let myself see movies like Taken or Last House on the Left.

Why?  Because I know the Gospel is more powerful than my desire for vengeance.  It makes no earthly sense to me, but the sacrifice of Alban, whose head was displayed on the battlements of a Roman fort, means more than a father’s brutal vengeance of his daughter’s abuse.  I want to cheer on Liam Neeson in Taken, but it is more True to pray for the transformation of the villain.  I want catharsis – Christ offers regeneration.

Should the state kill its citizens for the sake of the safety of the rest of them?  Pragmatically, yes.  But I’ve never been a pragmatist.  Killing the enemy doesn’t make anyone truly safe.  Transforming him into a friend does.  As a Christian, I believe this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, but the moment we adminster the lethal injection, or fire the bullet at the terrorist, we end the possibilty that the transformation will ever occur.  And, given the fallibility of the state, the idea of denying that possiblity in even one life frightens me.

What is the right to life?  It is, first of all, the right to the vital elements that sustain it: food, shelter, air, and the like.  But in a bountiful country such as ours, it is also the faciliation of that life.  It is its protection economic, environmental, medical and otherwise.  It is the encouragement of a system that recongnizes these needs and promotes their exercise.

Yes, that’s vague.  Necessarily so.  But we must do it, so ‘a man can stand up.’ ‘



  • Peter W.

    Though I agree that capitalism has problems, I’m not aware of a better solution. What’s your alternative?

  • evelynbakerlang

    There’s certainly not enough space to explain here, and I’m interested to hear Mulready’s and other resonses first, but the short answer is I’m not ready to tear down capitalism. I think the system works well; it just needs something to counter its darwinian character.

  • Peter W.

    I find it interesting that you consider capitalism to be inherently darwinian in nature. As I understand it (and Wikipedia appears to agree, though I admit that’s by no means a final point of authority), capitalism is about allowing private ownership of wealth. Though bad people will use wealth badly, I do not see that this is darwinian, merely what one would expect from sinful humans. Likewise, capitalism allows good people to use money as they see most fit: towards good ends. I see the failure of your grandmother to be cared for not as a failure of capitalism but as a failure of good people to voluntarily come to her aid.

  • evelynbakerlang

    Perhaps I misspoke – capitalism itself, as an idea, is amoral. But it was designed by sinful humans and is exercised by sinful humans, and therefore cannot avoid darwinian tendencies. While I think it can facilitate good action from good people (which is why I’m not calling for anyone to demolish it), I think it also works just as often (if not more so) to facilitate greed and exploitation.

    In my grandmother’s case, I agree that good people failed to come to her aid, but think about it for a moment. The health care system was a well-oiled capitalist machine at the time. People were using health care as a business to turn a profit, and in my grandmother’s case, they acted according to the principles of the free market. My grandmother’s health needs were expensive, and so they denied her coverage. It makes perfect business sense – it makes no moral sense whatsoever.

    That’s why I say that letting the free market operate with as few hindrances as possible isn’t the answer. The free market’s principles led the health insurer to put an accountant in charge of my grandmother’s care, and led him to make a decision based on profit, not standards of medical care. Removing restrictions or oversight would not encourage that company to make a different decision.

  • Peter W.

    It seems to me that moral wrongs can be divided into two categories: positive and negative. Positive wrongs being actively harming someone and negative wrongs being a failure to act to help someone. Government, as I understand it, should be about preventing serious positive wrongs, i.e. murder, rape, theft, etc. If I understand you properly, it seems that you believe that in some circumstances, the government should also prevent negative wrongs, i.e. not providing insurance to someone who desperately needs it. Am I understanding you correctly?

  • evelynbakerlang

    Accepting your categories for the moment, at the least, the government should not encourage negative wrongs. In some instances, it should act to prevent them, particularly when life is at stake. This doesn’t mean that legislation or regulations arethe only ways to do it, of course. Incentives, or even just providing an alternative to the private sector can be effective if done cleverly.

  • Peter W.

    I agree that the government should never encourage any sort of wrong (negative or positive), but where we may disagree is what sort of steps (if any), the government should take to discourage negative wrongs. My concern with legislation and regulation on negative wrongs is that it looks very much like an attempt to force moral behavior which is problematic. I’m generally much more amenable to providing incentives or alternatives, as no one is forced to follow along. However, even here the means of implementation and funding are possible concerns.

  • evelynbakerlang

    This is indeed where we disagree. And really, if government should prevent positive wrongs, that’s still forcing moral behavior, just in a different way.

  • cmulready

    The other concern, when it comes to Governmental interference to prevent “negative wrongs” is that we invest the government with the responsibility of discerning which goods deserve the protection of the state, and which vices cannot be allowed by that same power.

    This is tyranny, not freedom, and it is the price we would have to pay if we would rather trust our government to take on the responsibility of making those personal moral decisions for us (to ensure that everyone is equally moral and fair).

    On the flip-side, the price we pay for our freedom to choose to be good is the presence of selfish and greedy people who take advantage of freedom to the detriment of others. While we can hardly be pleased with this reality, I have to ask…isn’t it more important to have freedom and liberty, and all the potential bad that comes with it, than to attempt to force morality on the populace through government?

  • evelynbakerlang

    But this is just a game of semantics, Mulready. Whether we choose to cede this power to government or reserve it to the people, we are allowing some to determine morality for others. If the government decides that a situation like my grandmother’s doesn’t fulfill the ideals laid out by the Framers, that is, in effect determining morality. On the other hand, if the government stays out of it, that leaves the moral decision in the hands of the insurance company (and I hope we can all agree that still leaves it in the hands of a fallible, potentially tyrannical entity).

    Far better to err on the side of granting too much power to a democratic institution than leave it in hands of individuals who may act as they wish without fear of interference. With our government system, citizens have recourse. There is no social contract theory with an independently wealthy individual or a corporation.

    When you say ‘freedom and liberty, and all the potential bad that comes with it,’ you imply that tyranny dies with a powerful government. History should instead teach us that the state isn’t the only wielder of power. For most of history, it seems it doesn’t matter who holds it, the state or a ruling class (which explains Weber’s pessimism), but if we believe in our Republic, it seems we should have more faith in the structures our Constitution created and those we choose to run them.

    I know, I know. Pollyanna strikes again. But I’m serious about the distribution of power argument. Minimal government oversight and restricted government involvement may spell freedom for some, but will inevitably mean tyranny for others, usually those with the least chance of obtaining justice.

  • http://praeterea.blogspot.com Sam James

    Terrific post. I don’t agree with its main thesis, but this is movingly written and very honest.

    As others have pointed out, I would simply respond by saying that capitalism among sinful humans is the least of many evils. Free market economics presupposes that a populace left to itself will, through the pursuit of individual interests, inevitably provide the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people.

    I would argue that another reason the free market system is superior to others is because, philosophically speaking, it is the system that most allows the community to care for its own. Government is inherently detached and aloof from the personal matters of the citizenry. Free market economics places the impetus on the people and not the system. In the case of your grandmother, I would think that the local church or other community organizations would step in (there’s a theological mandate here for the Christian church, which I won’t discuss).

    I think the emphasis on the people rather than the system is a good thing. I don’t think government can, by its very nature, seriously aid a populace in true social growth and prosperity. To maintain private rights you must maintain private security.

    Just my thoughts. Again, excellent piece.

  • evelynbakerlang

    And likewise, great thoughts in response!

    I want to agree with you and others. I agree that a community caring for its own is the best solution to the problem. The trouble is that it’s hard to find that happening often in history. The norm seems to be humans exploiting each other rather than caring for each other – and I think we can chalk it up to the Fall, but that doesn’t mean we can accept it as inevitable, because we do have examples of humans rising above it.

    It seems that while the best option is to facilitate that communal existence, something needs to stand in the gap. Otherwise we sacrifice living human beings to our ideals. The question is, however, how can we keep a government from becoming a faceless entity? It needs to, in some way, serve the same community function (we do choose leaders from our communities after all).

  • http://existentialchristianity.blogspot.com Tim

    Hi,

    I checked out this blog on a whim, and must say I really enjoyed this post. I agree with your criticism of capitalism; there is no check in a free market system to ensure a corporation or business cares about the external/social cost it is causing by producing (or over-producing) their product. Profit trumps social responsibility, and on very sensitive issues such as smoking, the environment, or the wellbeing of their workers etc., there is a big clash between the two ends. Not to mention the fact that there is a tendency to maximise short-term profit at the expense of the long-term survival of the company. The recent financial crises is a good example.

    I also like that this post contained a criticism of both capitalism and abortion, which is a combination not seen often enough.

  • http://www.laundryandlullabies.blogspot.com Emily

    “Far better to err on the side of granting too much power to a democratic institution than leave it in hands of individuals who may act as they wish without fear of interference. With our government system, citizens have recourse. There is no social contract theory with an independently wealthy individual or a corporation.”

    In my (granted, limited) experience, you have these backwards. One person has little to no recourse against the government. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that I can do about the DMV or the social security office. One person does, however, have some recourse against a corporation – he can take his business elsewhere. The example you chose (health insurance) is somewhat different since the “no prior condition” requirement has been accepted across the board by all companies in the industry. That is troublesome. However, in most cases, competition between corporations makes them surprisingly vulnerable to backlash from disgruntled people.

    Your grandmother’s case is difficult to argue with (as you admitted). And health insurance is a tricky issue because caring for the sick definitely resides in moral territory. I guess I would argue that *people*, not government or corporations, should have been caring for her. The moral failure might not most properly rest on the accountant’s shoulders (he was doing his job and, somewhat perversely, doing it well) but on the shoulders of the doctors who could have treated her anyway, the hospital that could have accepted her as a patient without insurance, and the Church who should have organized on her behalf.

  • evelynbakerlang

    I’m with you in theory, Emily, but theory isn’t where we live. In how many instances do individuals ‘taking their business elsewhere’ in this kind of high stakes situation have any impact on the system at all? And if *people* should have taken care of her… well, I have a number of issues. First, is the accountant not a *person*? How about the doctors who must account for their expenditures in patient care? (caring for a patient regardless of that patient’s insurance coverage is no easy matter given our current system of health care) And my grandmother was a staunch atheist. What church would have taken on such a financial burden? My own home church refused to cover my coverage even after they offered my father an employment contract in which they promised to provide it with full knowledge of the expenses they would take on to do it — and it was the church I grew up in! I was well within the fold. Even if such a self-sacrificing church existed, it didn’t for my grandmother, so at the end of the day, her case still stands as an example of the weakness of the system. No matter what should have happened, a good woman died unnecessarily so the ‘free market’ could rule health care in this country.

    Just like I agreed with Sam James that a community caring for its own is the highest ideal, I agree with you that people must be responsible for each other, not governments or corporations. But how many people are we willing to sacrifice to pure ideology when we know it will never work, and that in fact it, in many cases, encourages the perpetuation of this type of injustice? I can’t do it. It’s every bit as repugnant as sacrificing the life of an unborn child to ideal of female liberty.

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  • cmulready

    “No matter what should have happened, a good woman died unnecessarily so the ‘free market’ could rule health care in this country. ”

    Indeed Lang. And though I cannot express my empathy for your loss strongly enough, I maintain that it is better good people die unnecessarily than that all people be deprived of the liberties that are represented in our flawed free market.

    There will inevitably be people who are worse off by allowing government regulation to take the reins; what is your response to this?

    Emily references the mind-numbing frustration of being at the mercy of government employees for necessities; until you experience this, no description can do it justice…it is enough to make you doubt the system as a whole. How would enlarging these offices and their parameters help those in need?

    And finally…while trying not to insult your old church, clearly they were not a body of integrity (given what they did regarding your health coverage), and if their first priority was not to show assistance and meaningful love to a staunch atheist (who could be in more need of tangible evidence that Christ’s love makes a difference?), that only stresses how little they understood the call of the church, no? Level that as a critique of that church…but not the church as a whole, or of the true theories which teach us that this is the role of the church, not the government.

    We both know people and churches and Christian institutions who have and do and would give of their personal wealth for those in need, strangers or old friends. Surely that assistance is better than food stamps or even additional regulations coldly enforced (or not enforced) by the government?

  • evelynbakerlang

    Oh, I’ve experienced the mind-numbing frustration of being at the mercy of government employees, alright. And I’ve experienced the mind-numbing frustration of being at the mercy of corporate employees, too. I watched my mother argue for a solid month with accountants at a health insurance company that it would be more economical for them in the long run to cover my $21/month medication rather than pay for joint replacement surgery later, which would have become inevitable with my rheumatoid arthritis if it went untreated. Not once in the conversation did the patient’s well-being become a remote consideration – and they were bad at math to boot! I can’t share your optimism in the free market, just as you can’t share mine in government institutions. (And to be honest, both can be pretty broken)

    As for the church – of course my home church was wicked to do what they did. But what church do you know that would take on paying for the extremely expensive health coverage of a cancer patient who isn’t connected at all with the church body? I’d like to think one exists, but where is it? And even in the case that there is one out there, do we say to all the people not lucky enough to live nearby that they must suffer unaided?

    But we can argue distinctions all day. I agree with you that increased government scope will, of course, have it drawbacks, even as it tries to do what its scope was increased to do! That’s the nature of institutions, both government and otherwise. Such an increase would need to be carefully constructed in order to minimize the inevitable damage it would cause. And there are some things that would not be solved by such an increase.

    What appalls me about your response, however, is your statement that: “I maintain that it is better good people die unnecessarily than that all people be deprived of the liberties that are represented in our flawed free market.”

    How is it pro-life to say such a thing? I can understand laying down my life for someone else’s liberty, but I could never ask someone else to do it for mine. How do you reconcile a culture of life with your advocation that would place the unfettered pursuit of material wealth (which is, at its core, what the free market is based on) in a higher level of importance than the sacred gift of life? I can’t even see arguing for my right to be rich enough to buy a hot car over paying taxes that provide homeless children with free lunch at school. Your claim astounds me.

  • Peter W.

    This reminds me of a comment by C.S. Lewis in his essay “Why I Am Not a Pacifist”:

    “The doctrine that war is always a greater evil seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are. I think the suppression of a higher religion by a lower, or even a higher secular culture by a lower, a much greater evil.”

    Of course, the fact that C.S. Lewis said it does not make it true. However, it’s more the general idea that interests me in this context. I think we all agree that there are things worse than death. The question is what things fit into that category. It seems to me that in many ways a loss of certain freedoms could be worse than death.

    Unfortunately, it may well be that in order to ensure these freedoms, we also need to allow for the freedom to do some other bad things as well.

    So to summarize:
    What things (if any) are worse than death?
    How much badness is it worth risking to allow for good things?

  • cmulready

    “How is it pro-life to say such a thing? I can understand laying down my life for someone else’s liberty, but I could never ask someone else to do it for mine. How do you reconcile a culture of life with your advocation that would place the unfettered pursuit of material wealth (which is, at its core, what the free market is based on) in a higher level of importance than the sacred gift of life? I can’t even see arguing for my right to be rich enough to buy a hot car over paying taxes that provide homeless children with free lunch at school. Your claim astounds me.”

    Before I can address your question, I must take issue with your assertion regarding the free market; the free market does advance personal profit, but that is not the sole value justifying such a financial market. If it were, we’d be in agreement…but it’s not.

    The free market is about freedom. It is about the opportunity to build for one’s own future; to win a fortune for yourself, not because wealth is desireable (although, of course, it is) but because with that ability to work for your own better tomorrow comes the opportunity to make a life of your choosing. You can venture out, create, and risk; it is the American dream so many left their homes to pursue; not merely wealth, but the chance to make your own path. The greater the risk, the greater the potential loss or gain. A government that squelches that, in the name of reining in the potential (and all too real) vice of the free market supresses our God-given liberty. Which is the answer to your actual question.

    How is it pro-life? Well, in the words of the Captain of the Axiom, I don’t want to survive; I want to live. Pro-life, as you pointed out, is more than just protecting the unborn. It works in conjunction with the other inalienable rights…and a life without liberty or the opportunity to pursue happiness is not a proper life at all. An environment that allows for those good things will be an environment which allows bad things to happen as well, such as allowing good people to die unnecessarily. Better that than a life controlled by a government who believes itself capable of determining what God-given liberties I should be permitted to enjoy.

    The bottom line is, a government that tries to assert itself to that level–determining how I use my resources, how much profit I should be permitted to make from my services/goods, etc–is a government tyrannically robbing me of my rights…and not even with a certain promise of something better.

  • evelynbakerlang

    But Mulready, your argument sounds great: at the end of it, though, there’s still a pile of dead bodies. I am skeptical of such arguments.

    Of course the free market doesn’t exist solely for the acquisition of stuff. But you cannot deny that its core foundation, the thing that makes it work, is economic freedom – i.e. the unfettered right to accumulate material wealth. We can say what we want about its philosophical foundation, but in practice, it’s about stuff. And at the end of the day, my right to get stuff can’t trump someone’s right to live.

    I’m not talking about creating a socialist state. Actually, I can hardly even say that in this political climate, because like ‘fascism’ the word ‘socialist’ has been hijacked by politicos to mischaracterize and fearmonger against beliefs they oppose. To be more clear, I’m not advocating a massive takeover of all economic systems by government. I’m simply arguing against the view that the market that operates with fewest restrictions is best.

    Which is why I find unconvincing both yours and C.S. Lewis’s arguments in this instance. I completely agree that there are far worse fates than death. But as a Christian, I also know that only God should hold that power. I recognize the sovereignty of God in all matters of life and death (inlcuding my grandmother’s), but I also recognize that in this broken world, He allows us to screw things up. And just as I recognize there are worse fates than death, I also recognize there are worse fates than poverty. Or slavery. We’re not contemplating either, of course, but if even the extreme, unlikely consequences of allowing government to restrict the economic activities of health insurance companies resulted in the absolute worst restriction of economic freedom, it is not so great an evil as you and Lewis make it out to be.

    I find it highly ironic, Mulready, that your answer to ‘how is it pro-life?’ is to quote from the most anti-consumerism film to be released in recent years, by the way. :)

  • cmulready

    :) Just because I support the least amount of governmental restriction and oversight possible doesn’t mean I am opposed to voluntarily choosing to be better stewards. In fact, one necessitates the other, as they say.

    But onwards; God allows men to be both rich and poor. He permits us to suffer and even die; but throughout the duration of our lives, God upholds our liberty; why should we surrender it to any man or group of men when God insists that we retain it?

    Let’s put it another way: you mention slavery as an endurable hardship, and it may well be. We might be able to endure being subjected to another man’s will with regard to our prosperity; but just as I would resist any government trying to take my life unjustly, I would resist any government asserting that it has the right to say how the sweat of my brow should be spent, or how much I can charge for my work, etc. It might be endurable; but surely it’s a hell of a thing.

    Oh, and surely you’re not suggesting that there are NOT a pile of bodies at the end of the road taken by governments that take it upon themselves to regulate private business? Safe to say that each road we take will produce suffering in one form or another; but the free market preserves our Liberty, and that seems to be a prize worthy of enduring hardships to win.

  • evelynbakerlang

    I’m in no way suggesting there’s not a pile of bodies at the end of the road taken by governments. Don’t start my rant on government complicity with economically advantageous warfare. :) All I mean to do is question your acceptance of the lives of people sacrificed to economic freedom.

    I’m curious about why you think God upholds our liberty to free market economics from Scripture. It sounds like something viewed through the lens of the Enlightenment, not something explained to ancient peoples in the ancient world to me. Perhaps it is true, I’d just like to have you connect those dots for me. Why does “render unto Caesar” not apply here?

    And of course we must be better stewards, regardless of government action. But aren’t we placed in a unique time in history in which part of our stewardship is the ability to contribute to the process of policymaking? Why must my power to help my neighbor be restricted to private charitable giving when I have the power to support policy that would stop predatory health insurance companies from condemning people to a lifetime of pain or even death for the sake of monetary profit? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

  • cmulready

    I am going to say more on this topic in my next post, since it is so entertwined with the discussion of liberty; but let me say here that I think there’s a reason Patrick Henry’s declaration lives on in the myths of the Revolution; it is not merely because it was fair sounding bravado. “Give me Liberty or give me death” relates the stark extremes of our war for independence, and the struggle all men would would be free face. Free men, historically, choose liberty over life.

    First, with regard to Caesar and rendering: we are commanded to render unto Caesar, not our neighbors. There is a different, more encompassing command regarding neighbors, and it is in a different spirit that we offer what we have to those around us. Even Israel’s government was not in the business of looking out for the poor; there were levitical laws for the people that addressed those needs, but that was still something different and separate from the government of the Judges or the Kings.

    Also, in as much as our appreciation of the rights that God endowed us with has grown through the centuries, our understanding of how we should preserve those rights has altered with time. Women are equals to men, and a man’s ethinicity does not make him more or less a man. Things change; and the better we understand the nature of the liberty that is common to all men, the more free market economics reflects the reality of our souls. We are at liberty to strive for prosperity. The only reason economic freedom is held up as one of the signatures of a free society is that a nation’s economic freedom is a fair litmus test for liberty and freedom in every other area.

    Finally, you mention the representative nature of our government, and ask why we shouldn’t use this unique relationship private citizens have with the power of the land to further the cause of providing for those in need? The simple answer is, we shouldn’t because that’s not what the government is for.

    Crafting the government in your image is not your civic duty; and while I know you would never aspire to anything so presumptuous, if we allow the government to take up additional power for the sake of furthering the goals of the private citizens who currently wield power, we force the will of those private citizens on all those who are subject to that government, now and in the future…and governments change, but the power is not returned.

    In the case of charities, or even added oversight of insurance companies, it seems that we would trade our liberty as masters of our own prosperity for the hope that we could institute some balance to the vices we perceive. A quick study of these vices should suggest how unlikely we will ever be at instituting any kind of meaningful change; which leaves us to ask why we would turn over more power to the state instead of taking up the challenge ourselves?