Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chief Justice Ockham


So, it’s time for recriminations.  Whom to blame?  I nominate Chief Justice John Roberts.  Not for Obama’s victory, but for ensuring, single-handedly, that the consequences of that victory will be as devastating as possible.  For the future of Obamacare now seems assured.  The Affordable Care Act is the heart of the president’s project of radically transforming the character of the American social and political order.  As Justice Kennedy put it, the Act “changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in [a] very fundamental way.”  It was rammed through Congress in an act of sheer power politics, without bipartisan support and against the will of the American people.  It is manifestly unconstitutional (Roberts’ sophistical attempt to show otherwise notwithstanding -- more on that presently).  It is a violation of the natural law principle of subsidiarity that will exacerbate rather than solve the problems it was purportedly intended to address, and it has opened the door to an unprecedented attack on the freedom of the Catholic Church to carry out its mission.   And it will massively increase the already staggering national debt.  Roberts, a conservative and a Catholic who no doubt personally opposes the Act, had the power to stop it, the constitutional basis for stopping it, and indeed the moral right and duty to stop it.  And instead he upheld it, leaving the election of a new president the only realistic alternative way of stopping it.  Now that path too is closed.

As was revealed after the Court’s decision was handed down, Roberts had in fact initially voted to strike down the Act’s crucial individual mandate, but changed his mind, apparently for fear of the political repercussions of such a decision.  As Charles Krauthammer has suggested, Roberts’ theory that the individual mandate amounts to a “tax” -- a claim that President Obama had himself repudiated and which is at odds with the language of the bill -- was essentially a way of avoiding negative political repercussions while reworking the law so as to make it consistent with the Constitution.  This, Krauthammer says, was Roberts’ solution to the problem of reconciling his commitment as a conservative to upholding the Constitution with his interest as Chief Justice in keeping the Court from being perceived as politicized.

In fact, of course, rewriting the law from the bench -- which is what Roberts essentially did -- is the opposite of conservative or constitutional, and to do so for fear of how the Court might be perceived just is to politicize the Court.  Roberts “reconciled” his competing imperatives only by ruthlessly ignoring both at once.  It was an act of willful legislative fiat worthy of the voluntarism and nominalism of William of Ockham, or indeed of the Hobbesian sovereign who is the political offspring of Ockhamite metaphysics.  It was an act of naked power which served to uphold another act of naked power, which will in turn facilitate the federal government’s engaging in further acts of naked power.  

Roberts has perhaps done as much damage to the causes of conservatism and limited government, and to the liberty of the Church, as has any other man in American history.  His legacy, as much as Barack Obama’s, was cemented yesterday. 

306 comments:

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W.LindsayWheeler said...

"There is nothing compatible between Christianity and Socialism." ~ Pope Pius XII.

"True American Liberalism utterly denies the whole creed of socialism." ~ Herbert Hoover, The Challenge to Liberty.

What did Chief Justice Roberts do? He legitimized National Health Care that had its origins in Communist/Socialist/Leftist propaganda.

Clearly from the two quotes above, it is seen that both a Catholic Pope and a former president of America state that socialism is incompatible with the American setup and with traditional orthodox Christianity. Yet, here is a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of America, and a Roman Catholic just legitimize something that is socialist. Not only does Chief Justice Robert not know anything about traditional Catholic teaching, he really doesn't know anything about America as well. This is scandalous. Is this type of people we put out? Ignoramuses? Is this man not only a failed Catholic but committing treason as well? Ohh-boy! And can it not be fair to say that Chief Justice Roberts has a thorough education in Catholic Natural Law theory and in Catholic Social Justice? Of Course!!!! So this means that Catholic Natural Law and Catholic Social teaching counterdicts what Pope Pius said and Herbert Hoover!

Here is the Catholic Compendium on Social Justice: These demands concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State's powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom[350].

So, Chief Justice Roberts implemented and authorized The Catholic Compendium of Social Justice.

Today, furthermore, given the worldwide dimension which the social question has assumed, this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future”[385].

So we have a guy who doesn't know what this country is about and is ignorant of the traditional teaching of his Church in regarding socialism and he uses something that quotes the """natural law""" 21 times!!!

Truth is in Consistency. The Consistent teaching of the Church. The Consistent teaching of the Church is the condemnation of socialism. What the term "social justice" means, is Marxism. I'm glad the Magesterium is so smart. Boy are they on the ball!

Crude said...

Yet, here is a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of America, and a Roman Catholic just legitimize something that is socialist. Not only does Chief Justice Robert not know anything about traditional Catholic teaching, he really doesn't know anything about America as well.

Wheeler, are you aware that Roberts wrote a majority opinion striking down this law, before he wrote a majority opinion supporting it?

Roberts isn't ignorant. He knew what he was doing. That's rather the point of the OP.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Yes, and no. Yes I knew that and no I didn't figure that into that post. It slipped my mind. Does it really change what I wrote? Let me think on this. I already pointed out in an earlier post that his change due to pressure was a sign of his lack of manliness, i.e. a lack of virtue which is a character flaw. He is obviously lacking in virtus.

That is why Socrates in Plato's Republic was adamant about Virtue. One can't do the Good without Virtue. It is Holistic.

Anyway, let me figure out this conundrum.

Tony said...

Crude: please do not feed the hyenas.

Daniel Smith said...

Some random thoughts on the ongoing Crude/Rank debate:

1) What about the fact that government mandated "charity" lessens charitable giving? (see Europe)

2) If a government mandate puts charitable organizations out of business how does that jibe with Natural Law?

3) Why does the onus fall only on the insurance company?

4) The individual mandate requires all to purchase health insurance but does not specify which insurance company. If only the largest insurance companies will be able to 'take the hit' and cover pre-existing conditions then small companies will fold. An attempt to centrally control the healthcare industry would then essentially monopolize it. Is that a "good" thing?

5) Can a corporation sin?

6) Can a government sin?

7) Is it a sin to take money by force from one person and give it to another?

dguller said...

I think that what Rank is trying to say is the following. If one accepts the following proposition:

(1) Denying health care coverage to those with pre-existing conditions is immoral, because each individual has the natural right to health care

Then

(2) If an insurance company denies health care coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, then that insurance company is engaging in immoral activity

The fact that insurance companies necessarily must exclude those with pre-existing conditions in order to survive at all is irrelevant from a moral standpoint. Arguing in such a way would be equivalent to saying that since torture companies require torture victims in order to survive, then torture victims must be provided to them. The survival of the insurance companies – or torture companies – is irrelevant from a moral standpoint, if what they do is fundamentally immoral at its core.

And this would be a huge problem if the only way to provide health care was through private insurance companies. Fortunately, given the existence of socialized medicine, it is not the only means to provide health care to individuals.

Tony said...

dguller, maybe that's what he is trying to say, but we simply reject that (1) is valid, because of what you point out, and for other reasons as well.

Let's re-phrase it to show some of its weaknesses: When a patient with a pre-existing illness applies for a NEW health care policy with a company X that he has no prior relationship with, for X to deny granting him a new health care policy is immoral, because each individual has the natural right to seek health care, and the patient can only get health care by first having a new insurance policy with X.

The number of gaps, holes, and outright errors that (1) needs to be filled before the premise works to lead to (2) is, as they say, non-trivial.

Crude said...

Saying that 'everyone has a natural right to health care' doesn't do the job, and there are vastly more options available than 'either we have socialized medicine, or health care insurance companies'. Even Rank would concede that intervention can in principle (and often in practice, though of course maybe not often enough) come from a variety of sources: individuals. Family. Communities. Local governments. Churches. Charities. state governments. Federal governments.

Crude said...

Let me stress what I just said, because it may be getting lost in the shuffle here.

When person X needs health care they can't afford, there's a lot going on, because there are many people who can, in principle, pay for their health care. Maybe a doctor could treat them for free, of his own accord. Maybe their family could pay. Maybe their friends, individually or as a group. Maybe their community. Maybe a wealthy unconnected benefactor. Maybe a charity. What I reject, and what I think is easy to reject on natural law, is the suggestion that there's a single clear agent who bears the moral responsibility (medical insurance company paying out of assets banked for catastrophic coverage), such that if they fail to pay, the situation is the fault of that company's employees, or even some abstract concept 'capitalism'.

It's not that clear cut.

Mr. Green said...

Tony: What sins, oh Lord, have we committed, that should we be punished with the presence of the wheeling fathers of lintons?

Probably it is the freewheeling ramble of laissez-faire argument that has not proceeded in an orderly manner from definitions to premises to logic to conclusion. The problem with threads like this is that they end up going around in circles because nobody wants to sit down and agree on exact definitions of terms like "capitalism" or "insurance", or spell out all the steps of the argument, etc. Very unscholastic of us.

(P.S. I have appreciated several of your contributions to this discussion in particular, precisely because they work on spelling out the applicable principles and drawing out some of the relevant distinctions instead of just stating conclusions or counter-examples. Would that all the replies tried to be as careful....)

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: Tony, you seemed to just argue from authority in that last bit of your post.

That was in response to a claim by RS that was not really supported (effectively making it an implicit appeal to his own authority). It is fair to weigh one authority against another (a bunch of Catholic Popes definitely have the edge here). And it's not wrong to argue from authority anyway — it's just not as strong as a nice foolproof mathematical deduction. If the authority is acknowledged as such and you disagree with him, that's at the very least a strong hint that you might have gone wrong somewhere, enough to give you pause for thought.

Mr. Green said...

Donald Mac: Nothing about the Act forces Catholics to use contraception.

But it does — just not to use it on themselves. If you take the wages I pay you and go hire a hit man, that is on your head. But if I hire the hitman and tell him you've got a job for him to do, I am an accomplice. It is no good for me to add, "...but don't tell me whom you're gonna whack, I don't wanna know!" The dividing line is not even a particularly obscure one in this case; the principles of remote vs. proximate and formal vs material co-operation are far from new.

Joe K. said...

Crude,

For what it's worth (and I'm not sure how much it is worth this late in the conversation), I basically agree.

Mr. Green said...

Rank Sophist: Like I said, this is all to make a point, and it doesn't reflect my own views. I'm showing that you can't reconcile capitalism and natural law. That's it.

After reading all the posts, I think I'm more confused than when we started. And I really do insist that to get anywhere we need to go back to the beginning and proceed very slowly. Starting with a definition of "capitalism" that we can agree on. If "greed" is part of that definition, then certainly it will not be compatible with natural law, but of course that word is not cited in any of the dictionaries I have to hand. Also definitions for "maintaining health" (presumably eating vegetables and exercising) vs. "medical care" (surgery), and so on....

Because giving all 20,000 would go against temperance and diligence (you have a right to provide for your children), and giving 0 or merely 100 would go against mercy, charity and possibly justice. It isn't pulled out of thin air--it's the way natural law and virtue ethics operate.

That is pulled out of thin air. Or perhaps you can supply the formula you used to arrive at a figure of $5,000? Let p stand for the amount of money collected, c stand for the cost of the medical procedure, y₀ the present, y₁ the end of the applicable time-period, ℒ for Natural Law, and Vᵉ for Virtue Ethics.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Mr. Green is the OP about health care?

Or is it about the failure of a Roman Catholic to discern the truth---and then stand by it?

Is there a Rule of Law in this country?

If John Roberts was afraid for the image of the Supreme Court if he struck this down, or was being black-mailed---

Then WE DON'T live in a country with a Rule of Law but Ochlocracy--the Rule of the Mob. For surely, this is the case. Chief Justice Roberts was SCARED. He was Afraid. John Roberts was afraid of the MOB. The Menace of the Herd.

To be afraid of an unrighteous thing is to be coward. You can't have Truth with cowardice. Truth does not come by the mouth of a coward. The Man lacked Virtue. The OP is not about health insurance or what does the natural law say about giving everybody health insurance, this thread, the OP is about the failure, the vice of cowardice in a Catholic holding high office.

As a stupid lowly enlisted Marine aboard an aircraft carrier, I'm expected to do my job and carry out my duties. Did I fail in my duties as a lowly private or NCO?

Here you have a distinguished Jurist, a Roman Catholic holding one of the highest offices of the Land---and he proves a coward.

I'm the only person bringing up this. No person is addressing the person of John Roberts. Every single Bishop and priest has a philosophy degree. Each one of them has read Plato's Republic--yet it seems nowhere in the Catholic experience from the pulpit to the Catholic schoolroom, is "Virtue" mentioned. Is Virtue a dead letter? What is the importance that Socrates attaches to Virtue for philosophers in the Republic? Why did Socrates attach so much significance to Virtue? Why?

Do any of you know? Can a person do philosophy without Virtue? Can you do The Good without Virtue? Do you understand the mechanics of Virtue?

This is all kind of idiotic on a philosophers blog---there is NO discussion of Virtue in the gaining of Truth and The Good! If you have NO understanding of Virtue and its importance--- you can not possibly understand anything about Philosophy.

And to the "Rank Sophist" philosophy is not some straining-out-the-gnat mental gymnastics. If you don't have the Character, you can't do The Good. And yet all these classes on Plato's Republic---and you all STILL don't understand a d#$@m thing.

Tony said...

That is pulled out of thin air. Or perhaps you can supply the formula you used to arrive at a figure of $5,000? Let p stand for the amount of money collected, c stand for the cost of the medical procedure, y₀ the present, y₁ the end of the applicable time-period, ℒ for Natural Law, and Vᵉ for Virtue Ethics.

Now that there is a classic. CLASSIC, I tell you!

Crude said...

Joe K,

It means a lot actually coming from yourself. I forget if I ever got to mention how much I appreciated your past inputs on matters of morality and culture, so if I didn't before, well, here I'm doing it now.

I sympathize with some of Rank's motivation here. I am no defender of unrestrained capitalism (elsewhere I get the great 'You're a Catholic Socialist!' charge).

Joe K. said...

Crude,

Oh wow, thanks. I didn't expect that praise at all. The appreciation is appreciated!

No, I likewise understand where Rank is coming from. I fear the day when I get the call from my uninsured (because of pre-existing conditions) mother that she is very ill and will need to check in to a hospital. Things aren't great, but I'm surely not prepared to make claims that equate capitalism with greed, full stop, or that anything related to capitalism (or the desire to stay in business) necessarily violates natural law, etc. etc. It's way too over the top.

At any rate, if I were Rank, I'da dropped the Greed stuff early on and been more specific in my terms. He almost started to sound like one of those strange and completely unreasonable utilitarians at some points during the exchange. But I don't mean to be condescending toward him or anything; I like Rank. He should have just attacked this from a different direction entirely.

OPNY said...

I've never seen someone get called out quite like that for being a liar and a plagiarist. That was awesome.

Verbose Stoic said...

Rank Sophist,

It took me a while to get back here, but I think you misunderstood my argument. We both agree that insurance companies having the policy that they will not cover pre-existing conditions is not in and of itself immoral (and might even be morally demanded). So, the only question comes down to SPECIFIC cases. And from there, I agree with you that if someone has absolutely no other choice and will die without it, it would be immoral for the insurance company to deny coverage.

The question, then, is when that is.

You argue that the simple act of asking obligates one to give if they can or else violate the maxim of sensitivity to mercy. I ask if it still is that to point someone to a person or institution that is better equipped and/or is more closely morally responsible to give and tell them to try there first, and only come back if that fails. For example, if someone is claiming that they don't have money for rent, is it insensitivity to mercy (in Canada) to point them towards welfare first before giving them the rent money? I don't think so, as you are still pointing them in the right direction to have their needs satisfied by an institution that is not only better equipped to do it -- having government funding -- but which in fact has the precise purpose of doing that.

The same, then, can be asked of this case. Is it not the case that family, friends and doctors have more of a responsibility and may well be more equipped than the insurance company to provide that care, even if that person cannot afford it? Asking, I argue, does not obligate you to provide precisely what they are asking for, and because of the reasons for having pre-existing conditions not covered insurance companies seem to have less of an obligation than others.

BTW, you talk elsewhere about under the current system doctors having to work under the insurance system and so not being able to do it except through insurance. I don't know a lot about the U.S. system, but I don't think that's true. I know that they do always ASK about insurance, but my understanding was that that was just to ensure that they got paid. If someone who was, say, provably a millionaire and so clearly capable of paying for their treatment walked in and didn't have insurance, I find it highly unlikely that the hospital or doctor would turn them away, which puts the onus squarely back on the hospitals again.

dguller said...

Crude:

Saying that 'everyone has a natural right to health care' doesn't do the job, and there are vastly more options available than 'either we have socialized medicine, or health care insurance companies'. Even Rank would concede that intervention can in principle (and often in practice, though of course maybe not often enough) come from a variety of sources: individuals. Family. Communities. Local governments. Churches. Charities. state governments. Federal governments.

First, do you disagree that everyone has the right to healthcare? And if not, then why not?

Second, I agree that there are lots of other options, but notice that relying upon any kind of governmental program, whether local, state or federal, would count as socialized medicine, because the entire population under that government pays taxes that are used to manage the health care system under the government’s jurisdiction. And as for relying upon other individuals, family, friends, communities and charities, I just don’t think that’s feasible. If it were, then no-one in American without health insurance would die due to lack of healthcare. After all, they could just go to a charity and everything would be fine! The best option is for a governmental healthcare insurance plan. In Canada, where I live, they are provincial insurance plans, but the bottom line is that everyone pays into it through our taxes so that everyone, with or without pre-existing conditions, has already bought into the plan and thus has access to it.

rank sophist said...

Looks like everyone agrees that this should proceed in a more orderly manner. I agree. From the start, I should have done a better job presenting my case and defining my terms. As a result, I'm not going to go point-for-point with Crude's last comment--I'll hit the big ones, like Tony's, so we can get this cleared up. Also, I'm with Crude on Joe's past contributions--absolutely fantastic, although I don't remember if I said so at the time.

Let's go back to basics. Natural law provides for (limited, within certain boundaries) private property. All classical commentators agree. Private property conveys on the owner the stewardship right to decide how to use it - that's what we mean by "private property".

We both in agreement here, of course.

There is nothing contrary to natural law going on here.

And I'd agree with you. But there also isn't anything here that wasn't present in the time of feudalism. Capitalism, particularly the free-market variety endorsed by modern conservatism, is far more involved than the example you've presented. We'll return to that shortly.

Specific features of specific workings out of capitalism in various cultural settings can be immoral or against natural law, not because capitalism is against natural law as such but because THAT way of doing capitalism, in THAT cultural context, manages to defeat natural law principles that place private property in a larger context. But the fact that specific workings in certain cultural settings is bad doesn't mean capitalism itself violates natural law.

What you're saying is that capitalism does not violate natural law in theory, even if it usually does so in practice. This is similar to the argument presented by neo-Marxists in favor of communism: "It isn't supposed to end in totalitarianism on paper, so let's keep trying it until it works as advertised!" It's also, to use a coarser metaphor, a bit like visiting a strip club with a blindfold. You aren't sinning (yet), but you've made the mistake of getting in with the wrong crowd--something Christian thinkers have warned against for centuries. Sources of temptation are supposed to be avoided as much as possible. Eventually, the urge to remove the blindfold is going to become overpowering. One might refer to this as a prudential argument against capitalism, although it is fairly weak compared to the ones below.

rank sophist said...

No, that's wrong. The essence of capitalist business is to organize aggregated resources to produce something of value in a better way than would be done without that organized aggregation.

As I said, your example does not do capitalism justice. Wikipedia breaks it down better than I could:

Capitalism is defined as a social and economic system where capital assets are mainly owned and controlled by private persons, where labor is purchased for money wages, capital gains accrue to private owners, and the price mechanism is utilized to allocate capital goods between uses. The extent to which the price mechanism is used, the degree of competitiveness and government intervention in markets distinguish exact forms of captialism.

And:

The defining feature of capitalist markets, in contrast to markets and exchange in pre-capitalist societies like feudalism, is the existence of a market for capital goods (the means of production), meaning exchange-relations (business relationships) exist within the production process. Additionally, capitalism features a market for labor. This distinguishes the capitalist market from pre-capitalist societies which generally only contained market exchange for final goods and secondary goods. The "market" in capitalism refers to capital markets and financial markets.

And:

The accumulation of capital refers to the process of "making money", or growing an initial sum of money through investment in production. Capitalism is based around the accumulation of capital, whereby financial capital is invested in order to realize a profit and then reinvested into further production in a continuous process of accumulation.

Now, we're agreed that your description of business is perfectly legitimate. Nothing in there violates natural law--or changes things from feudalism. But capitalism also necessarily involves (1) the continuous expansion of wealth through investment and return; (2) control over the "price mechanism", through which sellers decide the price offered to buyers; and the buying and selling for profit of the means of production themselves. Let it be clear that this last one is not contained in your example, because labor is not a capital good. Rather, we're talking about the building, buying and selling of factory equipment, for instance. Pay attention to that detail, because it's going to become important soon. (Also, I'd like to add at this point that usury must be legal for modern free-market capitalism to be possible, and Aquinas argues that this practice is immoral, as we'll see below.)

rank sophist said...

In the ST (here), Aquinas discusses (1) in fairly negative terms. Regarding the act of investing to earn a profit (that is, buying low and selling high), he says that the practice is "justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity." He quotes Augustine as saying that "this jester, either by looking into himself or by his experience of others, thought that all men are inclined to wish to buy for a song and sell at a premium. But since in reality this is wicked, it is in every man's power to acquire that justice whereby he may resist and overcome this inclination." As a result, Aquinas says that being a "tradesman"--someone who is in the business of buying low and selling high--is fundamentally sinful. However, he clarifies that it is permissible to sell something at a higher price than one paid for it as long as the gain is moderate (probably exceedingly moderate), and as long as this gain is directly intended for a virtuous end, such as keeping a household or giving to the poor. Hence, one might engage in trading at a moderate gain with the goal of paying for an education, or for buying an important book, or for feeding your children--something like that. But the capitalist process of buying for the sake of selling at a profit, when the end is itself that profit, is necessarily sinful and a manifestation of greed. So, capitalism is very much partially condemned under (1)--particularly the practices of banks and investment firms (for the sake of bad taste, I'll cite Bain Capital)--, but it isn't entirely screwed.

(2) is rougher. Because Aquinas believed in just price (outlined in article 1 in the previous link), controlling the price mechanism comes with some very hefty restrictions. It is absolutely wrong to raise prices in the face of increased demand should "one man derive a great advantage by becoming possessed of the other man's property", as long as the seller does not himself suffer a disadvantage in the process. It is also inappropriate to change your price if "the price exceed the quantity of the thing's worth, or, conversely, the thing exceed the price". However, while capitalism is based on the notion that value is determined by supply and demand, Aquinas's use of the word "quantity" there shows that he's talking about the Aristotelian categories. This means that he believes things to have intrinsic, measurable, objective value in themselves. Hence, regardless of the demand for a very excellent donut (say), it will remain absolutely unlawful to raise its price beyond the cost of the labor involved in creating and (if applicable) shipping it, and the intrinsic value of the donut itself. However, it is acceptable to receive a moderate gain as long as that gain is directed toward one of the virtuous ends mentioned before. We can, therefore, imagine a local donut shop following these rules, but the existence of Krispy Kreme is an abomination in the eyes of natural law. Also, any violation of the law of just price is a violation of justice itself, which, by your own admission, justifies the involvement of the government. As Wikipedia defines one of the keys of free-market capitalism as "minimal or no regulation over the pricing mechanism", it follows that, if the law of just price and the subsequent necessity of government involvement hold true, then free-market capitalism is automatically ruled out.

rank sophist said...

But it gets worse. Just price also means that usury is absolutely unacceptable. As Aquinas says, "To take usury for money lent is unjust in itself, because this is to sell what does not exist, and this evidently leads to inequality which is contrary to justice." In other words, gaining without simultaneously giving is inherently sinful, because it does not observe equality in trade. As we all know, usury is a fundamental part of modern capitalism of all stripes. If it is wrong, then the entirety of Wall Street is morally corrupt for that reason alone, and this violation of just price allows the involvement of the government.

(3) is pretty damning, too. This is particularly bad, considering that Wikipedia calls it the fundamental difference between feudalism and capitalism. I owe a debt to this article in my analysis, although the guy who wrote it doesn't seem to understand the full implications of natural law in this situation. In any case, as he says, business practices that limit others from engaging in that same business are fundamentally immoral. He cites Aristotle:

"There was a man of Sicily, who, having money deposited with him, bought up all the iron from the iron mines; afterwards, when the merchants from their various markets came to buy, he was the only seller, and without much increasing the price he gained 200 per cent."

In Aquinas's discussion of private property, theft and robbery (here), he writes the following:

"A man would not act unlawfully if by going beforehand to the play he prepared the way for others: but he acts unlawfully if by so doing he hinders others from going. On like manner a rich man does not act unlawfully if he anticipates someone in taking possession of something which at first was common property, and gives others a share: but he sins if he excludes others indiscriminately from using it."

The writer of the article I cited concludes from this that two types of investment exist: "one way which is for the sake of production of goods and services and another which is anti-productive." If you want an example of the second, see basically any modern industry. Why does this happen? Because, quite simply, of the market for capital goods (my conclusion, not his). As a result of the possibility of owning and selling nothing but capital goods, without producing secondary goods in the process, we see the "means of production [becoming] concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer citizens." Big Oil would be a good example, although you could get more specific. To name names, how about Exxon Mobil, BP, Walmart, General Electric and AT&T? These are most definitely cases of the rich man getting ahead by obtaining and then monopolizing capital goods. Aquinas would not have approved.

That, alongside the other stuff I've already written, pretty much concludes my case that natural law and capitalism cannot be reconciled.

rank sophist said...

These are most definitely cases of the rich man getting ahead by obtaining and then monopolizing capital goods.

I'd like to clarify that I do not mean "monopoly" in the technical, legal sense here. I am referring to the process of becoming so wealthy in a capital good that other individuals fail in their business--and also the practice of muscling those companies out of business. Hence, my example of Walmart.

rank sophist said...

Actually, come to find out, Walmart does not actually produce its specialty brands (Great Value, for instance), and so I'll retract that one. Replace it with ConAgra, if you wish.

rank sophist said...

Verbose Stoic,

It took me a while to get back here, but I think you misunderstood my argument. We both agree that insurance companies having the policy that they will not cover pre-existing conditions is not in and of itself immoral (and might even be morally demanded). So, the only question comes down to SPECIFIC cases. And from there, I agree with you that if someone has absolutely no other choice and will die without it, it would be immoral for the insurance company to deny coverage.

I'm glad we're agreed on this point. I've been trying to get Crude and Tony to admit it for quite awhile, without success.

You argue that the simple act of asking obligates one to give if they can or else violate the maxim of sensitivity to mercy. I ask if it still is that to point someone to a person or institution that is better equipped and/or is more closely morally responsible to give and tell them to try there first, and only come back if that fails. For example, if someone is claiming that they don't have money for rent, is it insensitivity to mercy (in Canada) to point them towards welfare first before giving them the rent money? I don't think so, as you are still pointing them in the right direction to have their needs satisfied by an institution that is not only better equipped to do it -- having government funding -- but which in fact has the precise purpose of doing that.

I would agree with this as well, to a large extent. However, I think that natural law would ask one, if possible, to give a donation alongside those of the others consulted for help. This is a manifestation of the community-centricity of natural law: everyone is morally obligated to everyone else, given certain circumstances. This is why Aquinas says that "man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need. Hence the Apostle says (1 Timothy 6:17-18): 'Charge the rich of this world . . . to give easily, to communicate to others,' etc." (Note that he isn't advocating socialism--this statement appears after his affirmation that private property is lawful.) As a result, an economy built on natural law is in some respects similar to a gift economy, although more developed and more accepting of trade agreements.

Is it not the case that family, friends and doctors have more of a responsibility and may well be more equipped than the insurance company to provide that care, even if that person cannot afford it? Asking, I argue, does not obligate you to provide precisely what they are asking for, and because of the reasons for having pre-existing conditions not covered insurance companies seem to have less of an obligation than others.

True enough. Although I believe that it remains the duty of the individual or company asked for help to assist the person in need, preferably by coordinating with others through donations and other things.

BTW, you talk elsewhere about under the current system doctors having to work under the insurance system and so not being able to do it except through insurance. I don't know a lot about the U.S. system, but I don't think that's true.

I didn't say that they couldn't do it without insurance--just that they were tied up in it. I was referring to the extremely complex relationship between (overly expensive) doctors' fees and insurance, and the necessity of having insurance to pay for anything other than a routine doctor appointment (and for even that, depending on the hospital). I believe that doctors have lost a lot of the freedom that they had before the rise of insurance and industrialized health care--this is speculation, but I doubt many of them can even control their own fees.

rank sophist said...

I'd like to clarify that I don't agree with dguller's assessment of what I was trying to say. That isn't it at all, as should be obvious now.

Mr. Green,

That is pulled out of thin air. Or perhaps you can supply the formula you used to arrive at a figure of $5,000?

Ignoring the joke, the $5,000 number was just an example. Perhaps you could give $2,500, depending on the expense--we'd need more details about the situation to figure out the exact amount. My response to Crude's counterexamples was that they fairly obviously did not observe the mean in the situation, and so couldn't be said to be the virtuous choice.

Tony said...

Rank,

I am willing to go along with your first quote on the nature of capitalism, from Wiki:

Capitalism is defined as a social and economic system where capital assets are mainly owned and controlled by private persons, where labor is purchased for money wages, capital gains accrue to private owners, and the price mechanism is utilized to allocate capital goods between uses.

I am not willing to go along with the second, which I think is describing "finance capitalism", which is not generic capitalism but one brand. And I absolutely reject outright the third:

The accumulation of capital refers to the process of "making money", or growing an initial sum of money through investment in production. Capitalism is based around the accumulation of capital, whereby financial capital is invested in order to realize a profit and then reinvested into further production in a continuous process of accumulation.

There is absolutely NOTHING about capitalism as such that implies that a corporation must automatically plow profits back into the company to grow it, instead of distributing the profits as dividends. There simply isn't. To define capitalism that way is PRECISELY what is wrong with the liberal mantra on the topic.

Regarding the act of investing to earn a profit (that is, buying low and selling high), he says that the practice is "justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity."

Thomas's theory on this is right in one respect, and wrong in another perspective, and the Popes since Leo XIII have applied the corrective consistently. It is wrong to buy X box of chocolate from Bob at 5 dollars because you have already made a promise to sell Bill the same box of chocolate for $10, when Bill could just as easily get the box from Bob. And there is nothing about such practices that are quintessential to capitalism anyway.

There is an absolutely valid place for a merchant who buys in bulk and sells in small, retail lots at a higher price per unit: he provides more direct availability to the end user, he provides more certainty and less hassle to the manufacturer (who is in the business of making an object, not locating customers, which takes time and money). There is, also, an absolutely valid place for a merchant who buys in Maine and sells in Ohio at a higher price: he provides transportation. In both cases, the higher price is due to a greater economic value in the result.

But the capitalist process of buying for the sake of selling at a profit, when the end is itself that profit, is necessarily sinful and a manifestation of greed.

But this is not capitalism as such. Capitalism is about the bringing together of productive capacity together with labor to more effectively produce new wealth - new good things that didn't exist before. Buying low in order to sell high is an external accretion to that which is the core of capitalism. It is a FALSE version of capitalism.

Tony said...

(2) control over the "price mechanism", through which sellers decide the price offered to buyers; and the buying and selling for profit of the means of production themselves.

All pricing mechanisms, except those controlled by direct force or implied force, are mutual operations where both buyer and seller together "decide" the final price that effects the exchange. To call that "sellers deciding" is a biased description.

Selling the means of production itself (factory machines) is no more or less decisive in identifying capitalism than any OTHER product that can be sold on a market and can be produced by aggregation of capital and labor. It's just one more thing.

Because Aquinas believed in just price...It is absolutely wrong to raise prices in the face of increased demand should "one man derive a great advantage...It is also inappropriate to change your price if "the price exceed the quantity of the thing's worth"... However, while capitalism is based on the notion that value is determined by supply and demand, Aquinas's use of the word "quantity" there shows that he's talking about the Aristotelian categories. This means that he believes things to have intrinsic, measurable, objective value in themselves...However, it is acceptable to receive a moderate gain as long as that gain is directed toward one of the virtuous ends mentioned before.

Aquinas's theory reflect a very rudimentary notion of supply and demand effects on the market, and even so he allowed an escape clause, for a "modest gain" within rational limits. The Popes of the last 120 years have expanded on that to accept the kind of pricing justice that occurs within the market as being moral, which allows for supply and demand to determine prices within certain limits.

Since supply and demand cannot but have an impact on the totality of pricing (even when you try to curtail the price by law, a black market appears when that price is far out of whack from the willing-buyer willing-seller price), the laws of nature cannot be ignored in specifying how supply and demand are to be fit into human interactions. The "just price" cannot be set completely apart from human welfare, but it also cannot be set apart from supply and demand as well. They BOTH must be accounted for in a moral system.

Tony said...

As we all know, usury is a fundamental part of modern capitalism of all stripes.

I absolutely disagree that usury is a fundamental part of capitalism, and it is telling that you saw fit to include "modern" in your statement. In the particular system we have developed, one specific version of capitalism, usury is commonly present between borrowers and lenders. (Not always, though.) In addition, nothing about lending / borrowing defines the essential structure of capitalism. There are companies that don't need to borrow, and are not in the business of lending: they use investor stock to make a product, and the sell it at a profit, and distribute dividends to investors. Such companies are capitalist but do not participate in the usury nonsense.

What you're saying is that capitalism does not violate natural law in theory, even if it usually does so in practice. This is similar to the argument presented by neo-Marxists in favor of communism

No, that's not a fair analogy. There aren't any other instances of capitalism in history to point to for different concrete expressions of the genus, so it would be impossible to use other versions to show that this version is in fact just one version. So the fact that the one version of capitalism in history that we have ended up in finance capitalism says nothing about the genera capitalism in principle. Nothing at all.

It would be pointing to Athenian democracy in 350 BC, showing the ills of that specific concrete expression of the concept "democracy", and concluding that democracy itself must contain those ills. Sorry, that's not valid.

We can look to the core concepts of capitalism, (private property, contractual agreements for allocation of aggregated resources, application of labor to those resources, for the purpose of improved productivity) and using good logic we can see that its own inherent principles do not of necessity lead to finance capitalism.

Tony said...

Rank, now that I understand the underpinnings of your thesis better, I would propose that if what you mean by "capitalism" what we might reasonably call "finance capitalism", then you are correct that it violates natural law. Let's take that as postulated for now.

That still leaves further questions before your conclusion follows: (1)that for-profit health insurance is, essentially an expression of finance capitalism. We already know that there are insurance companies that don't work on the finance capitalist theory, indeed there are some that aren't even for profit. There are, also, some models of health care risk sharing that are not for-profit either (health care sharing ministry, for example). But let's suppose for these purposes that what we have here is a for-profit, finance capitalist health insurer. Let's grant that by being ordered to profit without restraint that this entity is contrary to natural law. That STILL doesn't prove that by excluding a new applicant on the basis of a pre-existing illness the company is explicitly doing something immoral to that applicant personally. It is possible that by engaging in finance capitalism the company is screwing many people, such as existing clients, or the surrounding community, or the whole economic order which it distorts. All those things would be wrong, but they would not make it true that excluding that new applicant from coverage is immoral itself. The company can be guilty of many evils without thereby being guilty of all possible evils.

If it is immoral for the company to refuse that applicant coverage, it is so either by a failure of a just obligation to the applicant or by a failure of the company's obligation in mercy to the applicant. Even granting that the company is unjust to the community as a whole, nothing you have said so far establishes that the company has a duty in justice toward this applicant specifically, an obligation to take on the applicant as an insured with a specific contract, and even if obligated to provide a specific contract, nothing shows it must be one that covers pre-existing illness costs immediately. It is difficult to see how it could ever be shown: why could not the applicant go to Company Z instead? Maybe there ARE companies that specialize in high-risk sorts like that. Which specific contract type is the company OBLIGATED IN JUSTICE to grant him, out of all its different options? Why cannot the company provide him with a contract that covers everything but the costs of the pre-existing illness for a period of, say, 24 months? Or 36 months? Through what source of duty is it that natural law provides all these specifications of duty (in justice) on this insurer?

No, if it lies anywhere, it is an obligation in mercy.

Tony said...

While the applicant may want insurance to cover his well-expected costs of his existing illness, it simply is not the case that that is his only choice for getting care. One of my parish priests has established a free health care clinic that, while limited, gives some care to people who cannot pay their way. My wife's doctor started a health care charitable organization to provide care (including hospital costs) for poor women. Then there's the health care sharing ministries. When all of these sorts of things exist, it is really hard to see why it can be an obligation in mercy for a company to spring for coverage when asked by someone who may have other options.

All that said, I would not be adverse to considering making law so that when an employer provides group health coverage, and the employee is laid off, that coverage will automatically continue to cover an existing illness until the employee is again covered by an employer group health plan - AND THEN the new plan cannot refuse to cover the pre-existing illness. Such a law would be simply sliding coverage from one plan to another, and presumably such sliding would statistically work out evenly for any such insurer.

Crude said...

dguller,

First, do you disagree that everyone has the right to healthcare? And if not, then why not?

No, for a variety of reasons. First, because 'right to healthcare' is vague - what does it cover? Catastrophic injury assistance? Long-term care?

Second, because I am extremely leery about equating 'that which, if everyone were acting at a moral optimal, would be granted to their neighbors' with 'rights'.

Third, because I'm also leery about descriptions of rights that are, ultimately, rights to commodities and acts on the part of others.

Second, I agree that there are lots of other options, but notice that relying upon any kind of governmental program, whether local, state or federal, would count as socialized medicine, because the entire population under that government pays taxes that are used to manage the health care system under the government’s jurisdiction.

I haven't made any argument here against socialized medicine in and of itself, nor does - AFAIK - the principle of subsidiarity require such a stance.

And as for relying upon other individuals, family, friends, communities and charities, I just don’t think that’s feasible. If it were, then no-one in American without health insurance would die due to lack of healthcare.

Why? Because friends, family, communities, individuals and charities are currently operating at practical and moral optimals so they're doing 100% of what they could in principle and practice? Or is it because there's no room for improvement or even innovation when it comes to the behavior of communities and charities, or even family and friends?

Verbose Stoic said...

rank sophist,

Why should the person asked have to give anything, simply because they were asked? Even under communal property, surely they'd only have to give it if the other person NEEDED it, and if there are other organizations who can and ought to provide it ahead of them and can provide it all then they don't actually need it. It would be nice to be charitable, but potentially self-defeating to do it when others are more capable of providing what that person needs.

And it isn't the case that I agree with you and not Crude et al. Your point seemed to be that health insurance in particular inherently violated natural law, and you used the pre-existing conditions clause as a specific example. We now agree that in principle that that isn't the case, and so the system in and of itself doesn't violate natural law, but that in some extreme cases those running it might do so by following that policy too stringently.

So, from what I've read, it seems like you've now concede the biggest thing that Crude wanted conceded: that policies that exclude pre-existing cases are not in and of themselves violations of natural law, nor is it the case that not extending them to someone who suddenly develops an illness and cannot pay is necesarily a violation or natural law.

Papalinton said...

"Saying that 'everyone has a natural right to health care' doesn't do the job, and there are vastly more options available than 'either we have socialized medicine, or health care insurance companies'. "

No, this is not right. Had there been vastly more options available they would have been explored over the past decades. I take for example, the Romney health plan in Massachusetts. It also was an administration's response to the clearly recognised void in the 'vastly more options available".

Obamacare is a similar response to that of Romney. Indeed it is only the size, resources and strength of a national response that can even remotely handle such an enormous but fundamental requirement of a civil society. No one is saying that the provision of health care is an either/or issue. Those who wish to remain covered under a personal private insurances are free to do so. Those for which such health care is simply not available, then a complementary system of health care is required. This is not about competition. Those covered under the broader Obamacare are invariably people that have been refused insurance under the current schemes because of pre-existing conditions, those who later discover their medical insurance retroactively precluded a range of medical conditions not made known to clients and the time of contract and those that belatedly discover some health condition entitlements severely capped at levels well below considered adequate or appropriate for the proper management of the condition.

In a fair and balanced system of governance there is a role for both private and socialized medicine.

Crude said...

Tony,

But this is not capitalism as such. Capitalism is about the bringing together of productive capacity together with labor to more effectively produce new wealth - new good things that didn't exist before. Buying low in order to sell high is an external accretion to that which is the core of capitalism. It is a FALSE version of capitalism.

I think one thing people forget, and it's important to remember, is that 'capitalism' isn't a value system. If you fail to pursue profit at all costs, you're not going to get hauled in front of the Grand Nagus and chewed out for failing to adhere to the rules of acquisition. Would you like to give all of your disposable income to charity? Go for it, that's not forbidden. Would you like to structure your company in such a way that you don't always do the most profitable thing? Again, go for it.

Now, there's a ready reply here. "Yeah, but the guy who DOES do the most profitable thing may well outmaneuver you. He's not bound by any morals, and the capitalist system will reward the less moral capitalist many times." Valid reply to a point.

The problem there is, the immoral capitalist, again, doesn't get awarded money by decree. If more people are willing to buy from the company run by the immoral man, then your problem still isn't really with the system, it's with the people consciously making the decision to throw away the morality of the business owner and practices as a factor in their purchasing decisions. Consumers can put any man they want out of business at any time if they collectively choose to.

That's only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, of the complicating factors. But people seem to forget that in a capitalist system, when a rotten business thrives, it's often because the consumers are allowing it to. (Of course, then you get into situations where the business thrives due to socialist policies, etc. This is all a simplification - the point is that the consumers, the average citizens, have roles and responsibilities. But people seem to forget that.)

W.LindsayWheeler said...

About this Nationalized, Socialist health care, Ann Barnhardt, a Roman Catholic, talks about the economy of the US and the coming collapse, Ann Barnhardt.

She states in her talk, the 7th part, that giving poor people free stuff, is going to destroy us. She talks about the HUGE mathematical paradigms, the trillions of dollars that operate these entitlement programs, is NOT charity but evil.

Ann Barnhardt remarks on all these Archbishops and Cardinals calling for Universal Healthcare---as IMBECILLES.

Ann Barnhardt worked in the financial markets. She understands all the financial gimmicks being used and the dangerous precedent of zero interest on bonds by the Federal Reserve! All of this is unsustainable and HER conclusion is that the Archbishops and Cardinals running the Catholic Church in America---Are IMBECILES.

The Rank sophist is busy finding justifaction for his pet project of Universal care for the poor---but you know--economics does NOT figure into anything he says. He is absolutely clueless! All he understands is taking from the rich and give to the poor.

It can't be done. Anybody that suggests that the poor even gets subsidized Health Care is an Imbecile, knows next to nothing about macroeconomics.

Crude said...

Wheeler,

It can't be done. Anybody that suggests that the poor even gets subsidized Health Care is an Imbecile, knows next to nothing about macroeconomics.

What about those countries that supposedly pull it off?

Tony said...

'capitalism' isn't a value system

Right. And being itself free from a value system, it is capable of being practiced WITH a value system added thereto, if you want to. There is nothing wrong with a capitalist who observes due limits to the intention of generating profit by making new widgets.

This is all a simplification - the point is that the consumers, the average citizens, have roles and responsibilities.

One of my proposed fixes to "the system" is that businesses not only hire a CPA for a fiscal audit to be able to prove to people their handling of finances is clean, but also that they hire other types of "accountants" to audit how they treat employees, customers, suppliers, and the local community - "certified stakeholder accountants" or something. Don't want to give your employees a pension? Fine, but it gets disclosed on your report. Don't want to do follow-up on customer complaints? Your choice, but we report that too. Then put the results on the front door of the business. "Got an F on how you treat the community? Oh well, I'll shop somewhere else, thank you." Better yet: "Oh, you stopped getting annual reports, hmmm? Must have had a really bad report - I guess I'll buy elsewhere."

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Crude, the coming economic collapse is going to be world wide. Greece in all but name has defaulted. All of Southern Europe is next. All Governments, everywhere, have piled up massive debt. There is NO excuse.

Here is the specific video where Ann calls these Archbishops Imbeciles. I totally agree. This is only a part of a 2 and half hour talk. We are approaching economic Armagedon. All of the governments and their banks are in huge trillion dollar debt that can't be fixed. Canada, Britain, Japan, China, etc. All of them.

Crude said...

Tony,

One of my proposed fixes to "the system" is that businesses not only hire a CPA for a fiscal audit to be able to prove to people their handling of finances is clean, but also that they hire other types of "accountants" to audit how they treat employees, customers, suppliers, and the local community - "certified stakeholder accountants" or something.

See, that's where things get complicated - because those things already exist. They just exist in warped ways. See the recent Chik-fil-A 'controversy'. Insufficiently supportive of same-sex activity and unions? Well, you're getting an F. In fact, you may find that the local zoning laws in town suddenly dictate that your business can't open in this area. Maybe your business application will run into some problems. Who's to say?

Of course, in that case it worked out that Chik-fil-A was situated in the right way to actually benefit from the stunt. That story's not over - that company is now marked to be made an example of.

I'm not sure it would work in the sense of 'hiring on this person'. Once they're on the payroll, there's their incentive for reporting that everything's going nicely. On the other hand, if they're 'community leaders', well... see, again, Chik-fil-a.

But there's probably a way to do pretty much what you're suggesting, and it's a start. Again, principal of subsidiarity - solutions should be explored at the smallest levels first.

Crude said...

Wheeler,

Crude, the coming economic collapse is going to be world wide. Greece in all but name has defaulted. All of Southern Europe is next. All Governments, everywhere, have piled up massive debt. There is NO excuse.

I agree Europe's in bad shape - funny how they used to be the example of 'Hey look you can spend as much as you like on government services without issue!' - but you're engaged in some hyperbole here, aren't you?

Here's a list of countries by external debt. Some seem in better shape than others.

Sure, someone out there is saying there's catastrophic debt and we're due for a massive breakdown. I hit Vox Day's site too, this isn't news to me. But I'm not sure you can pull off 'they're in this situation due to their universal health care initiatives'.

Maybe 'they're not going to have universal health care forever'.

dguller said...

Crude:

First, because 'right to healthcare' is vague - what does it cover? Catastrophic injury assistance? Long-term care?

That could be clarified over time and discussion, but the basic principle could be endorsed even without significant precision. It would be like the right to life. What does “life” mean? Does it include quality of life? Does it include brain death? Does it include artificial respiration? Does it include providing the healthcare necessary to sustain life? The fact that these complications are involved in our conception of life does not detract from the right to life. I would say that the same would be applicable to the right to healthcare, i.e. the right to have access to medical services that maintain the health of an individual, either through preventative services, like regular check-ups, or acute treatment of illness.


Second, because I am extremely leery about equating 'that which, if everyone were acting at a moral optimal, would be granted to their neighbors' with 'rights'.

I’m not too sure what you mean here.

Third, because I'm also leery about descriptions of rights that are, ultimately, rights to commodities and acts on the part of others.

First, all rights are related to the behavior of other human beings, and so that shouldn’t be an exclusionary factor.

Second, if by “commodity” you mean “something with monetary value”, then you will have excluded a number of rights. The right to free speech would be excluded, because money can purchase opportunities for speech to be heard by a large number of individuals, for example.

Third, what rights do you think people have a right to? I think if I had a better sense of where you were coming from with regards to what natural rights are, then we could find more common ground.

I haven't made any argument here against socialized medicine in and of itself, nor does - AFAIK - the principle of subsidiarity require such a stance.

That’s great. So, if it turns out that the best way to provide healthcare to a population is via socialized medicine, then you would support it?

Why? Because friends, family, communities, individuals and charities are currently operating at practical and moral optimals so they're doing 100% of what they could in principle and practice? Or is it because there's no room for improvement or even innovation when it comes to the behavior of communities and charities, or even family and friends?

It is because socialized medicine is better suited to the provision of healthcare than just innovating new ways for friends to provide other friends with the financial resources to access healthcare. That is why every industrialized and modern western country has such a system in place, except in the U.S.

Crude said...

I would say that the same would be applicable to the right to healthcare, i.e. the right to have access to medical services that maintain the health of an individual, either through preventative services, like regular check-ups, or acute treatment of illness.

And I'm still going to want to know the limits. Let's say someone has cancer. They're in a universal health care country. There's a backlog of 1 year for the treatments they need. They die.

Were their rights violated?

I’m not too sure what you mean here.

Hard to put it any way other than I did. 'If I were morally perfect, I would perform act X for person Y' - does this cash out to person Y has a right to X?

First, all rights are related to the behavior of other human beings, and so that shouldn’t be an exclusionary factor.

There's a difference between a right to freedom of speech interpreted as 'I cannot get in the way when that person speaks' and 'I must give them a loudspeaker'. Leading into...

Second, if by “commodity” you mean “something with monetary value”, then you will have excluded a number of rights. The right to free speech would be excluded, because money can purchase opportunities for speech to be heard by a large number of individuals, for example.

Again, only if the right to free speech is interpreted as a right to a loudspeaker.

Third, what rights do you think people have a right to? I think if I had a better sense of where you were coming from with regards to what natural rights are, then we could find more common ground.

Complicated subject, off-track. I'll stick to the discussion of this from a Catholic and natural law context.

That’s great. So, if it turns out that the best way to provide healthcare to a population is via socialized medicine, then you would support it?

Nope, because that's not the only factor at work. It's better to say that I'm not in principle opposed to socialized medicine.

It is because socialized medicine is better suited to the provision of healthcare than just innovating new ways for friends to provide other friends with the financial resources to access healthcare.

I didn't limit the solutions to 'friends helping friends'. My question again: "Because friends, family, communities, individuals and charities are currently operating at practical and moral optimals so they're doing 100% of what they could in principle and practice? Or is it because there's no room for improvement or even innovation when it comes to the behavior of communities and charities, or even family and friends?"

I'd like to hear your answer to those questions.

"That is why every industrialized and modern western country has such a system in place, except in the U.S."

Not really, at least you've given me no reason to believe as much. 'All these countries are doing it, so surely it's the best option in both principle and practice'? You may as well tell me, "If it's a act most or even all governments rely on, it's unreasonable to suspect it's wrong."

Tony said...

Crude, that's right.

dguller: can you distinguish between passive rights and active rights?

I have a right to life means nobody has a right to TAKE my life. Doesn't mean that I have a right to make someone else do some positive act. If I jump out of a plane, I do not thus create an obligation on everyone else to preserve my life because "he had a right to life." As long as they do nothing to cause my death, everyone else is satisfying my right to life.

I have a right to food means that I have a right to eat food that is mine. Nobody can (morally) take my food away. Moreover, I have a right to seek to obtain food: I can either grow it in my backyard, or I can exchange other goods or services or money for it, or I can ask someone for a handout - all these things are my right. But none of these freedoms of MINE are in any way an imposition that obligates someone else to act in any positive way: nobody is REQUIRED to freely give me food, merely because I ask, to fulfill my right to eat. Nobody is required to come over to my backyard and work my garden to fulfill my right to eat. Nobody is required to open a store at 2:00 am to transact a sale for me because I ask for it. Nobody butcher who sells meat is obligated to go out and buy some fish to sell me because I want fish when he only sells meat, just to fulfill my right to eat. My right is a right not to be obstructed from doing legal and moral things to in order to meet my own need and desire, that's all. It remains that "he who does not work, neither shall he eat" is valid: the basic right to eat doesn't impose positive actions on others to feed me. As long as nobody takes my food away from me, and those whose business is selling food are willing to transact for food with me, everybody else is satisfying my right to eat, so far as justice goes.

I have a right to seek health care means nobody has a right to OBSTRUCT my attempt to secure medicine and medical professional attention through legal and moral means. Nobody can make it illegal for me to ask a doctor to treat me. Nobody can physically hold me back when I try to walk into the drug store. Nobody can shoot me for asking a nurse to take my blood pressure.

But that series of "nobody can"s in no wise imposes any positive action on anyone. If the nurse I ask for assistance has just gone off duty after 12 hours on, and she says "no, sorry, try someone else", my RIGHT does not tell her to come back and care for me. My right is a right to SEEK, without obstruction, not an obligation on others to act on my behalf so I don't have to, nor an obligation to provide absent a transaction for same.

If my having a right to get a car means a right to either build one myself or buy one from someone else, the car dealer who doesn't simply hand one over for the asking isn't obstructing my access. If he is willing to sell me a car, because that's the business he is in, his refusal to donate one to me because I want a car and won't pay him cannot be what we mean by obstructing access to cars: his willingness to sell to me JUST IS access to cars. Likewise for a doctor: if he is in the business of diagnosing medical problems, his refusal to donate medical care without pay cannot be obstructing my right to seek health care: he is willing to transact with me for his time and expertise, and that JUST IS access to that medical care, that's what access means. If I won't make a satisfactory transaction because I am not willing to pay his fee, that's not lack of access, that's lack of achieved care.

Within that limited sense, we do have a right to _seek_ and _request_ health care transactions, but we do not have a right to get the care free. As long as people are willing to transact with me, they are satisfying my right to seek health care.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Crude rightly challenged my conclusion in post #201 when I stated that Roberts didn't know the teachings of his Church nor of the culture of this country.

Crude writes: Wheeler, are you aware that Roberts wrote a majority opinion striking down this law, before he wrote a majority opinion supporting it?

Dr. Feser writes that 'Roberts “reconciled” his competing imperatives only by ruthlessly ignoring both at once' and further pointing out that Roberts "...changed his mind, apparently for fear of the political repercussions of such a decision."

See, before they make their decision public, they met together and convene a vote. What happened is that Roberts was following the conventional wisdom knowing that conservative issues usually fail and that Kennedy most often than not votes with the liberals on the court. None of them knew which direction the case was going until they voted. He voted to strike it down thinking that the liberals will have the majority to approve that.

----That is when he saw it was going down in defeat that he changed his vote!

He was playing a game. Roberts thought to himself that he could "keep" his conservative credentials and vote it down while knowing that the liberals were going to have the majority. When that didn't happen, he changed his vote. Then, he applied what Dr. Feser calls his Ockhamite rationalizations to parse between two opposed extremes.

See, Socrates in Plato's Republic stresses that "Knowledge" is important for virtue. For example, "courage". It is easier to have courage when you know five ways from Sunday to take on 10 guys and beat them. Courage has several ingredients to it. The other ingredient is character and the spirit of the individual. A coward is an effeminate individual. Courage is found in Hard men.

Roberts was afraid for the "Image", not the substance or essence of the problem. That is a mark of a shallow man.

Socrates taught that Wisdom is the total training and education of the whole man, the physical, the spiritual and the mental. All three have to be trained. Philosophy is not mental gymnastics. It is the combination of character, of spirit, of knowledge.

I hold true to my post above #201. Roberts first had faulty or erroneous or non-existent knowledge of his Church's historical teaching; he had obviously a non-existent understanding of the American polity and on top of all of this was his cowardice.

And the problem may not all be his for all the supreme court justices rely on their law clerks. That in the cabal of all the conservatives justices and their servant law clerks--that this mistake was made? The man changed his vote because the liberals did not have the majority. So he changed his position to make sure it would pass. The man is a scoundrel.

And again I stand by my stance. He is a man totally lacking in Virtue. Because of his character failings led to his faulty thinking. See, Virtue and Wisdom go hand in hand. They are inseperable. You can't have one without the other. The "rank sophist" is not a philosopher and can never be because he thinks if he does the proper "mental hyjinks" he can achieve the solution. Wrong. Without Virtue, one can NOT ascend to Wisdom. Roberts' decision and actions show the man is devoid of BOTH.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Philosophy is the Love of Wisdom.

From the Memorabillia. Xenophon talking about Socrates (III. ix 4-5)

Quote:
"Between Wisdom and Prudence he drew no distinction; but if a man knows and practises what is beautiful and good, knows and avoids what is base, that man he judged to be both wise and prudent".

In Greek thought there is no compartmentalization. One has to what? "Practise what is beautiful and good". One has to be virtuous. You have to practise the good and the beautiful. The Good and the Beautiful is one word in Greek, or it is two words cojoined, "Kaloskagothos". Being Kaloskagathos, makes one wise, which is philosophy.

Xenophon continues. Quote:

"He said that Justice (dikaoisyne) and every other form of Virtue (arete) is Wisdom (sofia)". ...Hence the wise do what is beautiful and good, ...Therefore since just activity are virtuous actions, it is clear that Justice (dikaios) an every other form of Virtue is W-I-S-D-O-M."

Virtue is Wisdom. Without Virtue, you canNOT attain Wisdom. Philosophy is NOT a mental activity. Philosophy is not "critical discussion". Philosophy is not mental gymnastics and straining the gnat.

St. Peter said, "SUPPLEMENT THE FAITH WITH ARETE". With Virtue. When was the last time you heard that in a Sermon? No Virtue---No philosophy, No Truth, No wisdom.

And where did Socrates/Xenophon/Plato get that from? The Doric Greeks, i.e. the Spartans, who all practiced Virtue, it was commanded by Lycurgus, and that is why Doric Crete and Sparta are the home of Philosophy. Philosophy is a Doric thing---you all wouldn't understand that!

See, Chief Justice Roberts, Roman Catholic, chosen to sit on the Supreme Court neither had Virtue nor Wisdom. First, he really didn't know the Truth and second, he couldn't stand behind it either. I wonder how much of "Catholic Natural Law" theory and the Compendium of Catholic Social Justice, which are both faulty and heretical, favored into his flip-flopping.

Chief Justice Robert is most certainly devoid of virtue and wisdom. Sadly the Church that produced him is without them as well!

Crude said...

Re: Roberts, considering what apparently went down in his opinion - from what I read, it's non-controversial that he knew the act was unconstitutional, but he was afraid he'd be snubbed by people for finding as much, so he tried his best to spin and twist out some kind of logic that could get him to where he needed to go - yeah, I think it's fair to say he displayed a lack of Aristotilean virtue.

Is it because he thought the liberals would have the majority? That doesn't seem correct. Roberts seemed to know he was in the majority - you know about the minority opinion's relation to the original majority opinion, right?

W.LindsayWheeler said...

No. They don't. They don't necessarily talk to each other until they come together to vote. When they vote, then the Chief Justice assigns one person to write the majority position and another to write the minority position--after the vote.

This doesn't make sense: "he knew the act was unconstitutional, but he was afraid he'd be snubbed by people for finding as much" If that was the case---he would've voted for it IN THE FIRST Vote!!! Ohh, he voted against it because he figured all the liberals and the swing votes WOULD BE FOR Obamacare! He figured it was going to pass with his No vote.

Crude said...

This doesn't make sense: "he knew the act was unconstitutional, but he was afraid he'd be snubbed by people for finding as much" If that was the case---he would've voted for it IN THE FIRST Vote!!!

Unless he was pressured, after the fact. Which is what I hear happened.

Remember, there was a time lapse between Roberts voting with the traditionalists on the court, and then with the liberals. In that period, even an opinion got written. And if that's all correct, then the evidence indicates that Roberts changed his mind.

rank sophist said...

Looks like we're finally getting places.

I am not willing to go along with the second, which I think is describing "finance capitalism", which is not generic capitalism but one brand.

Wikipedia calls the market for capital goods the defining difference between feudalism and capitalism. If you cut that out, then how is the system you're supporting any different from feudalism?

There is absolutely NOTHING about capitalism as such that implies that a corporation must automatically plow profits back into the company to grow it, instead of distributing the profits as dividends. There simply isn't. To define capitalism that way is PRECISELY what is wrong with the liberal mantra on the topic.

Wikipedia's first two sentences on capitalism:

"Capitalism is an economic system that is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods or services for profit. Other elements central to capitalism include competitive markets, wage labor and capital accumulation."

The second sentence's information is sourced to the The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. If capital accumulation is placed on the same level as wage labor in terms of its centrality to capitalism, you're going to have to offer a stronger case that it isn't part of capitalism-as-such. If it isn't part of capitalism, then how does capitalism differ from feudalism? And why did the Marxist and Distributist criticisms of capitalism focus in large part on this element?

There is an absolutely valid place for a merchant who buys in bulk and sells in small, retail lots at a higher price per unit: he provides more direct availability to the end user, he provides more certainty and less hassle to the manufacturer (who is in the business of making an object, not locating customers, which takes time and money). There is, also, an absolutely valid place for a merchant who buys in Maine and sells in Ohio at a higher price: he provides transportation. In both cases, the higher price is due to a greater economic value in the result.

But how does this differ from feudal practices? Aquinas himself clarifies that raising the price is acceptable if value is added to the product--that's part of just price.

But this is not capitalism as such. Capitalism is about the bringing together of productive capacity together with labor to more effectively produce new wealth - new good things that didn't exist before. Buying low in order to sell high is an external accretion to that which is the core of capitalism. It is a FALSE version of capitalism.

This is starting to sound like a No True Capitalism argument. If this version of capitalism is false, then how does your "real capitalism" differ from feudalism or even distributism? I can't see anything in your definition that separates them. Further, why has seemingly everyone, for over 100 years, thought of capitalism along the lines I describe--including its biggest and most knowledgeable critics? We're talking Karl Marx, G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, here. I somehow doubt that these men somehow "got capitalism wrong", particularly when the latter two were heavily influenced by the very popes (Leo XIII and Pius XI) you keep citing to defend "real capitalism".

rank sophist said...

All pricing mechanisms, except those controlled by direct force or implied force, are mutual operations where both buyer and seller together "decide" the final price that effects the exchange. To call that "sellers deciding" is a biased description.

Sellers have the upper hand. But, in any case, a violation of just price by either party is a matter of justice, as I've said. I think we can both agree that making something for two dollars and charging thirty dollars for it is a violation of just price--particularly when charging that price is only made feasible by the corporate monopoly on the means of production. Further, most retailers do not haggle anymore. If you don't think that a price is fair, then that's too bad for you: pay up or leave. I don't see how this practice is conducive to just price, or how it follows your outline of the price mechanism above.

Selling the means of production itself (factory machines) is no more or less decisive in identifying capitalism than any OTHER product that can be sold on a market and can be produced by aggregation of capital and labor. It's just one more thing.

Wikipedia claims that this is the thing that separates feudalism from capitalism. If it doesn't, then how, exactly, is your "capitalism" different from feudalism? How is it different from distributism? The capital goods market seems pretty decisive, to me. (Also, I'd like to apologize for forgetting to put a "(3)" in front of the third point, there. Probably caused unnecessary confusion.)

Aquinas's theory reflect a very rudimentary notion of supply and demand effects on the market

Either that, or the modern understanding of supply and demand is a false and evil idea propagated by capitalism. Why should I take your word for it one way or the other?

Since supply and demand cannot but have an impact on the totality of pricing (even when you try to curtail the price by law, a black market appears when that price is far out of whack from the willing-buyer willing-seller price), the laws of nature cannot be ignored in specifying how supply and demand are to be fit into human interactions. The "just price" cannot be set completely apart from human welfare, but it also cannot be set apart from supply and demand as well.

Because of just price, supply and demand have to be justified by external factors. They are not justifications for action on their own. Hence, you can raise prices if supply is low because of the difficulty and expense of procuring the item, and you can lower prices to normal levels if there is no difficulty in obtaining the item. However, you cannot raise prices if you're responsible for the very difficulty of procuring the item (say), and you can't lower them for the sake of engaging in a "price war" with someone. Countless other aspects of the market would have to be dealt with along these lines. Immediately, though, it seems that the capitalist idea of competitive markets is unjust. The Catholic writer I cited before seemed to insinuate the same thing. A natural law market is always collaborative: not competitive.

Hence, supply and demand in themselves are irrelevant to the justice of a price. It is the factors behind supply and demand that determine morality.

rank sophist said...

I absolutely disagree that usury is a fundamental part of capitalism, and it is telling that you saw fit to include "modern" in your statement. In the particular system we have developed, one specific version of capitalism, usury is commonly present between borrowers and lenders.

I am aware of this. It's why I clarified that it's modern capitalism I'm talking about on this point--the kind espoused by modern conservatives. The kind that Christian writers like R. R. Reno are defending, and the kind represented by the last pair of Republican presidential candidates. The kind that happens on the very Wall Street that conservatives (again, like Reno) want to see "unshackled", and the kind that defines our entire banking system. I'm glad we're agreed that this brand of capitalism violates natural law, but that seems to be a pretty serious admission on your part.

No, that's not a fair analogy. There aren't any other instances of capitalism in history to point to for different concrete expressions of the genus, so it would be impossible to use other versions to show that this version is in fact just one version. So the fact that the one version of capitalism in history that we have ended up in finance capitalism says nothing about the genera capitalism in principle. Nothing at all.

You're correct in terms of this country, but countless other countries have gone capitalist in the past and present. I believe that it would be fair to use these countries as examples, just as we understand Russia, China and Cuba to be various instantiations of communism. So, for example, look at the UK (particularly in the 19th century), Brazil or Mexico. Look at state capitalism, free-market capitalism and interventionist capitalism. In each and every case, we see natural law violations of the type I'm describing.

We can look to the core concepts of capitalism, (private property, contractual agreements for allocation of aggregated resources, application of labor to those resources, for the purpose of improved productivity) and using good logic we can see that its own inherent principles do not of necessity lead to finance capitalism.

But how is your definition of capitalism any different from feudalism? I don't see it.

Rank, now that I understand the underpinnings of your thesis better, I would propose that if what you mean by "capitalism" what we might reasonably call "finance capitalism", then you are correct that it violates natural law. Let's take that as postulated for now.

I'm fairly certain that it's capitalism-as-such, but I'll humor you.

rank sophist said...

That STILL doesn't prove that by excluding a new applicant on the basis of a pre-existing illness the company is explicitly doing something immoral to that applicant personally.

It's case-by-case. Not every pre-existing case is an extreme situation, and so it naturally follows that not every case is going to be fundamentally immoral. My argument from the start has been based on using extreme cases to justify an individual mandate, even for the non-extreme cases. This, I believe, would be the more realistic option of the two available. The second would be to dismantle insurance companies as we know them, to bring them down to a more personal level, so that extreme situations could be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Given the amount of money involved in the insurance industry, I don't see that being viable, even though it may be preferable.

As Verbose Stoic agrees, the desperate cases on which my argument has been built can indeed obligate the insurance companies to provide coverage. The only way that they could reasonably deny these cases coverage is if there was A) no one who needed it more (as I've said) or B) another avenue available to the person asking for coverage. However, I have also argued that it is the moral obligation of someone asked for help to provide it in these situations, and, if that means coordinating with charity programs and whatnot, then that's how it works. What is not allowed under any circumstances is the current reaction, which is to impersonally deny coverage without any kind of help whatsoever.

It is possible that by engaging in finance capitalism the company is screwing many people, such as existing clients, or the surrounding community, or the whole economic order which it distorts.

I think we're both in agreement that this is necessarily the case, even though you disagree that capitalism necessarily goes this way.

Even granting that the company is unjust to the community as a whole, nothing you have said so far establishes that the company has a duty in justice toward this applicant specifically, an obligation to take on the applicant as an insured with a specific contract, and even if obligated to provide a specific contract, nothing shows it must be one that covers pre-existing illness costs immediately.

Aquinas quotes Ambrose as saying, "It is the hungry man's bread that you withhold, the naked man's cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man's ransom and freedom." It is a matter of rights that is at stake, which means that it is a matter of justice. It is the right of a desperate man to have what he needs, and denying him that right goes against justice. Hence, in the extreme cases I keep bringing up, it is indeed an obligation of justice and not merely of mercy that aid is provided.

It is difficult to see how it could ever be shown: why could not the applicant go to Company Z instead? Maybe there ARE companies that specialize in high-risk sorts like that. Which specific contract type is the company OBLIGATED IN JUSTICE to grant him, out of all its different options?

The company is obligated by justice to provide him with aid. Depending on the case, this aid may be coverage of his pre-existing condition, or it may be nothing more than giving him a small donation and helping him find other organizations.

rank sophist said...

When all of these sorts of things exist, it is really hard to see why it can be an obligation in mercy for a company to spring for coverage when asked by someone who may have other options.

Again, their current practices still don't line up with natural law, nor is it conceivable that they could.

All that said, I would not be adverse to considering making law so that when an employer provides group health coverage, and the employee is laid off, that coverage will automatically continue to cover an existing illness until the employee is again covered by an employer group health plan - AND THEN the new plan cannot refuse to cover the pre-existing illness. Such a law would be simply sliding coverage from one plan to another, and presumably such sliding would statistically work out evenly for any such insurer.

This is better than nothing, but, of course, it assumes that you're dealing with someone rich and/or healthy enough to work a job with health care benefits.

In any case, I'm not sure how you can demonstrate that capitalism is not by nature in violation of natural law. Your main argument thus far has been to define capitalism out of my criticisms--but it's difficult to see how you haven't merely defined it out of existence by erasing its differences with feudalism or distributism.

rank sophist said...

Verbose Stoic,

Why should the person asked have to give anything, simply because they were asked? Even under communal property, surely they'd only have to give it if the other person NEEDED it, and if there are other organizations who can and ought to provide it ahead of them and can provide it all then they don't actually need it.

See my above comments in response to Tony.

And it isn't the case that I agree with you and not Crude et al. Your point seemed to be that health insurance in particular inherently violated natural law, and you used the pre-existing conditions clause as a specific example. We now agree that in principle that that isn't the case, and so the system in and of itself doesn't violate natural law, but that in some extreme cases those running it might do so by following that policy too stringently.

As I've said from the beginning, my argument is based on extreme cases. Not every pre-existing condition scenario is going to be extreme enough to activate the natural law failsafes regarding property rights.

So, from what I've read, it seems like you've now concede the biggest thing that Crude wanted conceded: that policies that exclude pre-existing cases are not in and of themselves violations of natural law, nor is it the case that not extending them to someone who suddenly develops an illness and cannot pay is necesarily a violation or natural law.

My argument has never been that denying coverage of every pre-existing condition violates natural law. You can see this from my first post onward: my argument is built on the extreme situations that shift natural property rights around. Rather, my goal is to compare an individual mandate to the current practices of the industry, and to show that A) it doesn't violate natural law and B) that it's therefore preferable under Thomism.

Crude,

I think one thing people forget, and it's important to remember, is that 'capitalism' isn't a value system. If you fail to pursue profit at all costs, you're not going to get hauled in front of the Grand Nagus and chewed out for failing to adhere to the rules of acquisition. Would you like to give all of your disposable income to charity? Go for it, that's not forbidden. Would you like to structure your company in such a way that you don't always do the most profitable thing? Again, go for it.

If capitalism necessarily includes violations of natural law, then it is for that reason alone a value system. Structuring an economy as a survival-of-the-fittest corporate deathmatch is, as I've argued at length, a violation of natural law. It's irrelevant that you aren't directly punished for violating the tenets of capitalism: if capitalism's natural law violations result in an environment hostile to following natural law, then it's pretty clear that we're dealing with immorality.

The problem there is, the immoral capitalist, again, doesn't get awarded money by decree. If more people are willing to buy from the company run by the immoral man, then your problem still isn't really with the system, it's with the people consciously making the decision to throw away the morality of the business owner and practices as a factor in their purchasing decisions. Consumers can put any man they want out of business at any time if they collectively choose to.

Absolutely irrelevant. If the government did not punish murder, you could use this same argument to justify massacres. Just blame the people carrying out the act, and it's all good, right? Wrong. Matters of justice (like murder) involve the rights of man that the government is sworn to uphold, and all of the capitalist practices I just criticized are matters of justice.

Crude said...

Rank,

Structuring an economy as a survival-of-the-fittest corporate deathmatch is, as I've argued at length, a violation of natural law.

Who's 'structuring the economy as a survival-of-the-fittest corporate deathmatch'? Or are you talking about *people* who choose to run their businesses that way? Wait, let me guess - if the government isn't forcing them to behave right, then that counts as structuring?

It's irrelevant that you aren't directly punished for violating the tenets of capitalism: if capitalism's natural law violations result in an environment hostile to following natural law, then it's pretty clear that we're dealing with immorality.

No, it's not irrelevant - it's extremely important because it highlights the degree of freedom involved in a 'capitalist' system, and makes it clear just who the responsible agents are.

Absolutely irrelevant. If the government did not punish murder, you could use this same argument to justify massacres. Just blame the people carrying out the act, and it's all good, right?

Read what I said again. At no point did I say that these acts were "justified" - that's all you. If anything, I strongly implied they were not "justified". What I did say was that in a capitalist system, the consumers have some culpability.

Are you really going to deny this? What's more, what are you saying? That if someone commits a massacre, if they happened to be in a lawless area at the time, they're not culpable? Or are you telling me that when people walk into lawless territories they suddenly go freaking ballistic and engage in murders because there's not a law present, and their personal character and morals are meaningless?

Matters of justice (like murder) involve the rights of man that the government is sworn to uphold,

No, because not every matter of justice could be or should be mediated by the government. Or wait, do you disagree and think that *all injustice* is automatically the government's business?

Again, Aquinas wasn't of the view that every immoral act needed to be legislated against, or that every moral act needed to be legally mandatory.

rank sophist said...

Who's 'structuring the economy as a survival-of-the-fittest corporate deathmatch'? Or are you talking about *people* who choose to run their businesses that way? Wait, let me guess - if the government isn't forcing them to behave right, then that counts as structuring?

You seem to be assuming that this is a debate between "structure" and "freedom". This is a bit like the Gnu argument that the choice is between "believing in God" and "having no beliefs". It's a way of shifting the burden of proof. But, no--it doesn't work. If the government doesn't mandate something, then that's a choice (a structure) in itself. Freedom is a structure: not a lack of structure. Even anarchy is a structure. So, if a government does not do anything about justice-violating business practices, it is not a matter of structuring or freeing, but of structuring one way or another. This means that there can be just and unjust structures of business. To suggest otherwise is to accept the consequences of my reductio about murder.

No, it's not irrelevant - it's extremely important because it highlights the degree of freedom involved in a 'capitalist' system, and makes it clear just who the responsible agents are.

You've merely begged the question: your premise ("freedom is not a structure") is presupposed without argument. Further, if we accept your idea, then it becomes true that government intervention regarding murder is not obligated. They can do it if they like, or not--doesn't matter. That flies in the face of natural law, which gives the government a role in protecting natural rights from injustice. If the injustices of capitalism are something that the government shouldn't interfere with, then it follows that murder is in the same boat.

Read what I said again. At no point did I say that these acts were "justified" - that's all you. If anything, I strongly implied they were not "justified". What I did say was that in a capitalist system, the consumers have some culpability.

The word "justify" was used sloppily, there. Apologies. I meant that you could defend the letting-be of massacres by placing the blame on those involved. According to you, there would be no reason to involve the government in these situations. If we had a Darfur scenario along the Rust Belt (for example), you could throw up your hands and say, "That's a shame! Nothing to be done. If only people weren't so evil--but that's the price of freedom!" It ends in absurdity that completely contradicts natural law theory.

Are you really going to deny this? What's more, what are you saying? That if someone commits a massacre, if they happened to be in a lawless area at the time, they're not culpable? Or are you telling me that when people walk into lawless territories they suddenly go freaking ballistic and engage in murders because there's not a law present, and their personal character and morals are meaningless?

Natural law places moral obligations on every party involved. If the murderer violates justice, then that's one problem. If you have the power to stop him and choose not to do it, then that's another. Likewise, if a business violates justice, that's one problem; and failing to stop it is another.

No, because not every matter of justice could be or should be mediated by the government. Or wait, do you disagree and think that *all injustice* is automatically the government's business?

Take it up with natural law.

rank sophist said...

Also, it should be remembered that "government" under natural law is very different than what we understand today. Feudalism was extremely localized. Bringing charges of fraud against someone was a matter taking it to the town square, so to speak.

rank sophist said...

Tony,

The only way that they could reasonably deny these cases coverage is if there was A) no one who needed it more (as I've said) or B) another avenue available to the person asking for coverage.

I should have said "A) someone who needed it more". Oops.

Crude said...

Rank,

So, if a government does not do anything about justice-violating business practices, it is not a matter of structuring or freeing, but of structuring one way or another. This means that there can be just and unjust structures of business. To suggest otherwise is to accept the consequences of my reductio about murder.

Even in cases where the government is 'structuring by not structuring', you're still going to have to concede that the people and the businesses are themselves culpable for the system outcomes - and those are problems that may be more appropriately be addressed through non-government action.

You've merely begged the question: your premise ("freedom is not a structure") is presupposed without argument. Further, if we accept your idea, then it becomes true that government intervention regarding murder is not obligated. They can do it if they like, or not--doesn't matter.

Nah, I can completely cede 'freedom is a structure' and my argument here still goes through, because my argument is ridiculously basic: people are culpable for their actions, and it's entirely reasonable to address problems by confronting and dealing with the people themselves (whether they're friends, family, neighbors, companies, or otherwise) as opposed to using the force of government and law.

I meant that you could defend the letting-be of massacres by placing the blame on those involved. According to you, there would be no reason to involve the government in these situations.

According to me? Nah, not true at all. According to me, the *people* are culpable in those situations, and it's a mistake to regard it as entirely a government issue. According to me, not every concern of justice or morality is appropriately assigned to the government, much less wholly to the government.

That, by the way, is the case even when the government declares something illegal. If abortion were outlawed, would the job of pro-lifers be done? Pro-lifers don't think so, with good reason - because they tend to recognize that these are cultural issues, personal issues.

You, meanwhile, seem to want to assign all the blame to 'capitalism' or 'businesses'. Sorry man - the blame spreads out further than that.

Natural law places moral obligations on every party involved. If the murderer violates justice, then that's one problem. If you have the power to stop him and choose not to do it, then that's another. Likewise, if a business violates justice, that's one problem; and failing to stop it is another.

Take it up with natural law.

Seriously? You interpret natural law to mean that all instances of injustice is automatically the government's business? Seriously?

I don't have to take it up with natural law, because natural law doesn't dictate that.

Hell, let's apply the situation right here. You have a variety of thomists and natural law proponents here who disagree with your interpretation of natural law. I suppose we're taking part in injustice then? I mean me specifically certainly, since I've defended excluding people with pre-existing conditions from policies in principle.

Does natural law dictate that the government censor me somehow, in your view?

Also, it should be remembered that "government" under natural law is very different than what we understand today. Feudalism was extremely localized. Bringing charges of fraud against someone was a matter taking it to the town square, so to speak.

You're a big advocate of smaller government? Can you name any government agencies you'd eliminate or seriously pare down?

Papalinton said...

Crude
"And I'm still going to want to know the limits. Let's say someone has cancer. They're in a universal health care country. There's a backlog of 1 year for the treatments they need. They die."

No. That's not right. The usual practice is a triage system of assessment. And yes, there can be a backlog of those who may have to wait a little longer for treatment, such as the comparison between a cancer patient which would be deemed a priority and one that requires a replacement hip. Inconvenience and timing of treatment seems to be biggest frustration for the lesser triage conditions experienced by patients within a universal healthcare system.

Tony said...

But how is your definition of capitalism any different from feudalism? I don't see it.

Feudalism isn't about the aggregation of capital with labor to increase productivity in generating new goods. It just isn't.

Feudalism was a set of reciprocal obligations, some military and loyalty, some otherwise having economic impact. Look just at the latter, the system revolved around fief wholly controlled by a lord or baron, and vassals to whom the fief was granted on the basis of reciprocal fealty and duty of both military support and supply of a part of produce.

I fail to see any reason to confuse this with my definition of capitalism.

It's case-by-case. Not every pre-existing case is an extreme situation, and so it naturally follows that not every case is going to be fundamentally immoral. My argument from the start has been based on using extreme cases to justify an individual mandate, even for the non-extreme cases.

Allowing for the sake of the argument that this specific insurance company is based on immoral finance capitalism, we can agree that its nature is wrong. That means, effectively, that it should be dissolved. A corporation is a series of mutual contracts about how to allocate resources (capital, reserves, etc). Were the state to step in and declare that a contract or set of contracts is invalid and must be dissolved, the state would do one of two things: it either follows the contractual dissolution clauses about what happens to the assets, or it puts everything into receivership and divide out the assets as justly as possible. 90% or more of the assets here will be set aside as reserves for handling the claims of actual insured people for actual contractual obligations (their having a contract to receive payment is not immoral). Whatever is left over, if anything, is normally going to be either returned to the stockholders or will be fined away and handed to the state for the common purposes. Under no conceivable circumstance would the state locate a right in INDIVIDUAL non-contracted citizens.

If there is a obligation that the assets be made available to some poor person in extreme need, that obligation would have to pass first through the hands of those whose contractual rights fully determine the use of the company's assets. Supposing that the investors SHOULDN'T have made contracts to put their assets into the aggregated hands of the company, the corrective is to dissolve those contracts, in which case the ownership of the assets reverts to the pre-contractual holding.

THE COMPANY HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DISTRIBUTE ASSETS PLACED IN ITS HANDS OTHERWISE THAN WITHIN THE LIMITED RIGHTS GRANTED TO THE COMPANY BY THE OWNERS OF THE ASSETS. If the contracts are evil contracts and are dissolved, then the company ceases to hold the right to distribute the assets AT ALL. You can't create an obligation on the company to do something that stands outside what powers it has, and it never has powers over its assets that exceed the limited control granted by the owners.

Let us grant that there is an obligation to take care of this poor person in extreme need: the obligation falls on the stockholders, not on the company.

Crude said...

For my part, I'm more amazed at this idea of natural law as teaching that if something is immoral or unjust, then the government absolutely must step in, period, and the solution cannot possibly lie elsewhere.

All I see here is a complete abdication of the idea that individuals, communities, neighborhoods, cultures, etc should be targets of persuasion or be major players in situations of injustice. They're pretty much moot - the government handles everything.

Papalinton said...

What is missed in this OP and the commentary following is this perspective from Newsweek:

"For many Democrats, Roberts’s Obamacare ruling was an act of judicial statesmanship that saved the Supreme Court from becoming a virtual arm of the Republican Party. For the right, which had championed his elevation to chief justice, it was an ideological stab in the back. But for Roberts himself, it was arguably the apotheosis of a jurisprudential and personal struggle years in the making—between his staunch conservatism and his attachment to predictability, social harmony, decorum, and propriety. “John’s caution is very deep-seated,” says a former colleague who would speak about the chief justice only on the condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t like surprises.” In voting to uphold health-care reform, Roberts showed deference to the elected branches of government, averted a direct clash with a president from an opposing party in the heat of a national election, and strengthened the court’s institutional legitimacy as a neutral arbiter of the law."

The article detailing the man and the decision he made on Obamacare can be read HERE

The key here is the great respect Roberts has for the SCOTUS and its need to strike a balance as a neutral arbiter of the law. Petty partisan party politics was not an important consideration in his ruling in support of the legislation. Justice Roberts did the honourable thing in maintaining the independence of the Supreme Court bench.

rank sophist said...

Even in cases where the government is 'structuring by not structuring', you're still going to have to concede that the people and the businesses are themselves culpable for the system outcomes - and those are problems that may be more appropriately be addressed through non-government action.

Why would I concede this? As I've said, both the business and those capable of stopping that business are to blame.

Nah, I can completely cede 'freedom is a structure' and my argument here still goes through, because my argument is ridiculously basic: people are culpable for their actions, and it's entirely reasonable to address problems by confronting and dealing with the people themselves (whether they're friends, family, neighbors, companies, or otherwise) as opposed to using the force of government and law.

The principle of subsidiarity dictates that the lowest possible office should be used to deal with problems. The government happens to be the lowest possible office capable of dealing with violations of natural law by big businesses.

You, meanwhile, seem to want to assign all the blame to 'capitalism' or 'businesses'. Sorry man - the blame spreads out further than that.

I've already explained that there's plenty of blame to go around.

Seriously? You interpret natural law to mean that all instances of injustice is automatically the government's business? Seriously?

We've already discussed the principle of subsidiarity. However, if you're talking about problems of justice, they are generally situations of oppression. That's because justice relates to rights, and to have one's rights violated is to in some sense be taken advantage of. It is proper and even necessary for the government to step in and deal with such situations in order to protect the innocent. If someone is incapable of preventing their own rights from being violated, you can pretty much guarantee that they're going to need help. That, in large part, is the role of government.

Hell, let's apply the situation right here. You have a variety of thomists and natural law proponents here who disagree with your interpretation of natural law. I suppose we're taking part in injustice then?

I think a lot of this argument with you has been a waste of time, because you just don't understand natural law well enough to grasp my key points. The above paragraph Exhibit A.

"Injustice" relates to the violation of a man's natural rights. It is not the vague, slippery term that we generally use today. So, no--there is no injustice here. Even if Prof. Feser, for no reason at all, banned me right now, he would not violate my natural rights. One might argue that the action had some other flaw, but it most definitely would not be a violation of rights. This is, in part, because free speech is a positive and not a natural right. In fact, indiscriminate free speech is a violation of natural rights--as Leo XIII argued.

rank sophist said...

You're a big advocate of smaller government? Can you name any government agencies you'd eliminate or seriously pare down?

As I've already said, my argument is intended to prove a point. I'm trying to show, first, that natural law conflicts with modern conservatism, and, second, that an individual mandate is preferable under natural law to the existing practices of the health insurance industry. I am not here to offer dream solutions.

But, since you've asked, I might as well say that neither conservatives nor liberals nor libertarians are correct about the size and operation of government or the private sector. Further, communism, capitalism and socialism are all broken and largely worthless. It isn't even coherent to ask me what government agencies I'd cut or shrink, because I'm not in favor of big or small government (or no government) as we understand those terms today. My argument for the individual mandate is a pragmatic choice of the "least evil" option--the best choice would be to abolish health insurance (local friendly societies are preferable), dramatically shrink and localize the medical industry, and thus remove the necessity of the individual mandate entirely.

Crude said...

Why would I concede this? As I've said, both the business and those capable of stopping that business are to blame.

'Those capable of stopping that business' include, in principle, its clients.

The principle of subsidiarity dictates that the lowest possible office should be used to deal with problems. The government happens to be the lowest possible office capable of dealing with violations of natural law by big businesses.

Not true, either in principle or practice. To hear you say it, a medical insurance company could not be forced out of business by its policyholders even in principle - and that's simply not true.

I've already explained that there's plenty of blame to go around.

It must have been with someone other than myself, because I have yet to read you admitting that there are multiple - even at least in principle - solutions to so many of these problems you outline, rather than having to go directly to the government. And that's a considerable oversight.

If someone is incapable of preventing their own rights from being violated, you can pretty much guarantee that they're going to need help. That, in large part, is the role of government.

Ironically - mostly through modernist eyes. In reality, the the possible sources of help they can receive goes far, far beyond government. But it's the only instrument you seem to want to give any credence to.

This is doubly sad given what you say below.

My argument for the individual mandate is a pragmatic choice of the "least evil" option--the best choice would be to abolish health insurance (local friendly societies are preferable), dramatically shrink and localize the medical industry, and thus remove the necessity of the individual mandate entirely.

That's quite a turnaround from earlier arguing insisting that people here were outlining practical problems with the system, whereas you were advocating for the purity of natural law as you saw it. Now you're talking about pragmatism and 'least evil' options. Just as myself and others pointed out that your off the cuff calculation of 'he should pay 5000' in the 20k banked example was out of nowhere, once you start admitting that the individual mandate is evil - even if 'the least evil' - then you've opened yourself up to a whole new range of arguments.

And really, if your response to focusing on society and culture first and foremost to affect change is that it's not realistic, and the only realistic solution is to bypass that and simply go for government interventions and 'least evil' modernist solutions, you really have to start asking yourself if you're not part of the problem you're railing against.

rank sophist said...

Tony,

Feudalism isn't about the aggregation of capital with labor to increase productivity in generating new goods. It just isn't.

And yet all of the business practices you described originate from feudalism, and not one source agrees with your assessment of capitalism. Neither have you managed to show how your understanding of capitalism is different from distributism. (Increasingly, it seems to me that you might actually be a distributist.)

From what I can tell, it's fairly clear that neither you nor anyone else can defend capitalism from the critique of natural law. All you've done is repeat "that's not capitalism!" over and over again, until what you call "capitalism" is completely unrecognizable as what anybody has ever called capitalism. Like I said, I think you may be a distributist at heart.

I fail to see any reason to confuse this with my definition of capitalism.

Because you ignored the business side of feudalism, enshrined, for instance, in Aquinas's theories. Or are you going to tell me that Aquinas was a capitalist, even though he lived hundreds of years before capitalism began?

Allowing for the sake of the argument that this specific insurance company is based on immoral finance capitalism, we can agree that its nature is wrong. That means, effectively, that it should be dissolved.

I think everyone here knows that this isn't going to happen. I never said that an individual mandate was a perfect solution--just that it was the better option when compared to continuing the industry as-is. If we are going to go with the truly moral option, then we are, of course, in full agreement.

THE COMPANY HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DISTRIBUTE ASSETS PLACED IN ITS HANDS OTHERWISE THAN WITHIN THE LIMITED RIGHTS GRANTED TO THE COMPANY BY THE OWNERS OF THE ASSETS. If the contracts are evil contracts and are dissolved, then the company ceases to hold the right to distribute the assets AT ALL. You can't create an obligation on the company to do something that stands outside what powers it has, and it never has powers over its assets that exceed the limited control granted by the owners.

You've actually gone in for a more extreme solution than I originally advocated, but one more in line with my own beliefs. I think we can agree on this. Dissolving the contracts entirely would be the more morally correct option than an individual mandate, which, as I said, I believe is more of a pragmatic bandaid fix than a true solution.

rank sophist said...

Let us grant that there is an obligation to take care of this poor person in extreme need: the obligation falls on the stockholders, not on the company.

And I think we can agree on this as well. If the problem of the corporation's size was gone (it would have to be for the company to be compatible with natural law), the individuals who comprise it would be able to interact on a more personal level with customers.

Well, if that's that, then I think we're done. My case that capitalism (and, by extension, modern conservatism) is incompatible with natural law seems to have proven correct. We're agreed that the best option is the dissolution of those corporations whose practices violate natural law--although I maintain that the bandaid fix of the individual mandate is a decent compromise, given the impossibility of the fully moral course of action. (Obviously, you disagree with that last part, but you're dedicated enough to natural law that I don't think I could convince you otherwise.)

rank sophist said...

Crude,

'Those capable of stopping that business' include, in principle, its clients.

In other words, you've returned to throwing up your hands and praying for capitalist natural selection to fix the problem. Completely wrong.

Not true, either in principle or practice. To hear you say it, a medical insurance company could not be forced out of business by its policyholders even in principle - and that's simply not true.

Read what Tony just said. He agreed that the moral option would be for the company to be dissolved. He did not say that we should wait around for the policyholders to drive it out of business. If even he believes that, with his pretty beefy knowledge of natural law (I've learned a lot from him in this discussion), then you're going to have to give up on this point.

It must have been with someone other than myself, because I have yet to read you admitting that there are multiple - even at least in principle - solutions to so many of these problems you outline, rather than having to go directly to the government. And that's a considerable oversight.

It seems almost like you're trying to misread my posts. When I said that there was "plenty of blame to go around", I was referring to the fact that multiple parties where at fault, as I'd just said elsewhere in that post. Aside from the company itself, the most important one of those parties is the government, whose job it would be to dissolve that company.

Ironically - mostly through modernist eyes.

Once again, your ignorance of natural law (no offense--it's just a fact that we keep bumping into) leads you to say outrageous things. Elsewhere in this combox, Tony wrote this:

In its primary order of action, the government has strict regard for justice: if the rich do OPPRESS the poor by treating them unjustly, say by constructing unjust contracts that create (veiled) slavery, that's something the government has a first-order duty to stop.

That's how it works. Your idea of extreme self-governance even in cases of justice is the modernist view--yet more free-market capitalism.

rank sophist said...

That's quite a turnaround from earlier arguing insisting that people here were outlining practical problems with the system, whereas you were advocating for the purity of natural law as you saw it. Now you're talking about pragmatism and 'least evil' options.

I still agree with pretty much everything I've said in this combox. Your practical arguments for keeping the industry as it is were little more than utilitarianism--they were arguments for evil. Plus, as I have been saying since page 1, there are two possible courses of action better than the current one: the death of the insurance industry as we know it, or an individual mandate. I said this in a post on November 8, 2012 2:51 AM--five days ago. And I have been saying since November 9th (at least): "My other point is that an individual mandate is more in line with natural law than is current industry practice, in part because it resolves the clash between capitalism and Thomism." I still agree with this. I even agree that an individual mandate takes out the problem of capitalism clashing with Thomism. Did I ever say that my solution was perfect? Did I ever suggest that it was the most moral option available? No. I said it was better than what we've got and more realistic than the best option--that it was more in line with Thomism than current industry practice. I don't know whose posts you've been reading since this combox went up, but I'm not sure they were mine.

Just as myself and others pointed out that your off the cuff calculation of 'he should pay 5000' in the 20k banked example was out of nowhere, once you start admitting that the individual mandate is evil - even if 'the least evil' - then you've opened yourself up to a whole new range of arguments.

The individual mandate has certain problems. I don't believe that its existence contradicts natural law, though. It would not go against the principle of subsidiarity (no one but the government can solve the issue with the insurance industry), nor would it violate just price. All it does is require everyone to have health insurance or face a penalty--that's it. As far as I can tell, that doesn't violate natural law. The best you could say is that the subsidy for the poor violates natural law, which might be true. However, it is a bandaid fix because, as Prof. Feser's article link suggested, it does not liquidate the insurance industry: it only makes it stronger. Further, it expands the role of government, when the superior option would be to destroy the need for that involvement by gutting the industry.

And really, if your response to focusing on society and culture first and foremost to affect change is that it's not realistic, and the only realistic solution is to bypass that and simply go for government interventions and 'least evil' modernist solutions, you really have to start asking yourself if you're not part of the problem you're railing against.

You've been arguing for the past 200 posts that we should just let the market run its course. That is literally the worst option out of all of them--even worse than a government-run health insurance company. If my answer is part of the problem, then your answer is the remaining 75%. It is absolutely not an acceptable option, as even Tony now agrees.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I want to thank Papalinton for this quote about John Roberts and it needs requoting:
For many Democrats, Roberts’s Obamacare ruling was an act of judicial statesmanship that saved the Supreme Court from becoming a virtual arm of the Republican Party. For the right, which had championed his elevation to chief justice, it was an ideological stab in the back. But for Roberts himself, it was arguably the apotheosis of a jurisprudential and personal struggle years in the making—between his staunch conservatism and his attachment to predictability, social harmony, decorum, and propriety. “John’s caution is very deep-seated,” says a former colleague who would speak about the chief justice only on the condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t like surprises.” In voting to uphold health-care reform, Roberts showed deference to the elected branches of government, averted a direct clash with a president from an opposing party in the heat of a national election, and strengthened the court’s institutional legitimacy as a neutral arbiter of the law."

Marxism is the Rule of Law?

I stand by what I said, Chief Justice John Roberts is a scoundrel. He disgraced his Faith and this Country. He needs to resign. His cowardice, lack of wisdom and virtue are evident.

The Rule of Law rests on Truth not on "predictability, social harmony, decorum, and propriety". Chief Justice Roberts ruled on the basis of vanity. ---not substance.

As the saying, the Natural Law, in Plato's Republic is "The Good comes thru the Hard". Truth is Hard. Truth is not of this world. Truth is not amongst the masses.

He is a scoundrel.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

WoW, I'm channeling Ann Barnhardt. I'm listening to her talk on the Vendee. In the 2nd Part Vendee, Ann calls Chief Justice Roberts, at the 7:31 minute mark:

"He is a miserable trembling coward, a disgrace as a man and a disgrace to America."

See, traditional patriotic Americans think alike. My conclusions are confirmed by a second witness.

Crude said...

Just enough time to respond to this to now - more later.

You've been arguing for the past 200 posts that we should just let the market run its course. That is literally the worst option out of all of them--even worse than a government-run health insurance company. If my answer is part of the problem, then your answer is the remaining 75%. It is absolutely not an acceptable option, as even Tony now agrees.

Hahaha. What?

Nowhere - nowhere - did I say we 'should have just let the market run its course', as if there were no problem to even address.

My points have been pretty targeted: I said that the idea that pre-existing people were excluded for coverage was not due to 'greed', but a fundamental requirement to maintain the integrity of the insurance system - it would remain even if all desire for profit were stripped from the people running the business.

I said that the failings are far, far broader than merely 'mean guys running a business'. I pointed out the in principle responsibilities at the levels of the individual, the family, the neighborhood, the community, the local government, the state government, the charities. I pointed out this remains the case even if there's a 'capitalist' economic system at work.

I pointed out that even if some government involvement is justified, that fact alone doesn't get one to a justification of federal level involvement. Maybe the appropriate government level is local. Or state. Or a mix. Or maybe it shouldn't just be a responsibility of the government.

The problem you seem to be having is, if I suggest failings on the part of more than just the Usual Suspects - in your case it's the businesses, in the right-winger's case it's the government - then I'm carrying water for the capitalists or communists. The very idea that failings are failings of cultures, individuals, neighborhoods, societies - that there is something WRONG there with the modern mindset - gets treated as threatening or worse, foreign. I suppose because it complicates matters or, worse, suggests we need to start addressing problems from what is now an unfamiliar direction.

I bought into that line for years. I finally realized what was wrong with it. Regarding these problems as first and foremost (or even exclusively) legislative problems, better yet FEDERAL legislative problems, is part of the modern illness.

You've set this dispute up as capitalists versus anti-capitalists, and on a certain level problem This Political Wing/Party versus That Wing. I'm saying, especially given distributivism, you're analyzing the problem wrong. And part of the problem in your analysis is that if I don't chime in and say 'Of COURSE capitalists are the problem, let's go git 'em!' all you hear is 'The wealthy should eat the poor!' or something equally absurd.

Daniel Smith said...

What does Natural Law say about personal accountability?

The reason I ask is because the example used at one point (a child with cancer) is an example where the pre-existing condition happened through no fault of the individual involved. But what about the more common, real-world, pre-existing conditions such as the 300 lb diabetic, the chain smoker with emphysema, the alcoholic with liver failure, the heroin addict with hepatitis C, or the homosexual man with HIV/AIDS?

Is it still against Natural Law to refuse healthcare coverage to someone who is actively destroying their own health?

Papalinton said...

"Roberts has perhaps done as much damage to the causes of conservatism and limited government, and to the liberty of the Church, as has any other man in American history."

Should this statement be an authoritative reflection of Catholic thought, is it any wonder that many, including Catholics of conscience, have simply rejected this as nonsense? I suspect such hyperbole is a far stretch from the truth when one is mindful of the Catholics and other believers on this site who have posited a more informed and reasonable overview of Obamacare, the role of SCOTUS [or more particularly, Justice Roberts] and the role of government in the service to the wider community. To presuppose conservatism, the concept of limited government and the liberty of the church as sharing a common essence, is a fundamentally flawed and egregious conflation of unrelated elements. The alignment of the church [per Feser] with the conservatism of the insane right-wing fascism of the Tea Party lunatics that have arrogated for themselves the conservative movement in the US today is not very helpful for either the cause of genuine conservatism or the long-term survival of the Republican Party. Feser's statement is egregious in that he conveniently overlooks that by far the largest Catholic constituency that supported Obamacare was the Hispanic vote, let alone all those catholics who in turn are generally liberal. Their vote for Obama was a vote for Obamacare, a vote that rejected the claim of anti-catholicism. If the suggestion that Obamacare was an unprecedented arrack on the liberty of the church to carry out its mission, then we should by rights witness the inevitable collapse of the church in the US. I can recall a similar pronouncement when divorce was legalised, and the current objection to gay marriage.
Somehow, I think not.

Feser would do well to keep his personal politics, philosophy, and Catholic mumbo-jumbo separate. To do otherwise is simply to stir a witch's brew of volatile, unstable and dangerous reagents.

Daniel Smith said...

dguller: First, do you disagree that everyone has the right to healthcare?

If there were no doctors, would everyone still have a right to healthcare?



Tony said...

Rank, your notion of the obligation of the insurer to insure this person in "extreme need" just does not work.

For one thing, having insurance is having a contract to share future risks of health care. NOBODY has an extreme need to have a contract to share future risks. If a person is in extreme need of health care, the nature of "extreme" means that he needs it NOW, today, not next month. It can't be an emergency (the kind of emergency that sets aside the usual rules of private property) if the need is off into the future rather than today. But then you don't need a contract about future risk sharing of uncertain possibles. With an emergency the need is clear and PRESENT. When you have an emergency, you don't call up a lawyer to draw up a contract, you call a doctor or an EMT or the police.

Analogy: Suppose you are poor, and actually close to starving, you are in desperate need of food. You walk into an office and say: "you guys have food at your disposal, I am in extreme need, give me some." The manager gets up and walks you to the door and says "look down the street. 3 doors down is a restaurant - they have food ready made. Look across the street at the grocery store, they have food on the shelves. Look at the other direction, right next door, there is a charity food pantry, and a soup kitchen. My friend, you should go to one of those. Because this office is the district office of a food supply contracting business: we arrange contracts between distributors and restaurants. We don't actually have any food on the premises. If we wanted food, we would have to go to the store or restaurant ourselves."

Suppose you reply "But I will be hungry tomorrow and the next day, and so on, it is recurring. It isn't enough that the soup kitchen give me food for today, I need a contract that says I will ALSO get food tomorrow." The manager rightly responds: "Friend, such contracts are matters of exchange justice, for those who impart goods upon each other by exchange. What you are in need of is charity, which is different from exchange justice. It is impossible for you to NEED tomorrow's food today such that it creates an obligation on others, you only need today's food today in that sense. Who knows, maybe you will inherit a fortune tonight, or maybe you will be run over by a bus. Either way, you might not need tomorrow's charity handout, so it isn't a definitive need right now. It is only definitive, critical needs that can arise to a demand on others as obligation."

Likewise for health care. If you need care because you are in extreme need, you need a doctor, not a contract. It is impossible to be in DESPERATE need of a contract to take care of health care risks for next month. That's contrary to the meaning of 'desperate.'
Secondarily, true insurance is about risk-sharing. It is about dealing with unknown future risk, and pooling it out between many. If you have an existing medical condition that you need help with, you aren't in need of insurance to pool RISK, (it is no longer uncertain - you definitely need care), you are in need of a cost-spreading. It is true that today's health care industry has mostly sandwiched cost spreading with risk pooling, but they need not be put into the same companies. There are medical plans that strongly emphasize only the risk pooling: you cover all of your own costs until you hit X amount (typically $3,000 to $5,000 per person), and then they kick in and start to cover costs. Suppose the poor person ends up at the offices of one of these plans, and they sell him a contract. The fact that he cannot afford the first $5,000 that they don't cover doesn't mean that they should now cover it anyway. They never were in that business, for ANY of their clients. A poor person cannot dictate what kind of business a business owner runs.

Tony said...

You've actually gone in for a more extreme solution than I originally advocated, but one more in line with my own beliefs. I think we can agree on this. Dissolving the contracts entirely would be the more morally correct option than an individual mandate, which, as I said, I believe is more of a pragmatic bandaid fix than a true solution.

Yes, but what I proposed, dissolving contracts, is actually a standard governmental device for dealing with invalid and immoral contracts. What you have suggested, RE-WRITING the contracts to remove one aspect of the immorality but leaving intact the rest of the immorality actually isn't the normative way a government should deal with bad contracts. For one thing, obviously it leaves the rest of the immorality going strong.

In addition: it is one thing to say "we are not going to enforce your contract, in fact we are dissolve the contract and set you back to square one as if nobody made any contractual transaction at all", and another thing entirely to say instead "this is a bad contract, but we are going to fix it up the way we would like to see it so that you are now contracted to do something that you never would have agreed to do". The second is not really a good and proper governmental response to bad contracts. It is a version of tyranny. If a contract is a bad contract because it contracts to do something inherently immoral, then let it terminate and let the parties make a good new contract in its place that DOESN'T do immoral things. It not the the government's place to construct anew the kind of contract that it wants the citizens to follow and force them into it. (Oh, wait, Obama thinks it IS the government's job to force citizen't to buy contracts whether they want them or not. Hmmmmm)

My case that capitalism (and, by extension, modern conservatism) is incompatible with natural law seems to have proven correct.

Keep dreaming, kiddo. Oh, wait, what is that you've been smoking? I hope it isn't one of those "medicinal" weeds, man. Nothing of the sort. All you have done is "prove" what I agreed to all along: that there is grave problem in the finance sector. The practical corrective that will actually be used, (since Obamacare does NOT have any intention to dissolve the finance-capitalist insurance companies) is not settled at all. Re-writing at whim the meaning of contracts to create a new contractual obligation out of whole cloth is one of those typically liberal "solutions" that ignores both proper limits on the rule of law (ex post facto) AND subsidiarity.

Tony said...

Daniel Smith: If there were no doctors, would everyone still have a right to healthcare?

Dan, EXACTLY right. If you dis-incentivize being a doctor, fewer people will want to take on the 11 years of training, and so you will have fewer doctor hours to spread around, etc. If John doesn't become a doctor, NOBODY will have "access" to a doctor's care from John.

Tony said...

Me: In its primary order of action, the government has strict regard for justice: if the rich do OPPRESS the poor by treating them unjustly, say by constructing unjust contracts that create (veiled) slavery, that's something the government has a first-order duty to stop.

Rank Sophist: That's how it works. Your idea of extreme self-governance even in cases of justice is the modernist view--yet more free-market capitalism.

Rank (and Crude), my point was to distinguish how government's obligations differ in the areas of justice between citizens and charity between citizens. There is a much more primary duty for government to correct injustices between them than to correct failures of charity. However, I did not mean to say (and I admit my comment could be read that way, to my chagrin) that government's job is to correct ALL injustices. My example was that of a grave injustice. Government has the job of putting a stop to some sorts of injustices, but not all. For example, if 2 people make a contract for a killing, (i.e. something intrinsically evil), gov. should not only stop the killer but must also dissolve the contract (and get the other guy for conspiracy) because such contracts should be suppressed. On the other hand, if a kid ignorantly makes a contract to cut a lady's lawn for only half the fair rate, NO, government should not step in and suppress the contract. I don't mean to say that all injustices arise to a call for government action. Also, contract law is normally a state law arena, so generally it should be state law to intervene when the injustice is one of bad contracts.

dguller said...

Daniel Smith:

If there were no doctors, would everyone still have a right to healthcare?

No. And? The fact is that there are doctors and healthcare available.

Tony:

Dan, EXACTLY right. If you dis-incentivize being a doctor, fewer people will want to take on the 11 years of training, and so you will have fewer doctor hours to spread around, etc. If John doesn't become a doctor, NOBODY will have "access" to a doctor's care from John.

Who is talking about dis-incentivizing anyone? Socialized medicine does not necessarily dis-incentivize someone from becoming a doctor. It certainly didn’t stop me from becoming one.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

Nowhere - nowhere - did I say we 'should have just let the market run its course', as if there were no problem to even address.

Here's what you've been telling me:

1. In a free-market capitalist society, bad companies can be weeded out through natural selection.
2. Charities and so forth exist to take care of the people who get shut out.
3. The number of people shut out are the price we pay for "freedom".
4. It is better to leave these variables to themselves than to have the government deal with natural rights violations.

If this isn't what you believe, then you've been sending the wrong signals for about a week now.

My points have been pretty targeted: I said that the idea that pre-existing people were excluded for coverage was not due to 'greed', but a fundamental requirement to maintain the integrity of the insurance system - it would remain even if all desire for profit were stripped from the people running the business.

Which shows that the insurance industry as it exists now is a bad idea. As I've said, the structure of greed (read: capitalism) is built into modern insurance companies even before they start. They have no choice but to act in these ways, which is to say that they profit from the healthy and cut the losses caused by the sick whenever possible. This is why we see practices like spending limits and denying aid to the desperate. To reiterate: friendly societies are far and away more compatible with Christianity and natural law than is the insurance industry. This, once again, brings us back to our two choices: either we scrap the entire industry, or we apply a bandaid. Both options involve hefty legislative efforts.

Tony said earlier that evil companies and contracts that violate justice should be dissolved. Judging by his newest posts, he doesn't seem to have realized that contracts involving the denial of aid to the desperately sick constitute such an evil.

I said that the failings are far, far broader than merely 'mean guys running a business'. I pointed out the in principle responsibilities at the levels of the individual, the family, the neighborhood, the community, the local government, the state government, the charities. I pointed out this remains the case even if there's a 'capitalist' economic system at work.

In other words, we should just leave the market alone and do our best with what little we've got. Sorry, but that doesn't cut it under natural law--it's post-Enlightenment thinking that most conservatives try to disguise as tradition. Either the industry gets busted up (out of existence or into local companies), or new laws get introduced to damage-control for the evils of capitalist enterprise. Those are the two acceptable options. Your suggestion is to leave the industry's practices ungoverned and to try for semi-local solutions, perhaps getting a state or two besides Massachussetts to pass a gimped Romneycare in the next twenty years. I could just as easily say, "Well, Charles Manson is a big problem, but we don't need the government butting into our lives. We should try for a local solution--maybe in a few years we can hunt him down on our own." How is this different from what you're saying? They're both instances of natural rights violations; both involve justice; both harm the innocent; both involve capital sins (as Aquinas uses that term); both are urgent problems; and neither can be taken care of by lower offices in any reasonable amount of time.

The only thing you've got is that society at large is a lot friendlier to the evils of capitalism than it is to murder. That doesn't take care of the problem of natural law.

rank sophist said...

I pointed out that even if some government involvement is justified, that fact alone doesn't get one to a justification of federal level involvement. Maybe the appropriate government level is local. Or state. Or a mix. Or maybe it shouldn't just be a responsibility of the government.

Let's narrow it down.

The natural law response to serious and/or prolonged rights violations is the involvement of the government to protect the innocent, as Tony suggests. The situation at hand, then, clearly justifies government involvement. The question is how high we go.

If the companies were local, then local government could help. But they aren't local--they're state- and even country-wide. Local government is incapable of dealing with them. What about the states? One could say that the states were the correct place to look, but there's a problem. Insurance has been a disaster for decades, but only one state has done anything about it. Compare this to the feudal counterpart: a prince failing to protect the rights of his subjects. Or imagine the situation of racial segregation. If one state did something, and 49 didn't, then is it proper to wait around for political and cultural shifts to change their minds? Or do we take it higher, to avoid any more rights violations? I think the answer is obvious.

The very idea that failings are failings of cultures, individuals, neighborhoods, societies - that there is something WRONG there with the modern mindset - gets treated as threatening or worse, foreign.

That's a very strange thing to read into my posts. I've made it clear here and elsewhere that the modern mindset is bad. It should be fairly obvious that distributism gets more of my sympathy than do its alternatives. In this combox, I have consistently mentioned that localizing the health care industry would be a good idea. You, on the other hand, keep firing back with the same old conservative slogan of "freedom from legislation", which seems to be more important to you than bringing the industry in line with natural law. The two viewpoints are not compatible. Pick one.

I bought into that line for years. I finally realized what was wrong with it. Regarding these problems as first and foremost (or even exclusively) legislative problems, better yet FEDERAL legislative problems, is part of the modern illness.

Perhaps you've been reading your own past opinions into my posts. They do not apply to me. I think that this country is in ruins from one end to the other, whether you're talking about cities or small towns, government or the private sector, communities or states, North or South, East or West, conservative or liberal and so on. Morally, we're about at the level of late-Roman society, around the time Augustine lived. Politically and socially and intellectually, we're little better off. We're even being attacked by barbarian-wannabes. Despite the rhetoric by politicians on both sides, I firmly believe that the US is in decline, and that the solutions being offered by nearly all parties are too-little, too-late. I think that Obamacare is like trying to patch the hull of the Titanic--but at least that's better than trying to ram it into another iceberg, as the conservatives suggest. Hence, I support several of the portions of it that I understand, particularly the individual mandate.

rank sophist said...

But to suggest that I think the country's problems are the government's job is ridiculous. I think that government (federal and state alike) is, in large part, part of the problem. It has let previously-strong moral restrictions slip further and further away, while simultaneously giving big business more and more free rein. I think Obama's done a better job on that second part than Bush did, but he still lets them run wild, as every president has for decades. Neither of them were great on the issue of moral restrictions. Plus, government handling of schooling has been an absolute disaster on both state and federal ends. California practically outlaws homeschooling, for example, and the No Child Left Behind legislation destroyed the education of a generation. The obsession with college degrees in the private sector and government cripples many who could have made a decent living in the past. Universities used to be for the intellectuals; the tradesmen had apprenticeships. I could go on.

You've set this dispute up as capitalists versus anti-capitalists, and on a certain level problem This Political Wing/Party versus That Wing. I'm saying, especially given distributivism, you're analyzing the problem wrong. And part of the problem in your analysis is that if I don't chime in and say 'Of COURSE capitalists are the problem, let's go git 'em!' all you hear is 'The wealthy should eat the poor!' or something equally absurd.

Capitalism has turned out to be a disastrous societal structure. Its natural form is social Darwinism. It pits brothers against each other; it places a carrot-on-a-string in front of the working class; it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It destroys small towns. It puts a stake through the heart of small business. It creates a mass consumerist culture. It pollutes the air, poisons the water, drives species to extinction and obliterates natural resources. It spreads disease and worthless goods. It incites theft and robbery, extortion and blackmail. It runs on slave labor, whether it's in this country or in China. Aquinas says that greed is the root of every sin, and I think that capitalism proves him right.

Is capitalism our only problem? Obviously not. We've still got the huge issues created by the government, the rise of atheism and anti-intellectualism, the decline of morality and a bunch of others. Almost all of it came in the door with modernism--and capitalism is no exception.

Daniel,

The reason I ask is because the example used at one point (a child with cancer) is an example where the pre-existing condition happened through no fault of the individual involved. But what about the more common, real-world, pre-existing conditions such as the 300 lb diabetic, the chain smoker with emphysema, the alcoholic with liver failure, the heroin addict with hepatitis C, or the homosexual man with HIV/AIDS?

Is it still against Natural Law to refuse healthcare coverage to someone who is actively destroying their own health?


I don't believe that one would be obligated by justice to help these people. Now, natural law asks that we treat people with charity and mercy, and so we might have an obligation there. However, natural law also asks us to play hardball when necessary. It does not tell us to be suckers. Using a denial of treatment to encourage a smoker to quit the habit would be acceptable. (Although, if that same smoker had a heart attack, for example, it would remain your duty to revive him to the best of your ability.) This is why I've based my argument on extreme cases in which a pre-existing condition is no fault of the person involved. Free giving in these situations is a matter of natural rights--not merely of mercy and charity.

rank sophist said...

Tony,

It can't be an emergency (the kind of emergency that sets aside the usual rules of private property) if the need is off into the future rather than today.

The need for cancer treatment is always a "today" scenario, which is why I used it in my example. You might also use a vet with extreme PTSD.

Likewise for health care. If you need care because you are in extreme need, you need a doctor, not a contract.

First, see the above two examples. Second, are you aware that people can be blocked from renewing existing health insurance plans because of a condition that "pre-existed" that renewal?

(On another note, it should be mentioned that what companies call "pre-existing conditions" include such things as being female and of childbearing age. Before Obamacare, there was a near-infinite list of things like this to allow insurance agencies to pick only the customers least likely to require money.)

Secondarily, true insurance is about risk-sharing. It is about dealing with unknown future risk, and pooling it out between many.

The purpose of insurance is to pay for things that would otherwise drive one to bankruptcy. Friendly societies, as they were called, served this purpose. Everyone contributed to a big pool that was used to charitably bail out people when they needed it. It was not a matter of predictions or gambling or "unknown future risk": it was to keep people's heads above water. Thinking of it as gambling against risk is a false, modern take on the enterprise.

Yes, but what I proposed, dissolving contracts, is actually a standard governmental device for dealing with invalid and immoral contracts.

Certainly. But, unlike yourself, the government does not consider 90% of the country's biggest companies to have "invalid and immoral contracts". If your answer was followed through, it would mean the end of large-scale industry as we know it--an idea I'm on board with.

In addition: it is one thing to say "we are not going to enforce your contract, in fact we are dissolve the contract and set you back to square one as if nobody made any contractual transaction at all", and another thing entirely to say instead "this is a bad contract, but we are going to fix it up the way we would like to see it so that you are now contracted to do something that you never would have agreed to do". The second is not really a good and proper governmental response to bad contracts. It is a version of tyranny.

True enough. I accept your solution as the proper one.

It not the the government's place to construct anew the kind of contract that it wants the citizens to follow and force them into it. (Oh, wait, Obama thinks it IS the government's job to force citizen't to buy contracts whether they want them or not. Hmmmmm)

Obamacare does not rewrite anyone's contract: it just forces people to get coverage. In a similar way, people in 49 states are forced to get car insurance before they can legally drive. Of course, the problem of car insurance would be gone if cars weren't mass produced, if communities were localized again, if commuting was rendered unnecessary and so on--so, once again, we're dealing with a legislative bandaid fix to a problem created in large part by capitalism. The best answer is to destroy both the legislation and the underlying problem: the conservative answer is to destroy the legislation and let the problem get worse.

Keep dreaming, kiddo. Oh, wait, what is that you've been smoking? I hope it isn't one of those "medicinal" weeds, man.

You seem to think I'm a liberal. You could hardly be more wrong.

rank sophist said...

All you have done is "prove" what I agreed to all along: that there is grave problem in the finance sector.

You have given up trying to answer my questions regarding the difference between your "capitalism" and what's traditionally called "distributism". You cannot explain how what you're talking about differs from feudal business, nor have you even tried to justify your belief that what everyone else calls "capitalism" is in fact what certain people call "finance capitalism". All you've given me on this front is a lot of hand-waving and red herrings. Why? Because what you call capitalism is not capitalism, and no one else has ever agreed with your definition of capitalism. The implementation of what you endorse would mean the end of capitalism--not just as we know it, but entirely. But, sure: go ahead and keep calling me high (baseless ad hom) to make your own hand-waving seem less obvious. Not that anyone is fooled.

Re-writing at whim the meaning of contracts to create a new contractual obligation out of whole cloth is one of those typically liberal "solutions" that ignores both proper limits on the rule of law (ex post facto) AND subsidiarity.

Who rewrote contracts? That was my own suggestion. The government has merely outlawed certain practices that previously were not outlawed, and has required certain practices that previously were not required. This is in principle no less unjust than suddenly requiring law enforcement for murder. Unless you have a better argument than that, I can only assume that I'm talking to "conservative Tony" and not to "Thomist Tony". You won't believe this, but the two argue for contradictory positions--and the second one is a way stronger debater!

On the other hand, if a kid ignorantly makes a contract to cut a lady's lawn for only half the fair rate, NO, government should not step in and suppress the contract. I don't mean to say that all injustices arise to a call for government action. Also, contract law is normally a state law arena, so generally it should be state law to intervene when the injustice is one of bad contracts.

This was my take, anyway. We're still in agreement.

Crude said...

rank,

Alright. I'm going to zero in on this.

1. In a free-market capitalist society, bad companies can be weeded out through natural selection.

Show me where I've said this. Because you are going to have to ridiculously modify your words here to have them come anywhere close to resembling what I've said.

I nowhere spoke of 'natural selection' - in fact, the *opposite* has been true. I've suggested that in a capitalist economy, one reasonable and important way to deal with bad companies is through the active, purposeful withholding of funds from them by consumers owing to their moral and ethical choices *apart from their quality of service*. That is the opposite of 'natural selection', passively letting the market do its thing while competitors are weeded out. So please, either back up what you've said here, or admit you were wrong.

2. Charities and so forth exist to take care of the people who get shut out.

Uncontroversial. You're going to deny this?

3. The number of people shut out are the price we pay for "freedom".

Again - show me where I said anything to the effect of 'poor people slipping through the cracks is the price we pay for freedom', as opposed to 'individuals, families, friends, communities, churches, charities, neighborhoods, societies, local government, state government, etc have a responsibility and an ability to help the poor, and by the principle of subsidiarity effort should be applied to these groups in vastly more concentration than they currently is with regards to addressing problems and injustices.'

4. It is better to leave these variables to themselves than to have the government deal with natural rights violations.

*Show me where I've said this.* I have directly granted that some government intervention may well be necessary and justified to deal with rights violations - what I've said is that it's a mistake to think of the government as the first and foremost means to a solution, especially federal government as opposed to state and local. I have said that the problems in society are largely cultural, and that these cultural problems should at the very least be given vastly more attention than they are now. I have pointed out you are paying no attention, for all your talk of modernism, to these factors.

Further, saying that we should 'leave these variables to themselves' is the *dead opposite* of what I've been saying. I said that this is precisely where people should be attempting to change minds, and this is where more action is needed. I nowhere said 'everything is fine, just leave the market to natural selection, because freedom is important'. And I defy you to show me where I did.

If this isn't what you believe, then you've been sending the wrong signals for about a week now.

And if you can't adequately supported this interpretation of my words, then you're going to have demonstrated that you've been unable to accept what I really have been saying.

So, let's see it. These were tight, concise summaries of what you think I've said. I'm calling BS on 3 of the 4 points, with the untouched one being uncontroversial.

Papalinton said...

Insurance, à la the private health models with which we are only too familiar, together with the broader Insurance industry covering life insurance etc. seem inexorably bound towards catastrophic market failure. These industries do much of their best work in an ignorant and ill-knowledgable environment based predominantly on actuarial predictions. The industry is economically incapable of functioning adequately in the context of pre-existing conditions.

With the advent of DNA analysis and today's medical and scientific investigatory methodologies, pre-existing conditions and the prospect of identifying the genetic precursors of known illnesses in advance, now a reality, simply swamps any pretence of the current private health model as being an efficient market solution. The identification of genetic markers of possible future and likely illnesses mapped though DNA, as it is now demonstrating, will do little other than exacerbate the already deeply problematic nature of the current private health model. Obamacare is but only the second time [on from Medicare] that the US government has responded to an identified national need. It has been been a positive response in mopping up the discards and rejections that private health have clearly demonstrated are systemically incapable of managing.

How might the private health insurance industry utilise the knowledge of an individual's DNA profile when dealing with pre-existing conditions? Not very well I suspect, as do most economists with conscience.

Crude said...

Correction.

Again - show me where I said anything to the effect of 'poor people slipping through the cracks is the price we pay for freedom', as opposed to 'individuals, families, friends, communities, churches, charities, neighborhoods, societies, local government, state government, etc have a responsibility and an ability to help the poor, and by the principle of subsidiarity effort should be applied to these groups in vastly more concentration than they currently is with regards to addressing problems and injustices.'

Show me where I said otherwise, rather.

The idea that I've been in this conversation insisting that poor people just have to suck it up and die because the free market is sacrosanct and there are clearly no problems to address, is ludicrous. I haven't even ruled out government action - I've argued that modern emphasis is on law, even federal law, and it's leaving a tremendous blind spot, harmful in itself.

Daniel Smith said...

dguller: No. And? The fact is that there are doctors and healthcare available.

If healthcare is a "right", then, if there were no doctors, we'd have the right to force people to become doctors.

But you said healthcare is not a right unless there are doctors.

Which was why I asked the question - to spur discussion of when someone has a "right" to require something of someone else.

We can agree (I think) that a child has the right to expect parental action on his/her behalf and that that right does not cease to exist because the parents, for whatever reason, are not around (but rather falls on some adult somewhere).

I think we can also agree that there is not a 'universal right to auto care' (even though there are plentiful mechanics and auto repair shops available).

From this we can conclude that the existence and availability of something does not make a right exist. If it's a right, it is always a right.

So where is the dividing line and where and why does healthcare fall on one side or the other?

With a child, the right that requires action ceases to exist when the child comes of age. At that point, the child-become-adult is expected to take care of him/herself. This is based on the helplessness of the child when young and the capability of the adult.

Auto care is similar in many respects - a broken car leaves us vulnerable and helpless transportation-wise (especially in rural areas). The main difference being that auto care (unlike parenting) is a business and a profession. We don't have a right to require a businessman (the owner of the repair shop) or a professional (the mechanic) to give us free auto care simply because we are in need.

So I think it is safe to say that the child/parent relationship is born of a natural right whereas the car-owner/mechanic relationship is not.

So is a doctor/patient relationship more like the child/parent or the car-owner/mechanic? That's the question.

Tony said...

The natural law response to serious and/or prolonged rights violations

That does it. Rank, you have not been listening. Everything you have said so far points in the direction of an obligation we have to sick destitute people, an obligation in charity. But obligations in charity do not create or even point to natural rights in the recipient of charity. That's just the problem with liberalism all over again. It ISN'T a violation of RIGHTS when I fail in my duty to be charitable. It is wrong of me, and I will receive my due punishment for such a failure in due course, but it isn't because what I have done is to withhold a natural right to someone - no such thing. NOTHING you have done shows any kind of natural right of a sick person to be waited upon by others for health care. There is no such right. For you to have a natural right to receive care from me is for me to be a natural slave to you. You want to skip back beyond Christian natural law theory all the way back to Aristotle's (mistaken) natural slave theory. Well, nobody in the Church upholds that theory.

You can talk all you want about the evils of modern insurance companies, but none of that remotely begins to establish a natural right of a poor person to be given health care gratis, much less a health care contract. Charity is an obligation on those who (should) give, WITHOUT being a natural right for those who receive.

You cannot explain how what you're talking about differs from feudal business, nor have you even tried to justify your belief that what everyone else calls "capitalism" is in fact what certain people call "finance capitalism". All you've given me on this front is a lot of hand-waving and red herrings. Why? Because what you call capitalism is not capitalism, and no one else has ever agreed with your definition of capitalism.

I am not going to debate the definition of capitalism. Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations, wrote the first major tour-de-force on capitalism, and it does NOT talk in any way, shape, or form of either the treating debt as a capital commodity, nor focus strictly on manufacture and control of factory tools and machines as central capitalism components. (Those all came later.) It's all about aggregation of capital (meaning, PRIMARILY, physical thing upon which labor can be brought to bear, not money, certainly not debt), division of labor, application of labor to capital, increase of productivity through focus of expertise, innovative improvements in production process, and trading what is excess-to-you for what is in shortage to you but is in excess-to-them. (All of which were present in my example). If you don't think that's capitalism central, then you don't think the grandfather of capitalism talked about capitalism. And there's nothing I want to say further, which is why I refused to get into it with you chapter and verse. Not worth it. Think what you want.

Papalinton said...

Some commentators on this thread, seem to subscribe to a somewhat mistaken perception of the 'free market' as a justified end in itself, and speak of it as if it were endowed with a life force of its own, an entity that must remain unrestrained to find its own equilibrium within the marketplace. It is a sort of God of righteous mammon, so to speak, seemingly legitimated by the contemporary promotion of its correlate, the prosperity gospel.

What is missed in this misconstrued conception is that the 'free market' is a means to an end purely. What is missed in this misconstrued conception is that free market economics is a wholly-owned derivative of human social activity. No people, no free market. And like all social or communal activity it must be tweaked and regulated in order that it best reflects what society demands of it. A defensible end in a civilized society is the continuing improvement of the 'human condition', however that may be defined, of which health is a fundamental requisite. One cannot talk of improving the human condition if some in the community through no fault of their own are excluded access simply on the basis of a free-market incapable of delivering it. It is unfortunate that the purveyors of the 'free market' seem singularly unable to envision the provision of healthcare unless and until it is commodified, ill-fittingly compacted into a cardboard box suitable for trading within the free market paradigm. Unfortunately, within that paradigm the free market trading of healthcare is regarded as simply synonymous with or no different to any other tradable commodity, as buying a washing machine, or a company taking out fire insurance cover. Such a perspective is a flawed one, as the current unacceptable level of market failure in the health insurance industry is clearly informing the discerning economist. There are several orders of magnitude in difference in accessing a washing machine to that of accessing health care.

One can conceivably live without a washing machine but what is the point in excluding those in the community from accessing the great advances in medical and health services for no more reason than they have an inadvertent pre-existing condition.

Crude said...

Because what you call capitalism is not capitalism, and no one else has ever agreed with your definition of capitalism.

I'll further add - why in the world does this matter anyway? If Tony's defending something you don't think is capitalism, great. Then clearly he's operating from a different idea. Are you going to insist 'no no no what you're talking about isn't capitalism, so you can't defend that view'? Even if your criticism somehow held, it wouldn't matter much in this situation. No one's going to hold it against him for failing to properly adhere to the capitalistic view - at least, save for other capitalists, which isn't Rank anyway.

It's like being told I'm not a capitalist because, say, I'm actually not completely against communities determining what sort of businesses will be present in their community via zoning laws, and a True Capitalist believes you can start a coal mining operating right in the middle of a suburb. Alright, fine, I guess I'm not a True Capitalist then. I still have the views that I do.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

Show me where I've said this. Because you are going to have to ridiculously modify your words here to have them come anywhere close to resembling what I've said.

I'm just telling you what signals I've been picking up from your posts. I have no interest in "proving a case" about what you believe. If you don't believe what it seems like you believe, then clarify yourself. I've done so in the face of your own misunderstandings about my position; if I've misunderstood yours, then I'd like you to clear up the mess.

And if you can't adequately supported this interpretation of my words, then you're going to have demonstrated that you've been unable to accept what I really have been saying.

No, it just means that we've been talking past each other for a week, because your claims about my beliefs have been radically wrong as well. I could not care less whether my characterization of your position can be proven correct--I want to hear your actual position.

Tony,

That does it. Rank, you have not been listening.

No, I have been listening. To Aquinas. See this article: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3066.htm#article7. Quotes:

It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another's property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need.

Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals (Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): "It is the hungry man's bread that you withhold, the naked man's cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man's ransom and freedom."

Further (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3058.htm#article11):

As stated above (A8,10), the matter of justice is an external operation in so far as either it or the thing we use by it is made proportionate to some other person to whom we are related by justice. Now each man's own is that which is due to him according to equality of proportion. Therefore the proper act of justice is nothing else than to render to each one his own.

Withholding aid is a rights violation, because, by natural law, the money or goods involved are the property of the man who is being denied them. The quote from Ambrose made this abundantly clear. Unless you can show that I've misinterpreted these articles, you don't have any moves left.

But obligations in charity do not create or even point to natural rights in the recipient of charity. That's just the problem with liberalism all over again. It ISN'T a violation of RIGHTS when I fail in my duty to be charitable.

I'm aware of this. Natural rights are involved in cases of justice, which is why it's been my goal to show that the case in question is a problem of justice.

rank sophist said...

NOTHING you have done shows any kind of natural right of a sick person to be waited upon by others for health care. There is no such right.

Of course there is. If an innocent man is dying, and you do nothing to save his life when you have the power to do so, you have violated his rights. This is not an obligation of charity alone, but also of justice: by choosing not to act, you actively deny him his right to life. If you can assist a child with cancer with money for treatment, but fail to do so, it is also a violation of rights. How? Because, as I believe the above quotes demonstrate, aid in extreme situations becomes the right of the needy. Even theft is no longer theft, because property rights change to the person in need.

For you to have a natural right to receive care from me is for me to be a natural slave to you.

No--not unless you call "being a slave" having an obligation by justice to save an innocent man's life when it's in your power, or having an obligation by justice to give people their own property.

You can talk all you want about the evils of modern insurance companies, but none of that remotely begins to establish a natural right of a poor person to be given health care gratis, much less a health care contract. Charity is an obligation on those who (should) give, WITHOUT being a natural right for those who receive.

I have been arguing for the last 150 posts or so that this scenario is an obligation of justice and not merely of charity. You're going to have to reinterpret the ST articles I cited if you want to make your case.

I am not going to debate the definition of capitalism.

Then you have no case whatsoever. As Mr. Green said earlier, defining "capitalism" is the key to unravelling this entire mess.

Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations, wrote the first major tour-de-force on capitalism, and it does NOT talk in any way, shape, or form of either the treating debt as a capital commodity, nor focus strictly on manufacture and control of factory tools and machines as central capitalism components.

Let's compare Adam Smith's definition to Pius XI's: "that economic system in which were provided by different people the capital and labor jointly needed for production". In other words, the system in which there is a market for capital goods and business deals involving capital goods, without any production or sale of secondary goods by the owners thereof. It is a system in which the means of production (capital goods) are owned by one party and worked by another. This is not your "joint-ownership-with-executives" definition from before, which would even include a (basically distributist) co-op like Mondragon Corporation. Capitalism does not just involve executive powers--it involves owning capital goods that are then "rented" out to be worked by someone else, so to speak. Because of this market for capital goods, they gradually move into the hands of fewer and fewer individuals, who can hire more and more people to work for them. Pius XI's solution was "to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners", rather than merely contracted workers.

rank sophist said...

It's all about aggregation of capital (meaning, PRIMARILY, physical thing upon which labor can be brought to bear, not money, certainly not debt), division of labor, application of labor to capital, increase of productivity through focus of expertise, innovative improvements in production process, and trading what is excess-to-you for what is in shortage to you but is in excess-to-them.

I never talked about trading debt, so I have no idea why you're bringing that up. As for your description above, it's fairly clear that Pius XI was right.

Crude,

I'll further add - why in the world does this matter anyway? If Tony's defending something you don't think is capitalism, great. Then clearly he's operating from a different idea. Are you going to insist 'no no no what you're talking about isn't capitalism, so you can't defend that view'? Even if your criticism somehow held, it wouldn't matter much in this situation. No one's going to hold it against him for failing to properly adhere to the capitalistic view - at least, save for other capitalists, which isn't Rank anyway.

It matters because modern conservatism is based in large part on free-market capitalism. If what Tony calls "capitalism" is not actually capitalism, then it follows that I am right that modern conservatism is incompatible with Thomism.

It's like being told I'm not a capitalist because, say, I'm actually not completely against communities determining what sort of businesses will be present in their community via zoning laws, and a True Capitalist believes you can start a coal mining operating right in the middle of a suburb.

It isn't anything like that, but okay.

Tony said...

Let's compare Adam Smith's definition to Pius XI's: "that economic system in which were provided by different people the capital and labor jointly needed for production". In other words, the system in which there is a market for capital goods and business deals involving capital goods, without any production or sale of secondary goods by the owners thereof. It is a system in which the means of production (capital goods) are owned by one party and worked by another.

Oh my. My oh my. This, friends, is an example of what comes of defending a position at all costs, no matter what, without paying attention to the words you use. Rank, I am not going to debate what capitalism means with you: if you don't think Smith's description is capitalism then you don't. Period.

But please, so you stop making such a fool of yourself on this thread (which, I may add, is not characteristic of your work on other topics) please examine your OWN DARN WORDS. In Pius XI's definition, some people provide the capital, other people work on capital provided by others, where both the capital and the work are "needed for production". THAT'S ALL THAT"S NEEDED to identify capitalism, according to Pius. Nowhere does Pius state or infer that there is a market for trading capital goods "without any [so-called] secondary production or sale of goods. That's your words, and your concepts added to Pius's. But surely when we say that "others provide the labor" we ARE IN FACT referring to labor upon something, i.e. labor upon the capital assets. No, it's not just implied, it's STATED: "needed for production". Anybody who takes Pius's words and infers that the actual process of applying labor (by other than the owners) to capital is secondary to what he was describing is just plain off his rocker.

Rank, you have gotten so wrapped up in your theory that you aren't even noticing the words you cite yourself and what they mean. Take a deep breath. Smell the flowers. Back off a bit, and ask yourself whether you want to say that a market for trading in factory machines (capital assets) comes before or after there being a market of produced goods, i.e. goods produced by factory machines. Does a market in selling shoe-making machinery come before or after a market in selling shoes made by machine?

I have a plancuvetso making-machine right here in my barn. I will sell it to you for cheap (on sale, today only, price goes up tomorrow). What's that, you asking, what are plancuvetsos? Well, that hardly matters does it? I am not selling them, I am selling the machine that makes them. I couldn't care less about plancuvetsos, I am not in that market. Why would you want such a machine? Well, gosh darn it, Rank, its a factory production machine, it's capital assets, man, that's why. What, why are you asking about who buys plancuvetsos and how much they pay for them? What's that got to do with the market price of the machine I am selling? I tell you, you can't make this machine for less than 3 times the price I am willing to sell it to you at, it's a GREAT bargain. Yeah, so you've never heard of plancuvetsos before, and you don't know anyone who has. Good, good, that means the market for plancuvetsos is still undersaturated, which is a really good thing for someone who wants to sell the darn things. But that's really no never mind of mine, my market is just the MACHINES, I tell you, and boy are you getting this one at a steal of a price. You don't know if you want the machine until you know how much you could sell a plancuvetso for? Boy, I wish you would stop confusing two different things, and get with the picture: selling plancuvetsos isn't something that pertains to the market in machines that make plancuvetsos, that's a different animal altogether.

rank sophist said...

Oh my. My oh my. This, friends, is an example of what comes of defending a position at all costs, no matter what, without paying attention to the words you use.

Not sure what this is about, all of a sudden. I think you've misunderstood something again.

But please, so you stop making such a fool of yourself on this thread (which, I may add, is not characteristic of your work on other topics) please examine your OWN DARN WORDS. In Pius XI's definition, some people provide the capital, other people work on capital provided by others, where both the capital and the work are "needed for production". THAT'S ALL THAT"S NEEDED to identify capitalism, according to Pius.

Everything I wrote after that is practically line-for-line the distributist critique of capitalism, which was based largely on Pius XI's criticisms of it in Quadragesimo Anno (from which those quotes derive). I'm not putting words in his mouth: I'm repeating his beliefs. I recommend that you do a little research into the subject before assuming that I'm the one who's made a mistake.

Nowhere does Pius state or infer that there is a market for trading capital goods "without any [so-called] secondary production or sale of goods. That's your words, and your concepts added to Pius's.

No, actually; it's from the distributists and even Pius himself. The idea is that one man owns the capital while others work it for him, which means that the owner is not producing any secondary goods: he is only "renting out" the means of production that he owns. Read this if you want to understand what I'm talking about: http://distributistreview.com/mag/2012/06/too-few-capitalists-or-too-much-capitalism/

But surely when we say that "others provide the labor" we ARE IN FACT referring to labor upon something, i.e. labor upon the capital assets. No, it's not just implied, it's STATED: "needed for production". Anybody who takes Pius's words and infers that the actual process of applying labor (by other than the owners) to capital is secondary to what he was describing is just plain off his rocker.

You completely misread my post. Here is what I'm saying:

1. Under capitalism, one man owns the means of production and others work them.
2. The men who own the means of production do not have to work them.

Whether or not the workers produce secondary goods (they probably do) was as not my point here: I was saying that the man who owns the means of production does not himself produce any secondary goods, because he is not engaged in working his own capital.

rank sophist said...

Back off a bit, and ask yourself whether you want to say that a market for trading in factory machines (capital assets) comes before or after there being a market of produced goods, i.e. goods produced by factory machines. Does a market in selling shoe-making machinery come before or after a market in selling shoes made by machine?

Wikipedia says:

The defining feature of capitalist markets, in contrast to markets and exchange in pre-capitalist societies like feudalism, is the existence of a market for capital goods (the means of production), meaning exchange-relations (business relationships) exist within the production process.

This means that one man or group owns the means of production and rents or sells them to another, who, perhaps, does the same in return. The idea is that capital goods are tossed around rather than worked by the owner himself. Leo XIII and Pius XI agree, as do the distributists, as do most theorists about capitalism. Earlier in this combox, when I referenced "building, buying and selling factory equipment", this is how it should be taken. One man or group produces capital goods that he/it does not work by him/itself. They generate capital goods for the sole purpose of selling or renting them to dependent companies. Also, recall that the tools provided to the workers who built that factory equipment (for example) were themselves rented out by their owner. In other words, it goes all the way up, until we're left with a vanishingly small number of owners at the top of the food chain. The guy who rents the means of production to the workers controls the fate of both those workers and the company that depends on his factory equipment.

I am not selling them, I am selling the machine that makes them. I couldn't care less about plancuvetsos, I am not in that market.

Your example, while funny, does not show anything. In a feudal (or distributist/neofeudal) economy, you would work the plancuvetso machine yourself. You would not sell it, nor would you hire help to work it for you. You would rent or sell plancuvetsos, depending on what they are, because they (presumably) are a secondary good. Likewise, hiring out land to workers is a capitalist practice. Traditionally, that land would have been worked by its owner(s), who would then sell the secondary goods it generated.

Your description of capitalism on page 1 ("I propose that we POOL our resources, tools, lumber, customer list, skills, and my organizational ability and form a corporation") does not accurately define a capitalist organization, because it does not involve the owner of the means of production selling or renting them to dependent companies or workers. Presumably, everyone in that hypothetical corporation has an equal stake in its capital, which means that no one is hiring out their capital goods to be worked by someone else. This is why Mondragon Corporation (a massive co-op in Spain) is not properly described as a capitalist organization: everyone at the company has an equal stake in its capital. It has executives and organizers, certainly, and these make more money than the average worker; but they do not rent out the capital goods to the workers, because they do not own any more of them than the others. It's a co-op owned equally by every member, each of whom has a single vote in deciding its practices.

Crude said...

It matters because modern conservatism is based in large part on free-market capitalism. If what Tony calls "capitalism" is not actually capitalism, then it follows that I am right that modern conservatism is incompatible with Thomism.

"Modern conservativism" ranges from Ayn Randian 'police are for commies, real americans buy their own police' lunacy to Buchanan style 'America First' protectionism to otherwise. Stop trying to prove an entire, broad range of political thought can be pigeonholed into some extraordinarily narrow definition. If I defined liberalism in some way that required a person to be pro-abortion, you'd probably go ballistic - as well you should.

I'm just telling you what signals I've been picking up from your posts. I have no interest in "proving a case" about what you believe. If you don't believe what it seems like you believe, then clarify yourself. I've done so in the face of your own misunderstandings about my position; if I've misunderstood yours, then I'd like you to clear up the mess.

No, Rank. This won't work. Your list was wrong, period. You're not going to make your case, because if you try you will fail spectacularly. I did not say the things you attributed to me, nothing I said could be reasonably interpreted to 'get the impressions' you did. More than that, I said the *opposite* of most of what you attributed to me throughout this thread. I pointed out there was no problem with a government-led healthcare initiative in principle, subject to subsidiarity considerations. I pointed out that our current system is *busted*, but I locate the problem by and large on lowers levels. For you to turn around and attribute what you did to what I've said here goes beyond me having possibly said something unclear and you legitimately misinterpreting it. You were wrong.

You should probably start asking WHY you were wrong too, because again, the 'impressions' you picked up about my views can't reasonably be picked up by what I wrote here. I'm talking about the moral failures of everyone from consumers to businesses, I say that government led health care can in principle be justified, but darnit, I've criticized Obamacare and said that the fundamental structure of an insuring company is defensible so clearly I have to be beholden to The Enemy?

No, it just means that we've been talking past each other for a week, because your claims about my beliefs have been radically wrong as well.

Oh Lord. No they haven't, precisely because I tend to stay to the topic instead of trying to go beyond you and war against 'liberalism' or suchcrap. I didn't view this conversation as some kind of proxy fight that's part of a greater war against 'liberalism' or 'communists' or who knows what else. You, meanwhile, just revealed that for the bulk of this conversation, my disagreeing with Obamacare made you see me as some kind of radical freaking free market person who thinks 'natural selection' should take care of all problems and hey, if some poor people get smashed underfoot, well that's just the way things should be for the sake of market integrity and freedom. Because apparently there's no principled reason to reject Obamacare, or view the problems facing the world as having fundamentally different approaches re: potential solutions than government intervention, even federal intervention.

Argue what you will. Like I said, I see this exact same problem come up when I tell conservative Christians that we should be promoting a culture that places a strong emphasis on businesses committing themselves to communities, giving to charity, not investing in immoral products, research or services, and I get 'You're a socialist!' pushback.

rank sophist said...

"Modern conservativism" ranges from Ayn Randian 'police are for commies, real americans buy their own police' lunacy to Buchanan style 'America First' protectionism to otherwise. Stop trying to prove an entire, broad range of political thought can be pigeonholed into some extraordinarily narrow definition. If I defined liberalism in some way that required a person to be pro-abortion, you'd probably go ballistic - as well you should.

I would define liberalism that way myself, because it seems to be one of their key ideas alongside gay marriage and general moral decay. One of the many reasons I'm not a liberal.

In any case, conservatism of all stripes encourages capitalism. It's just the brand that differs. Usually, it goes between full-on Randian social Darwinism (Tea Party) and a slightly more sane approach (the elusive moderates). I'd be impressed if you could find me a non-capitalist conservative, honestly.

No, Rank. This won't work. Your list was wrong, period. You're not going to make your case, because if you try you will fail spectacularly.

Actually, it's because I'm done having a personal debate with you. I asked you to clarify your positions, as I clarified mine, and you've refused. I even explained what I thought you believed, in hopes that we could meaningfully sort this out. No luck. When you're interested in getting the debate back on track, instead of flailing around about how I'm a "liberal" who wants "big government solutions", we can try again.

For you to turn around and attribute what you did to what I've said here goes beyond me having possibly said something unclear and you legitimately misinterpreting it. You were wrong.

You're the one who's still convinced I'm a liberal, after I've expressly denied that multiple times. If you want to explain yourself concisely, do so. Otherwise, we're done.

I didn't view this conversation as some kind of proxy fight that's part of a greater war against 'liberalism' or 'communists' or who knows what else.

I started out this argument with a post directed at Prof. Feser. Since then, I have tried to make it clear that I'm arguing against ideologies, and not against people. It does not matter to me who I'm arguing with (no disrespect to you guys) as long as they're competent defenders of conservatism and/or Thomism. So, yes, I view this conversation as a proxy fight; and I have never tried to disguise this fact.

Because apparently there's no principled reason to reject Obamacare, or view the problems facing the world as having fundamentally different approaches re: potential solutions than government intervention, even federal intervention.

There are principled reasons to reject Obamacare, but Thomism in large part does not appear to provide them. In any case, as I've said, my goal here is unrelated to the individuals involved. I'm attacking ideas.

Anonymous said...

As I agree with your metaphysics I don't agree with your views on ''Obamacare'' or on political issues.

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