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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NihilSubSole said...

I am open to correction if I am wrong, but I read that the entire dissenting opinion's introduction, and many of its arguments, were written by Roberts. The dissenting justices let them stand as is as a reminder to Roberts of what he had done.

Crude said...

I'm not sure what the SCOTUS is supposed to do at this point. I mean, in principle, I understand - interpret laws in accordance with the intentions of their original writers, primarily while seeing if they're consistent with the Constitution as it was originally intended.

I didn't think of the Ockham connection, but yeah, if in reality the above becomes 'interpret the law how you think is best, with whatever reading you wish was there', then the whole thing is a joke. Instead the SCOTUS is just the decision to give political power to the equivalent of some lawyers whose main claim to fame is they're powerful and have tenure.

P.S. Huff said...

The consequences of yesterday's election will not be known for some time. Likely they will either be worse, or better, than what any of our finite minds imagine. The Ides of March did not deliver Rome from monarchy, though for a time it must have seemed as though it had. If our memory of the past is imperfect, what are we to say of the future, where we have only our hunches and prejudices to guide us?

rank sophist said...

It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to guarantee health insurance to those shut out of the system because of pre-existing conditions or poverty. The insurance companies do this out of greed, and it must be recalled that natural property rights do not prevent, for example, a starving man from stealing food to avoid death. Likewise, I don't see how property rights and the principle of subsidiarity allow insurance companies to let a child with cancer die simply because he has cancer. Now, one might say that the parents could pay out of pocket (this means bankruptcy), but suppose we're talking about a poorer family. The emergency room--the go-to comeback argument in these cases--does not cut it. It's astoundingly expensive, and it does not cover care for long-term illnesses (like cancer).

Whatever else one might say about Obamacare, its stipulation that pre-existing conditions must be covered is inarguably just. There is no excuse in the world for what insurance companies do to the sick--particularly to sick children.

Crude said...

Whatever else one might say about Obamacare, its stipulation that pre-existing conditions must be covered is inarguably just. There is no excuse in the world for what insurance companies do to the sick--particularly to sick children.

Sure there is: because if they covered everyone who bought insurance after they were diagnosed with an illness, there wouldn't be an insurance industry anymore. This is like saying that there's no excuse in the world for auto insurance companies to deny coverage, just because you bought insurance a day after a massive wreck. That wreck can be horrible, it can be not your fault, it can be a lot of things - but it makes perfect sense why they do not cover such things.

Are you honestly going to say that when Progressive refuses to pay for someone's accident that was had 1 week prior to them buying any auto insurance, they're doing so out of greed?

Now, one might say that the parents could pay out of pocket (this means bankruptcy), but suppose we're talking about a poorer family. The emergency room--the go-to comeback argument in these cases--does not cut it. It's astoundingly expensive, and it does not cover care for long-term illnesses (like cancer).

The principle of subsidiarity, as I understand it, does not weigh against government solutions to problems. But even if you said a government solution is ideal for some situations, you haven't argued for Obamacare directly - that solution may still be better implemented at a charity, local, or state level.

More than that, as the Greeks are finding out, you can pass all the laws you like and give all the government support you wish - there's no guarantee that those things are going to be paid for. That's another thing that the principle, as I understand it, protects against - catastrophic failure.

The problem is that the only solutions to major problems people see nowadays are largely political ones, and conservatives many times give the impression that their responsibilities begin and end at preventing government solutions. There's other avenues available, but at this point they sound foreign to people.

rank sophist said...

Are you honestly going to say that when Progressive refuses to pay for someone's accident that was had 1 week prior to them buying any auto insurance, they're doing so out of greed?

Well, for starters, you're begging the question. Car insurance and health insurance are completely different: one is for property damage, the other for sustaining life. As a result, you've just assumed something that requires argument.

Second, what you're essentially telling me is:

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions heavily decreases revenue.
3) Therefore, capitalist institutions should not cover pre-existing conditions.

First, in terms of morality, this is a non-sequitur. 1) and 2) are descriptive: not morally prescriptive. They don't tell us anything about the moral course of action in this situation. As a result, the conclusion does not follow. It's a bit like saying:

1) The Circus Maximus requires revenue to function.
2) Fights to the death generate revenue.
3) Therefore, the Circus Maximus should allow fights to the death.

The leap to 3) is only justified if moral concerns do not exist--but they clearly do. You need a further justification for your syllogism.

But even if you said a government solution is ideal for some situations, you haven't argued for Obamacare directly - that solution may still be better implemented at a charity, local, or state level.

Charities can't give people insurance for pre-existing conditions, nor can they afford to give them funds out of pocket. Local- or state-level solutions are wishful thinking--thus far, only Massachussetts has pulled it off, and they did it by enacting the very system against which Prof. Feser is rebelling above.

I'm not defending the entirety of Obamacare. I don't even understand most of it. I'm only trying to defend one of the main features of the bill against Prof. Feser's attack.

LorenzoCanuck said...

My understanding of the ruling is that it pronounced no judgement on the HHS mandate concerning the Catholic Church at all, since that is not actually part of the Act but a separate provision made by the Executive. Or am I incorrect?

Crude said...

Well, for starters, you're begging the question. Car insurance and health insurance are completely different: one is for property damage, the other for sustaining life. As a result, you've just assumed something that requires argument.

First of all, that's not accurate. Car insurance often isn't limited to property damage - if you get in a car accident in the right state, it's your car insurance which kicks in to cover your medical needs first. There's some state to state variance, but a major part of auto insurance coverage is, specifically, to cover medical claims related to accidents.

Either way, the example illustrates the point. The problem isn't merely that 'well, if they do that, it will cut into their profits'. It's 'well, if they do that, they will cease to exist without massive government intervention (which is beyond their own capability anyway)'. If you allow people to buy insurance after being diagnosed with cancer, it is directly comparable to allowing people to buy auto insurance after a major car accident.

If you can do that, what's the point of buying coverage at all? Just wait until you get sick or have an accident. Then pay your 300 dollar monthly premium, and get your 200k+ in coverage paid out immediately.

Second, what you're essentially telling me is:

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions heavily decreases revenue.
3) Therefore, capitalist institutions should not cover pre-existing conditions.


No, I'm not. I'm saying

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions will make these institutions *cease to exist*.
3) Therefore, it's reasonable that these institutions do not cover pre-existing conditions.

Have you stopped to wonder why Obamacare mandates purchasing health insurance? Do you think that was put in there because greedy companies just want to wet their beaks? It's because if they force insurers to accept anyone who signs up with pre-existing conditions, they are done. That industry will disappear.

Charities can't give people insurance for pre-existing conditions, nor can they afford to give them funds out of pocket.

On the first one, sure they could. Nothing prevents you, as far as I know, from starting a business with an absolutely suicidal plan. Go ahead, start the business. Start it with 300 billion dollars banked. Let's see how long it takes until your company is bankrupt, unless you've already enacted some massive government system that forces everyone to buy coverage whether they want to or not.

I am telling you, it is not an act of greed that makes insurers refuse to cover pre-existing conditions.

Think it through, RS. If an insurance company will accept you and cover your catastrophic illness whenever it was diagnosed, why buy insurance unless you've been diagnosed with such an illness? You're already aware of the cost of coverage for these things. Can you not see how 'Well, I paid my monthly premium for the first time - can I have my 200k worth of operations now?' would be a problem?

Second, sure, sometimes charities can't afford to cover these things. Sometimes they can. We should be doing far more charity, and yes, even considering local and state level solutions to such things. But believe it or not, the government being unable to pay for coverage is a live possibility. It's happening in Europe, right now.

Crude said...

I want to point out, what I'm saying about pre-existing condition coverage is pretty close to politically neutral. Indeed, you can point at this as a reason of *why* we can't rely exclusively on free market solutions to health insurance problems - precisely because situations like this are financially unavoidable. On the other hand, I think anyone who'd argue for a 'free market solution' to providing health coverage to sick children or the poor is being silly anyway. That's emblematic of something which is either going to be addressed, to the extent it can be addressed, through charity or some level of government intervention.

What I am saying is that the decision to not cover such things is born out of self-preservation, not greed. You can then go on to make the argument for one or another approach to solving this problem if you like, but at least realize exactly what's going on with insurance.

rank sophist said...

If you allow people to buy insurance after being diagnosed with cancer, it is directly comparable to allowing people to buy auto insurance after a major car accident.

Should you lose your health insurance and have a child diagnosed with cancer in the future, this callous rationalization would seem pretty empty.

In any case, I was not aware that car insurance also covered medical bills--apologies. But, unfortunately for your argument, this doesn't solve anything. All this means is that car insurance, too, is about sustaining life; and so your goal of making my argument seem absurd by bringing in cars falls through. Worse yet, it's illegal to drive an uninsured vehicle, and so all you've done is strengthen the case for covering pre-existing health conditions.

No, I'm not. I'm saying

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions will make these institutions *cease to exist*.
3) Therefore, it's reasonable that these institutions do not cover pre-existing conditions.


1) Cocaine paste addiction requires money to sustain.
2) Cocaine paste addiction makes one incapable of getting money legally.
3) Therefore, it is reasonable for a cocaine paste addict to participate in illegal behavior to sustain his addiction.

What you've failed to do is give any moral justification for the actions or structure of insurance companies. What makes them different from an addict sustaining an addiction? What makes their practices morally good, or at least neutral?

Have you stopped to wonder why Obamacare mandates purchasing health insurance? Do you think that was put in there because greedy companies just want to wet their beaks? It's because if they force insurers to accept anyone who signs up with pre-existing conditions, they are done. That industry will disappear.

I'm aware of this. It also happens to be illegal to drive without insurance. Now, you can say that "living" is a bit broader than "driving", and I'd agree with you. But the question remains: why are the actions of insurance companies morally justifiable? You've given me the amoral, practical, essentially nihilistic reasons to accept their practices, but we're arguing about natural law and virtue ethics, here. Letting children die because their parents couldn't afford health insurance before cancer struck, for example, is obviously not virtuous. In fact, it's downright evil. In that case, I can't see how you can give me a moral justification for not covering pre-existing conditions.

On the first one, sure they could. Nothing prevents you, as far as I know, from starting a business with an absolutely suicidal plan. Go ahead, start the business. Start it with 300 billion dollars banked. Let's see how long it takes until your company is bankrupt, unless you've already enacted some massive government system that forces everyone to buy coverage whether they want to or not.

Again, your argument is based on practical, not moral, considerations. If I am poor, and I have a rich relative whose will endows me with a lot of money, it is practical to secretly cause the death of this person. This is nihilistic. So is your argument.

It's happening in Europe, right now.

Europe's problems were caused by the failure of the euro--they instated shared currency without fiscal union. It had nothing to do with socialist health care policies.

rank sophist said...

What I am saying is that the decision to not cover such things is born out of self-preservation, not greed.

Capitalist institutions are not like natural entities. Sure, they're directed toward certain ends. Sure, their "self-preservation" relies on this or that decision. But that doesn't mean that these ends should be fulfilled, just like it doesn't mean that the ends of a nuclear bomb should be fulfilled. You're considering goal-directed human behavior without considering virtue ethics. The self-preservation of greed is still greed. You have not provided a moral reason to accept the practices of insurance companies--and my point in all of this, beginning with my first comment, is that there is no moral reason for those practices.

rank sophist said...

Pardon: "all you've done is strengthened the case"

Crude said...

Should you lose your health insurance and have a child diagnosed with cancer in the future, this callous rationalization would seem pretty empty.

No, it won't, because this is not a "callous rationalization". I'm stating a mere fact about what's necessary to sustain an insurance business. The realities of how insurance companies work at a fundamental level will not change just because I, or someone I know, experiences tragedy.

Worse yet, it's illegal to drive an uninsured vehicle, and so all you've done is strengthen the case for covering pre-existing health conditions.

First off, it's not illegal - full stop. It's a state by state situation. In some states, insurance is mandatory. In others, it's not, and there are other factors at work.

Second, no, I haven't 'strengthened the case'.

What do you think "my argument" here is, RS? I already pointed out that what I'm saying is neutral with regards to the question of whether or not something like Obamacare should be enacted.

I am taking issue with one claim you made - that the decision on the part of insurance companies to not cover pre-existing conditions is motivated by greed. That is wrong. It's dead wrong. It's obviously wrong.

The alternative is for you to tell me, with a straight fact, that insurance companies are morally obligated to perform acts that will, with certainty, drive them into bankruptcy - removing their ability to cover ANYone in the process. Will you make that move?

What you've failed to do is give any moral justification for the actions or structure of insurance companies.

What actions? What structure? I've objected to your claim that insurance companies don't cover people with pre-existing conditions due to greed. I'm pointing out this isn't a situation where the difference is between a 5 million dollar bonus to a corrupt CEO (as played by Ed Asner), and a 1 million dollar bonus. Covering pre-existing conditions of anyone buying insurance would destroy the industry overnight. Again, this is precisely why the Obama plan mandates purchasing insurance.

Do you think that provision is in there due to greed? Why do you think it's there?

But the question remains: why are the actions of insurance companies morally justifiable? You've given me the amoral, practical, essentially nihilistic reasons to accept their practices, but we're arguing about natural law and virtue ethics, here. Letting children die because their parents couldn't afford health insurance before cancer struck, for example, is obviously not virtuous. In fact, it's downright evil. In that case, I can't see how you can give me a moral justification for not covering pre-existing conditions.

You made the claim that these things are not covered *due to greed*. I am pointing out that this isn't 'greed', unless you think "If we do this, we will go bankrupt and be incapable of providing insurance to anyone at all" is 'greed'.

You have two options here: you can dispute that covering pre-existing conditions, without being able to force people to buy insurance against their will, would necessarily or very likely lead to bankruptcy. Or you can argue that yes, it will necessarily or very likely lead to bankruptcy - but it is morally obligatory for these companies to go bankrupt, and to refuse to do so is an act of greed.

Take your pick: which one will you defend?


And that's before questioning whose responsibility it is to provide coverage for people with illnesses. Remember, these are insurance companies - middlemen providing a service and contract. The Progressive agent doesn't fix your car - he pays the mechanic to do so. Why are you not making the argument that doctors and nurses are greedy for failing to take care of sick people?

Keep in mind, if the insurers all go bankrupt, then there's no insurers left. Whose responsibility is it then? Who's greedy in that case?

Crude said...

Again, your argument is based on practical, not moral, considerations. If I am poor, and I have a rich relative whose will endows me with a lot of money, it is practical to secretly cause the death of this person. This is nihilistic. So is your argument.

I've asked you my question. I have even bolded it. If you can't answer it, I'm going to have to conclude you have no answer.

Europe's problems were caused by the failure of the euro--they instated shared currency without fiscal union. It had nothing to do with socialist health care policies.

What would fiscal union have prevented, if nothing more than excessive government spending? I didn't say that 'socialist health care policies' bankrupted these countries. I said that have the government pay for health care is no guarantee that the health care will be supplied.

Crude said...

Just to move this along, I'm going to point out the problems you'll encounter no matter which way you answer.

If you dispute that these companies will go bankrupt if they cover pre-existing conditions (short of a situation where they, through force of law, can force people to buy insurance whether they want it or not), I'm going to repeat the examples I've already provided that pretty trivially show that the bankruptcy outcome is likely. So that avenue won't work - not even if your hypothetical insurance company is run by an elite monastic order whose members have all taken vows of poverty, and who operate their company with zero profit. They will still take on obligations that exceed their resources, by necessity, if they accept people with pre-existing conditions and can't out and out force people to buy coverage.

If you hunker down and say yes, it will make them go bankrupt, but they're morally obligated to go bankrupt and refusing to do so is greedy, I'm going to point out that a bankrupt insurer is incapable of covering anyone at all, whereas an insurer that isn't bankrupt at least provides coverage to some people. Even if you stipulate that the goal of the insurance company is to provide coverage and have zero personal profit (Hello again, monastic order), you're going to end up with people who have pre-existing conditions being excluded from coverage, save for the situation I stipulated.

Now, from there, you have some more options. Maybe you'll argue that the very existence of an insurance industry is itself necessarily immoral, which is going to involve some interesting Ned Flanders kind of reasoning which I'd find pretty fascinating to watch unfold, and which would involve regarding Obamacare as some kind of real excessive abomination since the bill effectively makes a good share of US citizens into mandatory insurance company clients. But that's what you face given the argument you're pursuing here.

And that's leaving many, many other issues on the table. Man, I'd like to bring them up, but right now this is the key point of contention.

rank sophist said...

First off, it's not illegal - full stop. It's a state by state situation. In some states, insurance is mandatory. In others, it's not, and there are other factors at work.

From what I've seen, it's 100% illegal in all but one state. Now, how does car insurance support your point?

The alternative is for you to tell me, with a straight fact, that insurance companies are morally obligated to perform acts that will, with certainty, drive them into bankruptcy - removing their ability to cover ANYone in the process. Will you make that move?

Insurance companies are greed machines. Most of the time, they take money from people for decades and never have to pay out. And they have all kinds of ways of putting limits on coverage (or they did, before Obamacare), so that even people with health insurance can max out.

Here's what I'm saying: insurance companies are broken and essentially evil, and the only two available options to solve the problem are A) enacting something like Romneycare or Obamacare, or B) forcing them to become moral institutions without government help, which means bankruptcy. To my knowledge, those are literally the only available options under Prof. Feser's terms. (The third, which is letting them continue their evil practices unchallenged, is basically a sin.) I stand by my claim that greed motivates them to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, particularly in extreme cases--in strictly moral terms, they are letting greed override charity, mercy and a few other things. But I'm a bit old school. I think that usury (as it was always defined until modern times) should be illegal. I think that capitalism is basically greed made manifest, and a non-Christian way of life. I agree that these beliefs are far from practical, but I think that they are correct.

Do you think that provision is in there due to greed? Why do you think it's there?

I know why it's there.

Take your pick: which one will you defend?

#2. Aside from a health care bill, there is no other acceptable option. A bit absurd? Yes. I don't think that it would actually work. But that just shows how far our society has drifted from traditional values. The "can't make an omelet without cracking a few eggs" approach of big business is non-Christian and generally non-moral--particularly when those eggs are children living in poverty. Certain Thomists might accuse me of appealing to emotion on this point, but I honestly don't care; and they'd be wrong in any case. This kind of suffering is the least justifiable and the most abhorrent for Christianity.

Why are you not making the argument that doctors and nurses are greedy for failing to take care of sick people?

Keep in mind, if the insurers all go bankrupt, then there's no insurers left. Whose responsibility is it then? Who's greedy in that case?


The fee for doctors is, of course, exorbitantly high--and this in turn is the result of malpractice lawsuits. It's an extremely complex, messy and generally broken system. My point remains. It is not possible to attack coverage of pre-existing conditions under natural law or virtue ethics--not even with the doctrine of double-effect.

rank sophist said...

What would fiscal union have prevented, if nothing more than excessive government spending?

The big problem was that certain very poor and bad-off countries ended up with the same currency as certain rich and well-off countries, but with no fiscal union to govern it. This caused the currency to crash horribly after about a decade. Was there excessive government spending? In some cases, yes. But it's not like Germany, for example, got wealthy on its own--that's an accident of recent history. Overall it's a disaster that tells us basically nothing about our country, despite what certain people say.

If you dispute that these companies will go bankrupt if they cover pre-existing conditions (short of a situation where they, through force of law, can force people to buy insurance whether they want it or not), I'm going to repeat the examples I've already provided that pretty trivially show that the bankruptcy outcome is likely.

No need. It's pretty clear that they would go bankrupt.

If you hunker down and say yes, it will make them go bankrupt, but they're morally obligated to go bankrupt and refusing to do so is greedy, I'm going to point out that a bankrupt insurer is incapable of covering anyone at all, whereas an insurer that isn't bankrupt at least provides coverage to some people.

Which remains morally indefensible, given the circumstances. There is no non-nihilistic "practical" solution here, as I've repeatedly said. The argument for such a solution is not based on Christianity or natural law or virtue ethics, but on plain old amoral capitalism. My point from the start has been to rebut along these lines Prof. Feser's argument from natural law.

Even if you stipulate that the goal of the insurance company is to provide coverage and have zero personal profit (Hello again, monastic order), you're going to end up with people who have pre-existing conditions being excluded from coverage, save for the situation I stipulated.

Which tells us, once again, how far we've fallen.

Maybe you'll argue that the very existence of an insurance industry is itself necessarily immoral, which is going to involve some interesting Ned Flanders kind of reasoning which I'd find pretty fascinating to watch unfold, and which would involve regarding Obamacare as some kind of real excessive abomination since the bill effectively makes a good share of US citizens into mandatory insurance company clients.

I think that capitalism, left to itself, is pure greed. Now, I'd agree that the answer is not more laws to prevent greed from obtaining--this is the totalitarianism that the principle of subsidiarity holds at bay. The problem occurs when letting greed be greed means that certain innocent people get tossed into the furnace with no hope of escape, and that's where we are with the insurance industry. It is impossible to use natural law to justify what they do. If Thomism endorses "just wars" for the sake of protecting the innocent from oppression, then I see absolutely no reason why public policy should not be the same way, at least in a situation like this.

So, we're back to saying that the only option is covering pre-existing conditions. And that brings us to your dichotomy: either the entire industry goes under, or health insurance, like car insurance for drivers, becomes mandatory.

Crude said...

#2. Aside from a health care bill, there is no other acceptable option. A bit absurd? Yes. I don't think that it would actually work. But that just shows how far our society has drifted from traditional values.

Alright. Just to be clear: you have stated that insurance companies are morally obligated to go out of business. Morally, they - and apparently, they alone - are obligated to cover absolutely everyone in the world who has any manner of illness, the moment they form. You are claiming to derive this from Thomistic principles.

I'm not saying anything more on that topic. I don't think I have to.

The problem occurs when letting greed be greed means that certain innocent people get tossed into the furnace with no hope of escape, and that's where we are with the insurance industry. It is impossible to use natural law to justify what they do.

Alright, I suppose this is some fresh ground. Again, let's spell out your claim.

John gets sick. If John does not receive treatment - treatment costs 10k - he will die in a month. John himself is utterly incapable of making 10k in a month. He applies for insurance. The insurance company will not cover his pre-existing condition.

You are maintaining that whether John lives or dies is A) up to the insurance company, and B) without their help - and I suppose, barring a miracle, or suspicious recovery - John will die in 1 month. If John is denied coverage, he is tossed into the furnace, fate sealed.

Am I interpreting you correctly here?

If so, please answer another question.

Same situation, except we live in a world where all the insurance companies have gone bankrupt. John has no insurance company to turn to for coverage.

So I suppose, John is going to die, and no one is culpable.

Also correct?

Anonymous said...

The Euro and excessive centralisation and government intervention are not unrelated. Aside from aiding certain financial and corporate interests, a big impetus in favour of the Euro was starry-eyed desire to bring about a European federal state with more and more power and prestige at the centre. We Englishmen are always told, by Europhile English politicians, that this is not the case, but on the continent they are often pretty open about it.

The distinction between Europe and the US, however, seems to rely on a strange fantasy that America has traditionally been a free market nation. Kevin Carson has done excellent research on this, but I don't think you really need to read up on it to see that corporate subsidies and government intervention, often with active or central Republican and 'conservative' involvement, are ubiquitous in the US. At most there is a slight difference in emphasis where you Yanks are less willing to give hand outs to the masses (who then will spend them in businesses) but are more slightly more likely to give more hand outs straight to business (the essential difference between neoliberalism and social democracy, although Europe has plenty of direct support to corporations and business and there is plenty of hands to the masses in the US as well).

I would have thought healthcare was obviously a state responsibility and therefore Obamacare clearly violates subsidiarity. If the healthcare is not a state responsbility then what is the point of a state?

Neil Parille said...

This is what caused the defeat:

White 59% Romney
Black 93% Obama
Latino 71% Obama
Asian 73% Obama

Crude said...

I would have thought healthcare was obviously a state responsibility and therefore Obamacare clearly violates subsidiarity. If the healthcare is not a state responsbility then what is the point of a state?

Good question. The odd thing about Obamacare is that it's inspired by a supposedly successful state solution to the healthcare problem, turned into a mandatory project ordered by the federal government. From the perspective of someone advocating the principle of subsidiarity, it's bizarre - like discovering that a state-level solution was a success, and taking that to mean that the next natural step is making it a federal requirement.

George R. said...

Whatever else one might say about Obamacare, its stipulation that pre-existing conditions must be covered is inarguably just. There is no excuse in the world for what insurance companies do to the sick--particularly to sick children.

This person obviously has no clue how insurance works.

Dsyarde said...

Guys, he said they were "greed machines." What more do you need?

Prof. Feser,

Thanks for this post. I think it's basically correct. I have no idea where anything resembling conservatism is supposed to go, especially if Obama gets to change the makeup of the Court. (Although, as you pointed out, it's not like Roberts is some strong conservative or anything.)

Lorenzo,

That is correct. The contraception mandate is a regulation that would be analyzed as a separate issue from the individual mandate. There's actually kind of two issues with the contraception mandate. One, whether a group like Catholic Charities, who is a private company but clearly affiliated with a religion, would be required to provide contraception coverage. Two, whether a private company that is clearly not affiliated with a religion (like Home Depot or an A/C repair company) but still objects to the mandate on religious grounds would have to provide coverage. There are a lot of other issues, of course, but yeah.

I actually have a law review article being published (this week or next) on the whole contraception mandate issue. Once it's published, I'll try to get it online to provide some background on the issue, if you're interested. The paper goes through the history of free exercise and analyzes the contraception mandate under free exercise requirements. It also makes a larger philosophical argument about the free exercise clause, which I think is actually the more interesting issue, but I happen to be the author and all, so I might be a little biased. I'll link it in this post if I can get the chance.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

The question is how did a "Catholic" and a "Conservative" fail so well?

My parents are Catholic, staunch church-goers, voted for Obama. They have always been staunch Democratic party stalwarts. Ted Kennedy was a Catholic and the major engineer of the 1965 Immigration Act that is dooming us.

In my lowly opinion, is not Catholics in America mostly Marxist in their political thinking? Is not "social justice" talked from the pulpit?

When Catholics were staunch supporters of Throne and Altar and the Old Order---what has happened that Catholics have taken up what I consider cultural Marxism under the guise of "social justice" and vote for every government handout.

The question really is "What is wrong with American Catholicism?"

Martin said...

Can someone explain to me the republican opposition to Obamacare?

People get sick. When people can't afford it, they go to the ER which has to treat them. The hospital shifts those costs over to me, the person who pays for his own healthcare. So I foot the bill for both myself, and the person without insurance.

So republicans oppose the plan that forces this person to pay for his own insurance, rather than be a freeloader?

I honestly don't get it.

BenYachov said...

Here is a thought.

The first time around D+8 people showed up to elect the President and massively increase the Dem control of the Congress and Senate.

In the midterms D+3 showed up and Obama lost the Congress with a Tea Party surge.

This time around D+6 people showed up to0 barely re-elect the President.

There is a slight Democratic gain in the Senate. But the Congress remains in Republican Hands.

Conclusion: These people who show up to elect the President don't care to help him out during the off year elections and they aren't so cohesive as to make both the Congress and the Senate ride Obama's coat tails.

Obama is the Democrat's Reagan. But like our Reagan he will be hard to replace once he is gone.

Conservatives should make a second chance at the Senate. After all 2004 was the optimal time for Dems to take the Congress & they failed but they did succeed in 2006 very hansomly.

We lost 2012. Let's get over it & get back in the game.

Craig said...

Martin,

Here's one reason which you should be able to appreciate: it's not Constitutional. That means that conservatives will oppose it, even if it's a good idea in the abstract.

Do you have to ask why? Because giving the government powers beyond the law is a bad idea. Surely you can understand that?

NihilSubSole said...

Martin-

Obamacare does not work in the way you describe. It imposes a penalty, now redefined as a tax, on those who do not have health insurance. This penalty is far less yearly than purchasing even the most basic health plan for oneself.

Since Obamacare mandates that insurance companies cannot reject insurees based on prexisting conditions, these uninsured people can pick up coververage for one or two months while ill, then drop it again once they are cured. The cost of this plus the penalty will still be lower to them than paying for a full year's worth of coverage. The insurance company will just pass on the loss from these types of customers to you, so your situation is still the same.

As to what the Federal government will do with the penalties it collects from these uninsured people, God only knows, but I suspect it won't be used to reimburse directly insurance companies and their customers.

Martin said...

OK, so Obamacare is far from perfect.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that the law is intended to protect me from the trespasses of others.

* Sickness is a fact of life.

* Refusal (or choice) to pay for health insurance is a fact of life.

So how can this tension be solved, then?

Eduardo said...

Do any of you non-american readers want popcorn? Is freaking awesome seeing them go at each other!

BenYachov said...

Rather Obamacare is terrible. That I could forgive.

But the near dictatorial powers it gives the President to interfere in people's personal lives or wave obligations to it to his favored political backers who can't handle the crushing burden(but keep it on those who don't support him) while abolishing people's religious freedom.

That I can't excuse. The later especially.

Anita Moore said...

Martin, one of the biggest reasons the cost of health care is in the stratosphere in the first place is because we overuse insurance. The purpose of insurance is to pool risk to provide for catastrophes. The idea is for people to pay premiums that go into the pool, and the pool is only drawn from in the event of some catastrophe. The fewer draws from the pool, the bigger the pool, and the better the protection when it is needed.

But that's not the way we've been using medical insurance. We use it for skinned knees and sniffles and every other damn thing, not just for serious accidents or catastrophic illnesses. As a result, we neither know nor care how much treatment costs, because it all just gets billed to insurance. And health care providers charge more, because nobody's shopping for bargains, and thus there is no incentive to cut costs. And since everybody is drawing from the risk pool constantly for every little thing, we end up paying higher premiums.

Another huge reason for burgeoning health care costs is heavy regulations on the insurance industry and the medical profession. The medical profession is heavily regulated because so many tax dollars go to subsidize treatment. And incidentally, since we depend on insurance and government to pay for everything, we give them undue power over our health care quality and decisions. It's the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.

The long and short of it is that a deep-pocket third-party payor distorts the market and drives prices through the roof. Government imposes even more costs. If we want the cost of health care to be affordable, and we want control over our own treatment, we need to get government out of health care, and stop overusing insurance. Obamacare will do the opposite, and people will die as a result who otherwise would not have.

DNW said...

Joe's health is failing due to his carelessness and negligence.

Surrounded by a large family and kept alive in his house by electrically powered life supporting devices, the public electricity supply quits for reasons that are unclear.

It turns out that his life can only be sustained if someone continually produces enough electricity to keep the devices active by mounting a bicycle powered generator.

Despite their appeals for help, no one in his family seems particuarly interested in adopting the role of cyclist, claiming lack of physical capacity and endurance.

But they frantically appeal to you to begin peddling, promising that they will soon send someone for other help, and will in the meantime spell you, maybe, when and if they feel they can.

As you consider the proposition, you notice one of them standing off to one side in expectation, grasping an extension cord which attaches to a small television in the next room.

You look at him in puzzlement, and he points to the one outlet still available in the distribution panel.


"Will they even send for additional assistance; and how long am I morally obligated to keep peddling in any event?" you wonder.


Ok I made that up.

Here's one I didn't.

A morbidly obese, bedridden young woman is brought into the hospital suffering from gangrene and on the verge of organ failure. She is so overweight she cannot walk, and must spend her days in bed.

She is treated by the doctors, her condition stabilized, and after a number of weeks is released with the warning that she risks imminent death if she does not change her behavior immediately.

A few months later she is brought in as heavy as before, dying of heart and kidney failure, fluid weeping from her pores.

I say to my sister: You got her condition stabilized, and she was sent home with some weight loss.

"Yes, that's right. It's soooo sad."

She was however still incapable of leaving her bed on release?

"Yes"

How did she get her food?

"Her family, I suppose"

Then how, since she obviously could not go to the store herself in order to gorge on chips and soda, did she gain weight rather than lose it?

"That's a good question" she said.

Of course, it's not any kind of mystery at all ... is it.

DNW 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."

Good posting

One man's cowardice and craving. It shows the conceptual folly of leaning on a potentially broken reed.

Glenn said...

...will oppose it, even if it's a good idea in the abstract.

One can easily see what this strongly implies--that something ought to be accepted simply because the idea behind it is good. (This is a not uncommon 'selling point' of swindlers, schemers and confidence artists.)

But that an idea is good in the abstract, does not mean that any implementation of it will itself necessarily be good.

If someone named, say, Bob comes to me with an idea and a proposed implementation of it, I may agree that the idea is good while simultaneously believing that the proposed implementation is poor.

If I believe the proposed implementation to be poor, it's likely that I'll reject it. In rejecting the poor implementation, however, I'm not necessarily rejecting the good idea.

Notice, now, that my rejecting the poor implementation does not obligate me to find a good implementation--it's Bob's idea, so he's in charge (of finding a good implementation for it).

But this doesn't mean that Bob has carte blanch to implement the idea in any way he sees fit; and unless the implementation is a good one, he probably can count on me to reject it.

If Bob then distorts the fact of the matter by telling people that my rejection was not of the poor implementation but of the good idea, then Bob is implying something true about his rationality and character, and not at all saying anything true about me.

Martin said...

OK, so the question still remains:

A) people will get sick as they age, and B) lots of people will be unable or unwilling to pay for their healthcare. So how do we resolve this?

Republicans in the eighties and nineties thought that a mandate with a penalty was the solution and they proposed it several times. But now apparently it's suddenly unconstitutional.

So I guess I'm stuck paying for other people's healthcare, then?

So be it.

The Deuce said...

Crude:

Here's something that just occurred to me. Rank sophist says that insurance companies are obligated to go out of business by giving away free money to pay for treatment for anyone who asks for it. So if Johnny gets cancer, and only then signs up for an insurance company and asks them to pay for his treatment, they're obligated to do so, even if it means they go out of business.

But, here's the thing: If that insurance company had never been started in the first place, they never would've never even had the option to pay for Johnny's treatment.

The implication is, then, is that if the insurance company is morally obligated to pay Johnny's treatment for free, then the company is morally obligated to exist in the first place so that they can do so. That means that the person who started the insurance company was *morally obligated* to start the insurance company.

But it can't just be one person's obligation. This would appear to imply that every single person in the world is morally obligated to start an insurance company and then give away free money till they go bankrupt!

So, rank sophist, where's your financially suicidal insurance company? Don't tell me you don't have one! Why are you letting all those children who have been diagnosed with cancer after their parents' lost their insurance die, you monster?! And don't bother trying to justify your actions with an answer. Anything you might say, no matter how true and logically inescapable, is a callous rationalization would seem pretty empty.

Crude said...

Deuce,

Well, I'm not trying to goad rank out here or anything. Honestly, I'm baffled, because he's approaching the question with an attitude that insurance companies are, by their very nature, just these horrifyingly evil entities that absolutely must be destroyed no matter what - and it simply doesn't add up or make much sense.

I could understand having complaints about health insurance companies. I could understand, possibly, thinking there are better ways - more efficient, etc - for health care coverage to be provided. But when someone tells me that, literally, the only moral thing for these companies to do is to go bankrupt by necessity because the moment they come into existence they and they alone are responsible for the well-being of absolutely everyone such that they are directly responsible for any uncovered deaths, etc... that really just seems crazy.

It seems more crazy when, again, we recognize that health insurance companies are middle men. All they do, in essence, is pay money to the people who will actually perform the desired surgeries, etc. Somehow, doctors and nurses are not caught up in this swarm of absolute moral obligation. Somehow, ordinary citizens have no responsibilities on this front (if they did, then suddenly this wouldn't be a failure of the insurance companies themselves).

That's baffling.

NihilSubSole said...

Martin-

I think the point Ben and I have been making, is that under any system, you will have to bear some of the burden for some who can't or won't pay for themselves.

Before Obamacare, the uninsured would show up for medical care, and hospitals would pass the cost on to you.

Under Obamacare, the uninsured grab insurance when its useful for them, then drop it, and insurance companies will pass the cost on to you. The government then gets a little piece of the pie with a penalty/tax on the uninsured.

Under a taxpayer-funded system, frequent users of the system pass the cost on to you/people who use it less frequently, and to people in higher tax brackets.

So cost passing simply cannot be avoided. The difference is, Obamacare, and in my opinion, most single payer systems, give the government enormous power to meddle in the lives of its citizens, as well as push institutions of civil society to the margins.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I'd like to question the supposedly "rank sophist" who's profile shows nothing about his stand on Obamacare. He writes:'
"It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to guarantee health insurance to those shut out of the system because of pre-existing conditions or poverty. The insurance companies do this out of greed, and it must be recalled that natural property rights do not prevent, for example, a starving man from stealing food to avoid death. Likewise, I don't see how property rights and the principle of subsidiarity allow insurance companies to let a child with cancer die simply because he has cancer."

Is not an Insurance Company a business? Is not the purpose of business to provide either a product or a service and make a profit? Is that not its telos? Does not a businessman know how to run his own? Or a corporation to run its own?

Look at the Rank Sophist and what he proposes: "It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to guarantee health insurance to those shut out of the system because of pre-existing conditions or poverty. So the solution is that the Government "FORCES" the insurance company to do something that is against good business practice? Do you know what that is called? Do you know what the rank sophist proposes?

Fascism.

More specifically, economic fascism. This is exactly fascist economics. So I thought Fascism was evil?! So why are the Marxists and socialists adopting Fascist economics in America for? Do they really know what they are doing?

Is not a business free to do as it pleases? To serve whom it serves? Are Catholics really endorsing fascist economics? It is so apropo that the so-called "rank sophist" is really a sophist! But not a philosopher. Every business has the right to run its business as it sees fit. If you don't like it, start your own.

Furthermore, on obamacare, the Federal Government is already $222 Trillion dollars in liability and debt. What part of morality and ethics is it to go into debt for social programs? Is it unethical to engage in do-goodism on somebody else's dime? What about the morality of going into debt?

The Bible says, "If you do not work, you shall not eat". Quid pro quo. There are no free rides. If the Rank Sophist wants to help somebody with a pre-existing condition---you pull out your own money and do it. People have to run a business.

Crude said...

It's not as if the only options are fascism and utter free market liberalism. I endorse Rank's underlying desire to see poor people's health needs covered. I disagree strongly with his view of the health insurance industry.

I also think people seem to forget that community action is even a live possibility. Again, one of the bigger ironies of Obamacare is that it's based off what is said by proponents to be a successful state-level solution. But that strongly suggests that a federal level solution is not needed. Hence the problem with regards to the principle of subsidiarity.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

The very name "insurance" is about "insuring" something good for something that MIGHT happen that is bad in the future! That is what "Insurance" is. Insurance nowhere, treats of current condition!

Nomenclature is very instructive on meaning of things. The Rank Sophist is of course a sophist, an ideologue--out for what ever suits his purpose. And sometimes that purpose tramples on other people.

By the very name "Insurance", its name defines its modality and methodology. Nowhere is "Pre-existing" in insurance. Insurance deals with the future. It was created by merchants to protect against the """threat""" of calamity. That is its historical precedence. Insurers, rich men, put their money in because on the statiscal risk, they don't have to pay out and make money. Insurance relies on rich people's money. Rich people expect to make modest dividends due to the low risk of payouts.

Put in "pre-existing" conditions that require huge payouts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars--and you put that business out of business. No rich man will put his money to the use of insurers. He gets nothing for his money, his investment.

An insurance company is not Owned by the People or by the State! You can not dictate its business model. The Natural Law is righteousness. The rank sophist is breaking the natural law of righteousness by overstepping his bounds, by meddling in something he has NO right to meddle in. This was the whole basis of Plato's Republic, that each thing sticks to its field and not overstretch and start dictating things it has no knowledge of.

That sophist is surely rank.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Crude, there is NOT enough money in the whole wide world to cover the medical needs of the poor! There is NONE.

The world is built on finite resources. The poor come dime a dozen. In any population, the elite are +/- 20%. Nature operates on righteousness, some are chiefs and some are Indians. Not all people can be Chiefs. Nature rewards the intelligent with riches because of their service. The poor are worker bees. Everything is in pyramid form.

It is cold hearted to say, but it is the Truth, The Truth is Hard and Cold. You can not """give""" the poor medical care.

Here is the link that shows that the liability of the US Government is $222 Trillion dollars. That is all this social programs that liberals and Catholics enjoin.

All the money in the world is does not equal $222 Trillion dollars! This is IMMORAL! Yet, Catholic democrats and some Catholic republicans are for this kind of social welfare.

The poor are to die. They come dime a dozen. There is NO right to health care. The elite have money because they are the ones that create it and use it. Nature rewards that. Even if you took all the money from Bill Gates and other people you will NOT add up to a even 5 Trillion dollars. What is $5 Trillion to $222 Trillion?

This is idiocy. Social Justice advocates are following idiocy---not wisdom. The World does NOT run on the Gospel but on Wisdom. Somehow, Catholics put the Gospel before Wisdom. When this economic collapse arrives, Catholics will starve to death on their social justice crap!

Crude said...

Crude, there is NOT enough money in the whole wide world to cover the medical needs of the poor! There is NONE.

I don't doubt it. Who said otherwise?

That doesn't mean that the needs of the poor should be ignored by Christians. We have to make efforts, and these efforts do not need to be legislative exclusively, or even largely. We can start charities. We can minister to who we can.

I don't think your view of the world is entirely accurate either. Many wealthy are so because of hard work. For some others, it's less glamorous. Many poor are poor because of laziness or personal failures. For some others, it's a result of calamity or less culpable issues. The world's a complicated place.

DNW said...

"The implication is, then, is that if the insurance company is morally obligated to pay Johnny's treatment for free, then the company is morally obligated to exist in the first place so that they can do so. That means that the person who started the insurance company was *morally obligated* to start the insurance company.

But it can't just be one person's obligation. This would appear to imply that every single person in the world is morally obligated to start an insurance company and then give away free money till they go bankrupt!"



Recall the classical legal definition of an "employee". What is the formal category of relationship between employer and employee? Master-servant.

Now consider that you have a right to work; that is to say a right to shape and move material, to labor, on your own behalf.

Simple enough. Entails only a negative obligation in regard to others.

Now, a right to a job. What? ... a job of work as Great Granddaddy used to say? Or, a job in the sense of employment by someone else?

If you have the right to work already, that is to labor on your own behalf without hinderance, what would a right to a job, as in a right to be an employee, suggest in addition? That someone has a duty to provide you with a time occupying activity for which you then receive an acceptable remuneration?

If you have a right to be an employee, is the right to be provided with assigned tasks and direction in return for money, then conditional upon performance?

What of insurance then? Do you have a right, as you say, to have someone else step up to invent or provide you with nonactuarial "insurance" (or indemnification, really).

If you have a right to demand indemnification underwritten by another, is it conditional on any duty you have to perform?

Or do you just have it? Perhaps you just have a right to any social good others have found or developed to be, advantageous. Maybe a wife, sex, fun, a cure for your headache, and an escape from the burden of your individuality?

If you have a right to the social good of a mate, has someone else a duty to provide you with mate services? If no volunteers, is someone assigned and compelled?

It's a rough parallel. Which is why socialism is logically a totalizing project. If the government is to ensure so-called needs are fulfilled, rather than ensuring an open space where they may be pursued, then with as per Marx, with "needs" being redefined as continually evolving rather than biologically conditioned, the government must be all powerful.


Your right to be provided, undermines your natural right to pursue.

mpresley said...

To even bring up the Constitution in its original meaning is rather quaint. It is easy to show and argue that whatever covenant the Constitution was supposed to support was rendered null as a result of the War of Southern Cessation, and the actions of Lincoln. After that war, the ground was firmly set for radical dispossession of the right adhering to individual States, and the citizens thereof.

And today, as this election showed, the majority are enamored with the modern welfare state, making any Constitutional "recovery" highly unlikely. The truth is, that the thinking of the founders is no longer much understood, and would certainly not ever be supported by the majority of citizens even if they understood what those words meant.

Indeed, back then, the majority of today's citizens would not have ever been allowed to vote, but all this has been forgotten a long time ago, and to bring it up as a legitimate argument is probably to be labeled as some sort of anachronistic crank.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Just a note. Philosophy rests on Truth. The Truth is Hard and Cold. There is NO sentimentality in Philosophy.

If philosophy is a study of reality, then, philosophy must conform itself to reality. As reality is "cold, hard reality", so also must philosophy be "Cold, Hard". Philosophy is based on Logic, 2+2=4. I can not change that. I can only, must, accept that.

This is the nature of philosophy. Philosophy follows, is the nature of reality.

If you can't handle that, you can't handle philosophy.
------------

There is nothing that prohibits Christians from doing acts of charity. Caring for the less fortunate is the Christian duty.

But it is the Duty of Personal effort or the collective effort of the Church when it operates a hospital, an orphange or a hospice. The Charity of Christians, And I want to emphasize "Charity", is about "freely giving". Charity is from the heart of the individual---not the guvbermint.

There is nothing that says the County or the Catholic Diocese can't run a poor house. Poor houses used to be everywhere. It is not state of the art and it may be bare minimum, that is why it is called the "Poor House".

And this is all called "Acts of Charity" never "social justice".

rank sophist said...

Alright. Just to be clear: you have stated that insurance companies are morally obligated to go out of business. Morally, they - and apparently, they alone - are obligated to cover absolutely everyone in the world who has any manner of illness, the moment they form. You are claiming to derive this from Thomistic principles.

I'm not saying anything more on that topic. I don't think I have to.


I'm merely exposing the core flaw of any attempt to use arguments from natural law to support health insurance. There is a very complex overlap in this situation between positive and natural law. First, it must be known that no one has a natural right to health insurance. That's an absurd thought. There's nothing about human nature that entails health insurance, and we did without it for a long, long time. But innocent people do have a natural right to their health. The problem arises when positive law interferes with natural law, which is what's happening with insurance companies. They are preventing people from taking care of their health. Whether the answer is to destroy the insurance industry and bring down doctor fees, or to put more government regulation on the insurance industry, is what's up for debate. Neither option violates natural law--it's a matter of political affiliation. I personally think that option #1 is a pipedream with no chance of ever passing, because too much money is involved.

In any case, insurance companies are preventing people from taking care of their health, which is a violation of natural law. And so, regardless of your practical arguments from positive law, you haven't even put a scratch on my case. Health insurance companies are no more morally right than a drug addiction, and so sustaining them in business using their current practices is also wrong. You seem to want to use the doctrine of double-effect to defeat this point--it's okay to deny coverage if the goal is to cover someone else, say--, but that only works in morally neutral or morally good situations. There is nothing morally good or even neutral about preventing the parents of a child with cancer from taking care of his health. As a result, the doctrine of double-effect cannot be applied: the situation is evil through-and-through.

Same situation, except we live in a world where all the insurance companies have gone bankrupt. John has no insurance company to turn to for coverage.

So I suppose, John is going to die, and no one is culpable.

Also correct?


Pretty much. No one is interfering with his natural right to his health: there's just no one around to take care of him. However, in a realistic scenario, the death of the health insurance industry would bring back sane relations between patients and doctors, so your situation wouldn't actually happen.

The Deuce,

But, here's the thing: If that insurance company had never been started in the first place, they never would've never even had the option to pay for Johnny's treatment.

The implication is, then, is that if the insurance company is morally obligated to pay Johnny's treatment for free, then the company is morally obligated to exist in the first place so that they can do so. That means that the person who started the insurance company was *morally obligated* to start the insurance company.


Your reductio fails, because you've conflated natural with positive law. Again, no one has a natural right to health insurance. As a result, no one is morally obligated to start a health insurance company. My complaint is with the immoral practices of the current industry, which cannot be defended with natural law.

Daniel Smith said...

And it will massively increase the already staggering national debt.

This will be the undoing of Obamacare (and all other government subsidies). When the US economy collapses (as it inevitably will - once the world starts buying oil with a different currency) there will be NO MORE MONEY!

Doctors and hospitals will go back to performing procedures for cash, chickens, or whatever the patient can afford. And, because the government's "pot of unlimited funds" will be gone, prices will drop back to realistic levels (like every bubble that bursts). If little Billy has cancer, the community will come together and raise the money for him to have his (much less expensive) treatment.

Crude said...

I'm merely exposing the core flaw of any attempt to use arguments from natural law to support health insurance.

That's not what's going on here - I wasn't even attempting it. You were saying that greed is the reason pre-existing conditions aren't covered by health insurance. But you've defined the situation in such a way that, even if the health insurance company's operators take zero profit, they're still greedy. They must, out of moral necessity, go bankrupt.

Like I said, I don't think I need to do much more than point out what you're claiming on this point.

And so, regardless of your practical arguments from positive law, you haven't even put a scratch on my case.

In terms of 'getting you to abandon your view'? Nope. But it's not a goal. In terms of pointing out some serious, deep problems with your whole evaluation of the subject? I think that's been accomplished here.

Pretty much. No one is interfering with his natural right to his health: there's just no one around to take care of him.

Really? There's no one around? 10k dollars - his family doesn't have a duty to provide this money? Not his neighbors? Not his community? Not the doctors? Insurance companies are morally culpable for any and all uncovered health deaths, but when there's no insurance company, *no one* is culpable?

You've honestly, truly reasoned yourself into the position where, in the case of western medicine, the only entity that has any responsibility towards people who need health care is health insurers, and them alone?

rank sophist said...

That's not what's going on here - I wasn't even attempting it. You were saying that greed is the reason pre-existing conditions aren't covered by health insurance. But you've defined the situation in such a way that, even if the health insurance company's operators take zero profit, they're still greedy. They must, out of moral necessity, go bankrupt.

You forget that I was here to argue against Prof. Feser's claim--not yours. But, yes; greed is still the reason, as I've explained. Just like practical self-preservation is not the moral course of action for a murderer, practical concerns about the self-preservation of an evil industry are irrelevant when judging that industry's accordance with virtue ethics. Is the insurance industry violating people's natural rights because of monetary concerns? Yes. That's greed.

In terms of pointing out some serious, deep problems with your whole evaluation of the subject? I think that's been accomplished here.

Any problems you've pointed out are problems with natural law, Christianity, virtue ethics and the health insurance industry.

Really? There's no one around? 10k dollars - his family doesn't have a duty to provide this money? Not his neighbors? Not his community? Not the doctors? Insurance companies are morally culpable for any and all uncovered health deaths, but when there's no insurance company, *no one* is culpable?

Insurance companies, when they deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, prevent people from taking care of their health. If a man went to his family and asked for money to pay for his child's cancer treatment (because it would be otherwise impossible for him to pay for it), then, yes, denying him that money would be morally wrong. But you've got to be morally involved with the situation before you can be morally obligated to this or that action. I am not morally obligated to save the lives of a family in Syria, which is about to be massacred, even though I have no way of saving them or any knowledge about them. But, sure, if you introduce a family or community into your thought experiment, and your hypothetical person asks for money to pay for his treatment because it would be impossible for him to pay for it otherwise, then those people would be obligated to help--assuming that they could. Not sure about the moral status of the doctor in all this.

You've honestly, truly reasoned yourself into the position where, in the case of western medicine, the only entity that has any responsibility towards people who need health care is health insurers, and them alone?

Of course I haven't. But, as it stands, they are the big obstacle between people and health care. Either that obstacle is destroyed or subjugated--those are the only two options available, and only one of them is practical.

mbabbitt said...

From The Princess Bride: "As you wish..." Yes, I am sad because the forces of paganism have prevailed but I still wonder how much they will enjoy the consequences in the future. History has many lessons to teach in such cases.

TheOFloinn said...

Error in the major premise:

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions heavily decreases revenue.
3) Therefore, capitalist institutions should not cover pre-existing conditions.

and

1) Capitalist institutions require revenue to function.
2) Covering pre-existing conditions will make these institutions *cease to exist*.
3) Therefore, it's reasonable that these institutions do not cover pre-existing conditions.


All organisms and organizations require not only revenue to function, but require revenue at least equal to outlays. The Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood require this no less than Standard Oil, Kemper Insurance, or your local barber (whose greed for profit impels him to literally shear his customers!). Or the number of calories a sheep consumes versus those it expends. The delta goes to the organism's metabolism. In the case of an insurance pool, the delta pays for the underwriters, actuaries, claims adjusters, et al. Just as there is a distinction laid between gluttony and mere hunger, there is a distinction between greed and the necessity of maintaining the viability of the pool.

Back when insurance companies were the darling of progressive thought -- they are inherently socialistic -- George B. Shaw explained how insurance resembles a gambling pool.

"The Vice of Gambling and the Virtue of Insurance" by George Bernard Shaw
Part VII: Statistics and the Design of Experiments in The World of Mathematics by James R. Newman, v. 3 (1956) , pp. 1524-1533
http://www.unz.org/Pub/NewmanJames-1957v03-01524

Namely, a bunch of people throw their money into a pool and the winner gets to pull some out. This works only so long as the amount being pulled out by winners is less than the amount being contributed by bettors/policy holders. (The pool may be expanded by investing the contributions and adding the interest income to the pool. This works as long as the economy prospers and interest income is taxed at a low rate.) Unfortunately, to win a health insurance bet you must get sick. (Similarly for life insurance. To win, you must die young.) Nowadays, way too many people assume that money exists somehow and it's just a matter of "getting what's mine." They no longer see their monthly contribution as the source of the funds being tapped. The funds are just assumed to exist somehow.

+ + +
But it's not like Germany, for example, got wealthy on its own--that's an accident of recent history.

Not an accident, and not of recent history, but a consequence of riverine connectivity within the North European Plain.
http://www.businessinsider.com/this-is-the-major-factor-that-has-made-germany-richer-than-italy-2011-11?page=1

Crude said...

But, yes; greed is still the reason, as I've explained.

You have a definition of 'greed' that applies even when none of the people involved are profiting or have the potential to profit. That's a broken definition of greed.

Maybe you don't like the system, maybe you think it should be replaced. But 'greed' is not a necessary cause here. That's just a plain fact.

But, sure, if you introduce a family or community into your thought experiment, and your hypothetical person asks for money to pay for his treatment because it would be impossible for him to pay for it otherwise, then those people would be obligated to help--assuming that they could. Not sure about the moral status of the doctor in all this.

Then who has the overriding obligation? Especially with the principle of subsidiarity in mind. The family? Neighborhood? Community? State? Or is it the insurer first and foremost?

Mary said...

When the US economy collapses (as it inevitably will - once the world starts buying oil with a different currency) there will be NO MORE MONEY!

There will be PLENTIFUL money.


In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."


Who's buying our bonds? China? No, the Treasury. Which means, in reality, it's just printing money. It will take some months, but hyperinflation will hit. Severe austerity will be needed to chain it. Let us just hope we don't hit Weimar Germany before then.

Anonymous said...

there is NOT enough money in the whole wide world to cover the medical needs of the poor! There is NONE.

The godless socialist hellholes of Europe, and every other first-world country, somehow manage to do this (at at a far lower per-capita cost than we pay).

The poor are to die. They come dime a dozen.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

TheOFloinn said...

one of the biggest reasons the cost of health care is in the stratosphere in the first place is because we overuse insurance.

There are two other factors:
a) Complexity. In 1950, a stay in the hospital was a simple thing. Aside from making you comfortable, applying sulfa drugs, and setting bone, there was little the medical system could do. By 1970, there was a vast array of new drugs, new medical devices, new treatments, so that a day in a hospital was a more complex thing than before. That has only continued. Greater complexity means higher costs. You didn't have to pay anything for an MRI scan in 1950.

b) When you take a hose and put one end in the insurance pool (let alone in the federal treasury) then more dollars are chasing the same supply of health care and the prices will rise until they become unaffordable by the common man. That's why Medicare costs became the driver for inflation in this sector. (And if you want to see denial of treatment, try making the government the gatekeeper. Woof.)
+ + +
But now apparently it's suddenly unconstitutional.

Right. The Bill of Rights clearly allows States to do things that are forbidden to the federal bureaucracy. That is the joy of federalism: when the system blows up only that particular state goes down the tubes. Massachusetts, for example. Meanwhile, other states may try out other systems. We wait and see which work out. Some may fail as badly as the UK, others work as splendidly as France. When a national system goes down the tubes it takes the whole country down with it.

But keep in mind that France, widely touted as the best health care system, has a population about one quarter that of the United States and even JBS Haldane, a staunch Marxist, took note that what works at a small scale may fail at a larger. That's why Gothic cathedrals are not simply scaled-up Romanesque cathedrals and why there are no ants the size of elephants. Even Canada has no nation-wide system: each province has its own system and Ontario (the largest, and slowing going broke) is about the size of the State of Illinois.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

You know this whole Health care thing is a bandaid. It is all superficial because this problem was created by another thing altogether.

TheOFloin joggs my memory when he writes: "In 1950, a stay in the hospital was a simple thing" How very true.

He lays out some good reasons why this is so but there is another underlying reason plus another that has astronomically inflated health care costs.

It is called "The Federal Reserve" or Central Bank. This is not government institution. The Federal Reserve was created in 1913. It is a plank in the Communist Manifesto. It is private bank controlled by private individuals that has an exlusive charter to print money for the US Government! Ever since the institution of the Federal Reserve, which is against the US Constitution which says the Federal Government alone shall coin money, money has been inflated. The inflation of money causes money to weaken therefore much is needed. It is about driving prices so high that it forces people to turn to the government. You can see this in the rising price of construction, the rising price of transportation etc.

In 1950, one could buy a loaf of bread for dime. Ron Paul worked at a Catholic Hospital for minimum wage as a Doctor. They turned no one away. You could pay a doctor with a day's worth of wages.

The Federal Reserve, or Central Bank, is the socialist plan to inflate the money supply in order to move people to adopt government handouts.

The next problem is tort law or the lawyers. Malpractise suits either against doctors, hospitals, pharmacies or medical companies increase astronomically the price of health care. The lawyers use the tort courts as a gold mine to enrich themselves at the sake of the consumer.

These two things are the root causes of the Health care nightmare. What is going on is that it is all smoke and mirrors and they direct people to the superficial.

Socialists create the problem, then tell you the answer to the problem that they created, namely, adopt government handouts and control.

Fix the money supply, Stop inflation, have deflation, End the Federal Reserve and stop medical lawsuits and health care costs will plunge.

rank sophist said...

You guys should stop responding to Wheeler. He's a known sociopath.

TheOFloinn,

Just as there is a distinction laid between gluttony and mere hunger, there is a distinction between greed and the necessity of maintaining the viability of the pool.

And I agree with you. The problem is that the examples you gave are different than insurance companies, because the local barber, by refusing to cut a certain kind of hair (say), does not violate anyone's natural right. Planned Parenthood, at least in its abortion and contraception coverage, in fact is an engine of natural law violations. Insurance companies violate a natural right by preventing people from taking care of their health, even if, for example, we're talking about an unlucky family too poor to afford health insurance before their child gets cancer. This is like a downtrodden man going to his rich uncle to ask for a loan so that he can avoid starving to death, only to be turned away for the reason that, if he gave him a handout, then everyone would want a piece of the pie. That's what we're dealing with, here.

Nowadays, way too many people assume that money exists somehow and it's just a matter of "getting what's mine." They no longer see their monthly contribution as the source of the funds being tapped. The funds are just assumed to exist somehow.

Like I said, it isn't a matter of "getting what's mine", because no one has a natural right to health insurance. But they do have a natural right to their health. Again, this is a rich uncle situation, in which a natural obligation is tossed aside because of practical concerns: positive rights override natural rights. It's just wrong.

Not an accident, and not of recent history, but a consequence of riverine connectivity within the North European Plain.

I thought it was due to the massive amount of stimulus money poured into West Germany after the war. That's interesting, though. Looks like I have a lot more to learn about history.

rank sophist said...

You have a definition of 'greed' that applies even when none of the people involved are profiting or have the potential to profit. That's a broken definition of greed.

My definition is part of the Thomistic definition of greed: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3118.htm

Note that Aquinas puts "treachery, fraud, falsehood, perjury, restlessness, violence, and insensibility to mercy" as "daughters" of greed. The last of these is my concern in this argument, although, of course, treachery, fraud and falsehood are the core of the insurance industry. All of these things arise because of the money-obsession in the industry, which is a good example of how capitalism is largely incompatible with Thomism. Modern people don't think of the insurance industry as "greedy" even though, as TheOFloinn suggested, it is essentially a kind of gambling set up to build absurd wealth for the guys at the top. Insurance companies are not in it for their customers--this is common knowledge--, but rather for the money. Greed motivates their actions, and their insensibility to mercy is born from that greed.

Then who has the overriding obligation? Especially with the principle of subsidiarity in mind. The family? Neighborhood? Community? State? Or is it the insurer first and foremost?

Are you asking how it should be, or how it is? The answer to the second question is the insurer, because of the way the health care industry has been structured. The former is a more difficult question. In a perfect world, there wouldn't be any insurance companies, and doctors' fees would not be so high, and communities would be strong enough to support their members, and everyone would be able to find work with decent pay. But that obviously is not going to happen. Whether this means that the central government should subjugate insurance companies, or whether it should force states to create their own Romneycare-style programs, is the problem we have. This is because insurance companies are not going to go away, and someone has to rein them in.

Crude said...

The last of these is my concern in this argument, although, of course, treachery, fraud and falsehood are the core of the insurance industry. All of these things arise because of the money-obsession in the industry, which is a good example of how capitalism is largely incompatible with Thomism.

See, this is where you're having a problem. Yes, I've picked up that you have a very low opinion of people in the medical insurance industry. But you've maintained that greed is the reason that people with pre-existing conditions are denied coverage by said industry. You've reworked 'greed' to apply even in hypothetical cases where no one in the industry is making a profit - somehow, you're convinced the logic says that *even then* the industry *must go bankrupt*, in your own words. It is morally obligated to go bankrupt due to its role as insurer alone, REGARDLESS of any desire for or acquisition of profit on the part of those working in said industry.

On that point, you are making a claim that, really, is easy to refute. I'm going to say again: you said that the failure to provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is a result of greed. Even while accepting that granting this coverage would bankrupt the insurers, resulting in no one being covered. Even in a hypothetical case where no one is making or is even pursuing a profit in the insurance industry.

When you're making a claim like that, this starts to look far, far less like "Well, this is what naturally falls out of natural law", and far more like something else.

Crude said...

Modern people don't think of the insurance industry as "greedy" even though, as TheOFloinn suggested, it is essentially a kind of gambling set up to build absurd wealth for the guys at the top.

Also, this doesn't at all seem like "what TheOFLoinn suggested".

But really, are you now going to say that not only health insurance, but insurance full stop - from selling product warranties, to life insurance, to business insurance, to car insurance - is all some tremendous immoral enterprise, because "it's a form of gambling"? I mean, I was kind of kidding about the Ned Flanders thing earlier, but maybe I shouldn't have been.

At this point I have to ask... does the idea of someone selling an item at a profit really, REALLY offend you? I mean, if I make something that cost me 1 hour and 50 cents to create, and sell it for 50 bucks, can you say - given that data alone - that I did something completely immoral?

W.LindsayWheeler said...

The Rank Sophist, who we don't know who he is, what his experiences have been, what education he has, what has been his life's work, what he has created in his life is for all matters, an "anonymous" writer. This guy is troll. You know in a talk between equal men, you stand before one another, face to face. You, rank sophist, hide behind a veil of the internet.

Your hiding who you really are is in harmony with your socialist 'covetous' envy leftism displayed in your comments; i.e. "Insurance companies are not in it for their customers--this is common knowledge--, but rather for the money. Greed motivates their actions, and their insensibility to mercy is born from that greed." Did you take a poll? Is this scientific? Or is this demogoguery of the worst sort. So what if they are greedy. Are you their judge? Every business man is greedy. I haven't known one that was not! It is part and parcel of capitalism. Because they are insensitive is grounds to for the Government to dictate to them? Because they do not show mercy? Only in worker safety does the government, any government, has the right to step in. Just because their "greedy" doesn't give one the power to tell them what to do.

Rank sophist, you are engaging in leftist propaganda.

"Mercy" is not a part of business. If a business owner wants to engage in charity that his is right but that is not business. Did not Jesus in the parable about the workers in the vineyard, that the Owner has a right to dispose of his money as he sees fit? Jesus Christ said that. You are using religious teaching to have a secular government dictate to a business what it can and can not do. If you want a business to be Christian---you preach at the owners and the corporate officers and they freely operate under their conscience without duress--you don't use the government to "Force" your religious sentiment on other people. Mercy has nothing to do with forcing insurance companies to pay for pre-existing conditions! It is a bastardization of religious teaching.

Crude said...

Man, it's like we've got the platonic ideals of the two extremes represented here in Wheeler and Rank.

Wheeler, even you would have to admit that - while government forcing of people to be 'merciful' can be wrong - certainly there should be a cultural expectation, even a cultural pressure on the part of free christians, to encourage people to be generous and charitable within their means. Right?

Crude said...

Actually, I see Wheeler said more or less that anyway, he's just saying it forcefully.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

In the Republic, Socrates calls the capitalism and capitalists of his day "The Beast". It can NEVER be cured of its evils.

Philosophy's home is Sparta. Socrates said the greatest amount of wisemen was in Crete and Sparta. In Sparta, these philosopher/soldiers were forbidden to have money, enter the marketplace, engage in business. Socrates said in a paraphrase, "Where money is prized, Virtue is despised" a sentiment that underlies the sumptuary laws of Sparta. These Doric Greeks thought it dirty to engage in business because there is no virtue in it or it corrupts it.

There is no virtue in business. The sentiment is found in Homer the first critique of capitalism where he says, "Phonecians are fine sailors but all are rogues". Money turns people into rogues.

And you can NOT fix it. Capitalism exists in the minds and hearts of men.

And you hit the nail on the head Crude with that word "cultural expectation". We live in a post-Christian world, were other people control and set the agenda. These people glorify in money and getting rich. It is their ONLY value in life. They control Wall Street and set the agenda. It is all about money and being a millionaire in five years. We have a materialistic group of people that have redirected the Culture to money-making. And from that, thru the media, they have influenced countless others. You can't do nothing about that. They have control of the culture, you don't.

In order to have the Christian values, Christians must control the society and set its values! You don't have that in America. The ruling elite in America are no longer Christian. America was set up as a mercantilist state.

A Christian can teach a Christian culture for business and maybe some one will listen, but the Wall Street mentality is ensconced in too may colleges and universities. When I hear parents push their kids into going to college instead of entering the military first, I am disgusted because a college degree leads to money. That is why do they do that. Doing one's Duty is off of everybodies' radar. Duty to God, Duty to Country, this outside looking mentality is far gone. What we have is a narcisistic society that asks "What's in it for me". "I've got mine---screw you". In America, it is preached that Money is everything. America is a Masonic country. It is about pandering to the lowest denominators of the human being--not to the highest as it was under Christedom. We don't live in Kansas anymore.

Crude said...

You can't do nothing about that. They have control of the culture, you don't.

The culture is not a singular thing being steered by one guy. We can produce our own culture. We can, to an extent, tune OUT other culture. But it really is something that requires a conscious effort and some cooperation. Not to mention skill.

It's especially more within reach nowadays, where more and more traditional media is being supplanted by the internet.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

The best description of culture is in Werner Jaeger's Paideia. It is an excellent work in three volumes. But the first three chapters have to do with a certain value and how that was created.

Culture is always created by the aristocracy of the group. All racial groups have a warrior aristocracy. It is they that form the culture of that race. With the coming of modern republicanism that destroyed the Old Order, the warrior cultures of Christendom, a pseudo-aristocracy has arisen in classless modern day republicanism. It is they, this elite that form now the culture of modern day republics. For instance, the Russian revolution unseated the old warrior culture and its aristocracy with the pseudo-aristocracy of the Communist Politburo. The same can be said in Nazi Germany where the Nazi party became sort of a pseudo-aristocracy. They set the culture.

The ruling elite of any group sets the culture, the values. The ruling elite of America are materialist, godless creatures whose only value is money and this secular drive of progressivism towards globalization and socialism.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn in his book Liberty or Equality remarks that communism is unthinkable without Christianity. It was Christianity that in a way gave birth to communism. In a sense, Communism and/or socialism are secular, materialistic bastardizations of Catholic Christianity and its monastic movements.

Joe K. said...

TOF,

I really like reading your comments. They're always spot on, never overly elaborate or wordy, and are usually clearly correct. Keep writing.

Crude said...

Agreed, re: TOF. It's as if he's some kind of great book writer or something.

Wheeler,

The ruling elite of any group sets the culture, the values. The ruling elite of America are materialist, godless creatures whose only value is money and this secular drive of progressivism towards globalization and socialism.

Nowadays, there is not a single ruling elite. There's a multiplicity of elites, and new ones can rise up. There still exists a reigning elite that has its own influence, but it's not as clear cut. There are ways to react.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

The failure of Chief Justice John Roberts is the Lack of Manliness.

It is the first of the four virtues. When you look at the list of virtues they name it as "Courage, Prudence, Temperance, and Righteousness".

The English word "courage" does NOT fully translate the word. The Greek word is "andrea" and it literally means "manliness". All sorts of people rule that Prudence is the most important but it is not. All four virtues are Important but the most foundational one is Manliness. Part of Manliness is courage but that is not the full story. Manliness also includes Hardness; the ability to stand. It is St. Peter in 1 Peter 1.5 that says to suplement the Faith with Virtue.

Socrates asked "Can Virtue be taught". Where o Where in Catholic education is Manliness taught? At the Church? When was the last sermon you heard on Manliness? Is it anywhere taught? From what I heard pressure was brought to bear upon Chief Justice Roberts; something akin to blackmail. No one can do the Truth without Manliness. Christ had Manliness. He stood up and stood to his death. He was Hard. It took guts to do what he did since he was a God. Truth requires Manliness. And where is that anywhere in Catholic education at the elementary, High school or Catholic college or university? Manliness is NOT taught in the classroom.

The Faith MUST BE SUPPLEMENTED with Virtue. And Virtue, the excellence of a man, begins first with Manliness. To be Hard.

rank sophist said...

See, this is where you're having a problem. Yes, I've picked up that you have a very low opinion of people in the medical insurance industry. But you've maintained that greed is the reason that people with pre-existing conditions are denied coverage by said industry.

Let me repeat myself, once again: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3118.htm.

Let me even quote:

"Covetousness denotes immoderation with regard to riches in two ways. First, immediately in respect of the acquisition and keeping of riches. On this way a man obtains money beyond his due, by stealing or retaining another's property. This is opposed to justice, and in this sense covetousness is mentioned (Ezekiel 22:27): "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood . . . and to run after gains through covetousness." Secondly, it denotes immoderation in the interior affections for riches; for instance, when a man loves or desires riches too much, or takes too much pleasure in them, even if he be unwilling to steal."

This is the health insurance industry, and capitalism generally, in a nutshell. Wealth for the sake of wealth, at any cost. That's what big business is built on. That's why insurance is structured the way it is: to maximize profits and minimize losses. Greed is the fundamental driving force behind most of our big enterprises. Now, one of the daughters of greed is insensibility to mercy, which is exactly what we see when the kinds of pre-existing conditions I'm describing are denied coverage. This is the rich man telling the starving beggar to get off his lawn.

It is morally obligated to go bankrupt due to its role as insurer alone, REGARDLESS of any desire for or acquisition of profit on the part of those working in said industry.

The entire idea of an "insurance industry" is based on greed. This is exactly why your hypothetical monastic order would go bankrupt instantly: it isn't playing by the rules, even though it's doing the moral thing. Capitalist business runs on "invisible hand" economics, which means greed and self-interest drive the market toward lower costs and higher profits. The health insurance industry is no different. It is not interested in mercy or fairness or justice, but in money alone. If you take that intention for money alone out of the equation, then the entire structure dissolves. This is because capitalism is not designed to abide by natural law. An insurance company designed according to natural law wouldn't look anything like our current ones--in fact, it might be a contradictory idea.

Again, stuff like the principle of subsidiarity means that it isn't lawful to shut down capitalism by fiat. But, in the case of the rich persecuting the poor, as it is with health insurance, it can be necessary for the government to step in to prevent the innocent from being harmed.

rank sophist said...

I'm going to say again: you said that the failure to provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is a result of greed. Even while accepting that granting this coverage would bankrupt the insurers, resulting in no one being covered. Even in a hypothetical case where no one is making or is even pursuing a profit in the insurance industry.

Here's what I'm saying, point by point.

1. Health insurance companies and capitalist business in general are based on greed.
2. Greed involves the pursuit of profit for profit's sake.
3. Denying coverage of pre-existing conditions in cases like children with cancer, for instance, stems from this business philosophy.
4. This denial is an instance of insensibility to mercy.
5. Greed and insensibility to mercy go against natural law and virtue ethics.
6. It is impossible to defend the current practices of health insurance companies by using natural law.

There is no such thing as an insurance company that is not based on profit for its own sake. Any company like that would go bankrupt instantly--the invisible hand strikes again. But let's say that the monastic order, impossibly, tried to do this. Even then, denying coverage in those cases I mentioned would be a sin, because it would be insensibility to mercy. Driven by the direct greed of the order? No. But the entire structure of their company is built on greed, and the evils of greed must necessarily manifest themselves as a result.

But really, are you now going to say that not only health insurance, but insurance full stop - from selling product warranties, to life insurance, to business insurance, to car insurance - is all some tremendous immoral enterprise, because "it's a form of gambling"?

Gambling isn't even against natural law. My point related to the collection of massive profits by the guys at the top--the purpose of capitalism.

At this point I have to ask... does the idea of someone selling an item at a profit really, REALLY offend you? I mean, if I make something that cost me 1 hour and 50 cents to create, and sell it for 50 bucks, can you say - given that data alone - that I did something completely immoral?

Depends on the situation. In many cases, the answer is yes. See these:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3077.htm#article1
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3077.htm#article4

Crude said...

This is exactly why your hypothetical monastic order would go bankrupt instantly: it isn't playing by the rules, even though it's doing the moral thing.

No, this is where you're wrong.

The hypothetical monastic order would only go bankrupt instantly *if they insured people with pre-existing conditions*. I asked you before if you could explain why Obamacare *requires* people to buy health insurance. You insisted you know why. Now, I'm not so sure.

So please, explain to me: why is this a requirement? If your answer is 'Because they cut a faustian bargain with insurance companies, and this was the compromise that had to be made in order for universal health insurance to be attained - enriching greedy, corrupt corporate fatcats', you are wrong.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

You seem not to have read most of my argument. Rest assured that, unlike Wheeler, I am no crank. What I'm saying is based on my knowledge of Thomism and Christianity in general, and not on some bizarre personal agenda. So, please do read what I wrote.

To answer your question, it is a requirement because, as you said, it would bankrupt the industry to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions without a guarantee that everyone always has health insurance. Otherwise--again, as you said--, you're dealing with a situation in which people can just buy insurance whenever they want and leave as soon as they're done. This means that no one pays in, but that the insurance company constantly pays out. Hence, the laws of capitalism are reversed, and the house of cards falls apart.

Crude said...

What I'm saying is based on my knowledge of Thomism and Christianity in general, and not on some bizarre personal agenda.

I am sorry, but all indications are this is not true. The fact that you still insist that the reason people with pre-existing illnesses are not covered is "greed", despite admitting that to do otherwise - sans major state intervention - would bankrupt an insurer, sets up red flags like crazy.

You'd be better off admitting, however grudgingly, that no - 'greed' is not why people with pre-existing conditions are ultimately exempted from insurance coverage. You dislike insurance companies, you've heard a lot of bad stories, the people who run them are flawed, but no, the exemption is not the result of pure, unadulterated greed - and when you're boxed into the corner of saying 'The only non-greedy thing to do would be to go bankrupt', all it's doing is convincing me you're stubborn.

Hence, the laws of capitalism are reversed, and the house of cards falls apart.

It's not a "reversal of the laws of capitalism". It's just capitalism all over again. Capitalism isn't some thing that wealthy, mean people take part in, while the non-wealthy are never allowed to.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

Now you're just ignoring my post. I honestly do not care what you think is practical in this situation, because much of what modern society calls "practical" is actually immoral under natural law. Make a case that doesn't try to conflate natural and positive rights, or to let positive law override natural law, and then we'll continue. Thus far, you really don't seem to have understood what I'm talking about: despite how many times I've tried to spell it out, you continue to make these basic errors.

You could legitimately argue that my understanding of natural law is flawed, but you haven't done that. You could argue that natural law doesn't apply to these situations, but you haven't done that either. You just keep repeating that analyzing modern practices along ancient lines leads to ridiculousness--a conclusion with which I agree.

rank sophist said...

I'd like to add that, until you read and respond to my long post from before (which took quite awhile to write), I don't see any reason to keep this going. I came here to challenge Prof. Feser's claims about natural law, and you haven't even engaged me on that point. You just keep insisting that there's some kind of contradiction in my position, without providing any argument to that effect: you claim it's obvious. That doesn't cut it. Look--if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. But it's going to take someone willing to engage me on the subjects of natural law and virtue ethics, like TheOFloinn or Prof. Feser, to beat my argument.

Crude said...

Now you're just ignoring my post. I honestly do not care what you think is practical in this situation, because much of what modern society calls "practical" is actually immoral under natural law.

The 'practicality' in question - in this specific case - is not modern. It's long-standing, and is fundamental to any business.

If it costs you 3 dollars to bake bread and you sell it for 1 dollar, you're going out of business - end of story. Insisting that selling bread for 5 dollars is some kind of odd modern take on practicality and abhorrent doesn't do much. Neither does calling it greed.

You say I'm ignoring your 'basic points'. Okay - let's go with the very points you spelled out.

1. Health insurance companies and capitalist business in general are based on greed.

This is far more nuanced than you're making it out to be. Capitalist business in general can be based on anything, from a desire to make a living doing what someone loves, to a desire to make as much money as possible, to more.

2. Greed involves the pursuit of profit for profit's sake.

"Involves" as in "has as an aspect" or "is entirely summed up by"? If the latter, wrong. If the former, it's too weak to do much here.

3. Denying coverage of pre-existing conditions in cases like children with cancer, for instance, stems from this business philosophy.

Flat out wrong. Even if there is zero desire for profit - none, nyet - you need to do this to maintain the company. It is a necessity. Period. I don't care how many greedy people you know - reference to desire for profit is not fundamental here. You can remove that desire altogether, and you STILL will be forced to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, given a typical market where people aren't forced to purchase it.

4. This denial is an instance of insensibility to mercy.
5. Greed and insensibility to mercy go against natural law and virtue ethics.
6. It is impossible to defend the current practices of health insurance companies by using natural law.


Well, your natural law argument against insurance falls apart, because you fundamentally misunderstand just why coverage is denied in the given cases, and your consideration of greed is vague.

I'll say it one more time, because you keep ignoring it: even if the company was founded by a completely monastic group of businessmen who kept zero profit for themselves, and who intended to keep zero profit for themselves, they would be forced to instantiate the denial of coverage or else go bankrupt. That example alone scuttles your entire argument, because it suffices to show that the rule in question can be completely detached from greed. Remove greed altogether and you still, as a rule, need this exclusion. And while you have this exclusion, you are at least able to provide coverage to policyholders in the case of an unforeseen event.

Now, you can complain about the morality of the insurance business in particular. Maybe you can mount another argument about why insurance is immoral. What you're not going to be able to do is argue that the pre-existing coverage exclusion is a horrible thing which is there due to greed. You yourself admitted that, without that exclusion, the company will go bankrupt - and that means no more coverage for anyone at all. But you tried to insist that this end result is absolutely necessary to elude the 'greed' charge, and no, it simply doesn't work.

Crude said...

Well, I've gone down your numbered list to respond to your argument, so if you say I'm still avoiding your arguments, I have no idea what more you want. And what I said wasn't new - it's the exact same thing I've been saying throughout this thread, and which you don't seem to have an answer for. You're insisting that the only reason people with pre-existing conditions would be excluded from coverage is greed, which you connect to profit. I'm pointing out you can remove all desire for profit entirely, and you're still going to need these exclusions if you want the company to survive. Keep in mind that the company's survival involves doing things like 'paying out whenever someone has a claim', which isn't exactly negligible.

I'll throw a hypothetical situation at you: Here's the Benedictine Order of Health Insurers. They devote their lives to alleviating health care problems for people. They do this by collecting premiums from policyholders, banking them (less the bare minimal upkeep of the company), and paying out when legitimate claims are made. No one personally profits from this - the entire enterprise is a charitable act on their part.

Are they greedy? Is what I just described an instance of greed?

If not, here's the million dollar question: in order to maintain their system, will they be able to accept people with pre-existing conditions, as a rule?

If not, is it an act of greed to reject people with pre-existing conditions?

Micha Elyi said...

"It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to guarantee health insurance to those shut out of the system because of pre-existing conditions or poverty."
--rank sophist (10:05 PM)

I disagree.

Insurance covers risk. A pre-existing condition is not a risk, it's a certainty (probability equals 1).

To operate as an insurance provider under the conditions you wish to impose requires unlimited financial resources. No entity has that, not even the State. (The State is not God.) That's why "to guarantee health insurance" as you propose does "violate the principle of subsidiarity".

But perhaps by "health insurance" and "guarantee" you mean something else entirely. Please define your terms.

"The insurance companies do this out of greed..."

I disagree again.

Greed, rank sophist, is a desire for the unearned. Your complaint is that insurance companies are not delivering to people with pre-existing conditions or poverty something they haven't earned. Your desire that they should is greed. You are coveting your neighbor's goods, a grave matter.

"...TheOFloinn suggested, it [the insurance industry] is essentially a kind of gambling..."
--rank sophist (7:30 PM)

I doubt TheOFloinn holds as crude an opinion of the insurance industry as you suggest. He is intelligent and very learned. The difference between gambling as a vice and insurance as a service is in the principle of double effect, something a Thomist would understand. Forms of insurance developed in Christendom by the 1200s among Italian banking houses. Among the Late Scholastics are some who developed justifications for the practice that are consistent with Church moral teaching. The development of probability theory came later, the key breakthrough was accomplished in the 1650s by two Catholic men..

The purpose of purchasing insurance is to substitute a relatively small and fixed expense for an uncertain expense that may be so large that one cannot bear it without severe changes to ones lifestyle. There is no thrill-seeking in the buying and selling of insurance.

The purpose of indulging in the casino's gambling tables I leave an open question here, as an exercise for the student.

rank sophist said...

The 'practicality' in question - in this specific case - is not modern. It's long-standing, and is fundamental to any business.

If it costs you 3 dollars to bake bread and you sell it for 1 dollar, you're going out of business - end of story. Insisting that selling bread for 5 dollars is some kind of odd modern take on practicality and abhorrent doesn't do much. Neither does calling it greed.


I linked you to two articles out of the Summa Theologica that discuss the issue of selling at a profit. You appear to have ignored them. Here they are again:

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3077.htm#article1
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3077.htm#article4

This is far more nuanced than you're making it out to be. Capitalist business in general can be based on anything, from a desire to make a living doing what someone loves, to a desire to make as much money as possible, to more.

In the loosest and most theoretical sense of the term, you are correct. But this is just like when someone says that, in theory, communism leads to the freedom of the working class. I'm talking about applied capitalism.

"Involves" as in "has as an aspect" or "is entirely summed up by"? If the latter, wrong. If the former, it's too weak to do much here.

#1. And it isn't too weak. As Aquinas says:

"The other kind of exchange is either that of money for money, or of any commodity for money, not on account of the necessities of life, but for profit, and this kind of exchange, properly speaking, regards tradesmen, according to the Philosopher (Polit. i, 3). [... This kind of exchange] is justly deserving of blame, because, considered in itself, it satisfies the greed for gain, which knows no limit and tends to infinity. [... But] nothing prevents gain from being directed to some necessary or even virtuous end, and thus trading becomes lawful. Thus, for instance, a man may intend the moderate gain which he seeks to acquire by trading for the upkeep of his household, or for the assistance of the needy: or again, a man may take to trade for some public advantage, for instance, lest his country lack the necessaries of life, and seek gain, not as an end, but as payment for his labor."

Full context in the second link above.

Basically, the desire for monetary gain (basically minimizing cost and maximizing profit), which "tends to infinity", is not lawful unless it remains modest and/or charitable. Modern business practice, which is based on building wealth so that more wealth can be generated, is greed. That's all there is to it. The standard operating procedure of big business (like insurance) is greed to Aquinas.

Flat out wrong. Even if there is zero desire for profit - none, nyet - you need to do this to maintain the company. It is a necessity. Period.

Which is why I keep saying that insurance is built on greed. It is based on building money to maintain the business, so that ever greater amounts of money can be made. Its funds are not directed toward modest or charitable ends, but toward further money-making and expansion; and this money is sustained in part by denying service to certain members of the poor and needy. A small-town business run for the upkeep of a household and the good of the community is what Aquinas has in mind. He wouldn't have believed his eyes if he'd seen the rise of health insurance companies--or, for that matter, chains like Walmart.

rank sophist said...

I don't care how many greedy people you know - reference to desire for profit is not fundamental here. You can remove that desire altogether, and you STILL will be forced to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, given a typical market where people aren't forced to purchase it.

As I said before, even if we had saints running the place, who didn't want a dime for themselves, denying coverage to a child with cancer would still be a sin against mercy. It doesn't matter how practical it is to give away your money--we're talking about a religion built on the virtue of charity, which is placed before all others. If the decision is between keeping excess money for your own sake or using it to help someone else, the choice is always the latter. (Yes, I am aware that the virtue "charity" does not literally mean "giving money away".) There's a reason Christianity is known for its martyrs and beggar-priests.

I'll say it one more time, because you keep ignoring it: even if the company was founded by a completely monastic group of businessmen who kept zero profit for themselves, and who intended to keep zero profit for themselves, they would be forced to instantiate the denial of coverage or else go bankrupt. That example alone scuttles your entire argument, because it suffices to show that the rule in question can be completely detached from greed.

Insurance companies are structured to minimize cost and maximize gain. Even if the people running the place kept nothing for themselves, this is the structure that they'd have to adhere to. From the start, charitable work of the kind I'm describing is not in the game plan. What I'm saying is that the structure of greed, in these situations, gets its foot in the door before any intention even surfaces. Is this, in itself, a sin? No--at least in your thought experiment, it's just a bad idea.

Now, in the hypothetical scenario of the monastic executives, I have repeatedly said that they would be sinning against mercy by denying coverage in those certain cases. The only possible counterargument is an appeal to the DDE, by which their actions are justified because they have the good end of providing coverage to others. But this only works if the action of denying coverage itself is good, or at least neutral. I don't see how that can be the case in the extreme scenarios I'm discussing. Just as property rights do not allow a rich man to let a poor man starve, there is no right to money when keeping it essentially condemns a sick child to death. Hence, denying coverage in these cases is not neutral, but evil; and the DDE cannot be applied.

So, in conclusion, while you're correct that, in an impossible hypothetical scenario, greed does not motivate the denial of coverage, I maintain that A) the company is still structured according to greed and B) that denying coverage is still a sin, albeit one derived from greed rather than greed itself.

You yourself admitted that, without that exclusion, the company will go bankrupt - and that means no more coverage for anyone at all. But you tried to insist that this end result is absolutely necessary to elude the 'greed' charge, and no, it simply doesn't work.

No amount of practical necessity justifies denying money in the extreme case I mentioned. Because it's evil in itself to deny that money, you aren't appealing to the doctrine of double-effect, but rather to something very much like utilitarianism. It doesn't work. It violates natural law.

Now, remember that I'm not arguing that insurance companies should be dismantled. I am still sticking to my point that they cannot be defended with natural law. We might call their practices "necessary evils" or what have you, but, under natural law and virtue ethics, you can't appeal to justifications like that.

rank sophist said...

I'm pointing out you can remove all desire for profit entirely, and you're still going to need these exclusions if you want the company to survive. Keep in mind that the company's survival involves doing things like 'paying out whenever someone has a claim', which isn't exactly negligible.

You are correct that your scenario does not contain greed as a sin. However, it still contains a sin against mercy--one in circumstances serious enough that you can't appeal to the doctrine of double-effect to escape. If you've won a victory here, it's that pre-existing conditions should not be covered outside of extremely grave situations, if we're applying natural law to current insurance practices. However, in the cases with which I started my argument, it remains true that it's sinful and unjustifiable to withhold money.

If not, here's the million dollar question: in order to maintain their system, will they be able to accept people with pre-existing conditions, as a rule?

While their business would not contain the sin of greed, they would still sin against mercy in dire cases of pre-existing conditions, per above.

Micha,

Insurance covers risk. A pre-existing condition is not a risk, it's a certainty (probability equals 1).

That isn't relevant to natural law.

To operate as an insurance provider under the conditions you wish to impose requires unlimited financial resources. No entity has that, not even the State. (The State is not God.) That's why "to guarantee health insurance" as you propose does "violate the principle of subsidiarity".

Prof. Feser defines the principle of subsidiarity as the idea that "the needs of individuals, families, and local communities ought as a matter of justice to be met as far as possible by those individuals, families, and communities themselves." Nothing you just wrote has anything to do with this.

Further, I don't wish to impose those conditions. I was arguing that covering pre-existing conditions does not violate natural law. Covering them without simultaneously requiring an individual mandate for health insurance would, of course, be disastrous--I never suggested that this should happen.

Greed, rank sophist, is a desire for the unearned.

Not under natural law, it isn't. As Aquinas defines it:

"Covetousness denotes immoderation with regard to riches in two ways. First, immediately in respect of the acquisition and keeping of riches. On this way a man obtains money beyond his due, by stealing or retaining another's property. This is opposed to justice, and in this sense covetousness is mentioned (Ezekiel 22:27): "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves ravening the prey to shed blood . . . and to run after gains through covetousness." Secondly, it denotes immoderation in the interior affections for riches; for instance, when a man loves or desires riches too much, or takes too much pleasure in them, even if he be unwilling to steal."

Your complaint is that insurance companies are not delivering to people with pre-existing conditions or poverty something they haven't earned.

If a man is about to starve to death, natural law allows him to steal food without sin. If a child in poverty will die of cancer without an insurance policy, nothing in natural law justifies withholding that policy.

The difference between gambling as a vice and insurance as a service is in the principle of double effect, something a Thomist would understand.

I am a Thomist, albeit a relatively new one compared to some of the vets in here. Also, to my knowledge, recreational gambling is not even sinful in itself, so I have no idea why you'd think I was calling insurance "gambling" to devalue it. Did you get confused by Crude's talk regarding Ned Flanders, the Simpsons character who believes that insurance is gambling and that gambling is a sin?

Anonymous said...

I agree that there are elements of the Affordable Health Care Act that will offend people of various religious persuasions, including many Catholics.

But of course there are elements of almost any government action that will offend people of various religious persuasions. In particular, one of the most fundamental roles of government is to exercise force - if necessary lethal force - to defend the innocent. There are those who disagree with the use of force or at least of lethal force in any instance. Then there are those who disagree with the use of force in specific instances - for instance in Iraq. As a proportion of US government spending defense and law and order is very large.

Nothing about the Act forces Catholics to use contraception. I agree that the Act will, in effect, force some people to effectively subsidize the use of contraceptives by others who choose to use them. This is because some people will pay more in health insurance than they will ever get paid back in insurance payouts. But as a proportion of the total that will be spent on the scheme this amount is vanishingly small.

I can see there are arguments both for and against the Act. But the religious liberties argument does not seem to me a strong one.

Donald Mac

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Catholic physician who is often unpaid or works in a hospital which goes unpaid while providing care for the uninsured, I regard the individual mandate as a prime example of subsidiarity. Each individual should pay his share by paying for his own health care himself, or by having it paid by his employer or a state run exchange or Medicaid. There is an orderly ascending hierarchy of responsibility here. Given that it already is morally and legally expected that we physicians and hospitals care for all comers, an equitable system (not a patchwork ad hoc charity network, laudable though it be) must be set up. Why should I or a hospital not be paid for the very expensive care we provide? If I tried to take my groceries from the supermarket without paying, wouldn't I be justly arrested for shoplifting? We have a system of individual responsibility for buying food no less organized than the one established by Obamacare, and we do not regard it as intrusive, but as necessary.

Mary said...

As I said before, even if we had saints running the place, who didn't want a dime for themselves, denying coverage to a child with cancer would still be a sin against mercy

Liar.

We know that you are lying, because if you really believed that not paying for an impoverished child's cancer payment was a sin against mercy, you would be bankrupt yourself and so unable to get online like this.

You are a greedy and merciless soul by your own lights.

c matt said...

Charities can't give people insurance for pre-existing conditions, nor can they afford to give them funds out of pocket.

But insurance companies can? And when they go banrkrupt, who will be payng?

You have a fundamnetal misunderstanding of the insurance industry. It is basedupon actuarial assumptions and risk pooling. If you want premiums to remain affordable, then certain high-risk things and pre-existing conditions need to be excluded. Or, if you wnat EVERYTHING included, then premiums need otbe adjusted accordingly, or they will just get out of the insurance business (that has happened to several malpractice carriers, homeowners carriers and others). When they cannot afford to cover the risks, they close up shop. Basically, you want to require a business to act like a charity.

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

rank sophist

When you write things such as "If a child in poverty will die of cancer without an insurance policy [...]" and "and this money is sustained in part by denying service to certain members of the poor and needy[,]" one of the flaws in your argument is quite clear: insurance companies don't sell healthcare. They sell insurance.

An insurance policy won't help your generic cancer-stricken child. He needs surgery, or drugs, not insurance! In other words, he needs healthcare. And doctors and hospitals sell healthcare. So either:

1. You expect doctors and hospitals to bankrupt themselves providing their healthcare

2. Your sob-story can try to buy a lot of money cheaply - but this is also not the role of insurance companies.

You dismissed Micha when he pointed out that insurance transfers risk from one who does not want it, to another willing to take it on. And you dismissed Crude for apparently ignoring your points. But those links to newadvent, though interesting, are spurious because insurance companies are not simply selling healthcare.

You should stop feeling your way through this argument, and think about it. I greatly prefer your combox contributions when you do.

Jack "Vaughn" Bodie said...

rank sophist

Again this is just obviously wrong: "It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to guarantee health insurance to those shut out of the system because of pre-existing conditions [...]"

Perhaps you would guarantee them healthcare. But see, then, that people far removed from your pre-existing shutout are providing for their need of healthcare.

You denounce as greedy the very means by which most subscribe to the principle of subsidiarity (ie, by buying health insurance) so that they will be able to provide for their own should circumstances arise. And yet you're insist that forcing insurance companies to provide a product that they don't provide, paid for by people who didn't ask for it and won't benefit, isn't counter to the principle of subsidiarity.

I'm not sure you get the principle or insurance.

TheOFloinn said...

Insurance companies violate a natural right by preventing people from taking care of their health

Even if this were true, it does not magically exempt insurance companies from the need to take in more energy than they expend. I cited a range of examples precisely to illustrate that the need for revenues or calories is not confined to "capitalist" organizations, but is simply a structural fact of organizational systems.

Insurance companies do not deny health. At best, they may decline to pay for a treatment. (And if you think this is bad, wait until it is government doing so.) The price of treatment is high precisely because one end of the hose is inserted in a big pot of money called the "insurance pool." (And also because "treatment" has become more complex.) Making insurance broader will only make things worse.

Demand for a free good is infinite.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I lived amongst some virulent Protestant fundamentalists when I was serving in the military. The hatred of Catholicism by Protestants is enormous. Now, I don't wonder why.

Dr. Feser nominates Chief Justice Roberts as the blame. But I think there is a co-author that can hang with Roberts and that is the Roman Catholic Ted Kennedy.

Please look at the picture that Newsweek put on its cover and the top message over it: GOP: You're Old, You're White, You're History!". I think it pretty disgusting.

Here is Mangan quoting from another piece:

"Congratulations to Ted Kennedy on his historic election victory. The Lion of the Senate may no longer be with us, but there is little doubt that he secured Barack Obama’s win – for as every media outlet has pointed out, Romney simply "ran out of white guys". If America had the demographic profile of 1992, the Republicans would have secured victory; had the country its 1980 electorate, the GOP would have won in 2008 too. Kennedy’s 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, which he said would lead to at most 50,000 people a year arriving (slightly below the actual figure of one million) swung it." (from here)

Ted Kennedy a Roman Catholic. We can point to TWO Roman Catholics as the cause of this disaster and originators of demolishing of this Protestant country. Roberts and Kennedy, along with Pelosi, And Biden, more Catholics, as the architects of the destruction of this country.

We may also add The Catholic Hierarchy that advocate more immigration that is causing the dissolution of this country's majority!! Is not one part of Virtue called Righteousness and does not Righteousness call for Duty to one's kinsmen and forefathers? So why doesn't Catholics portray any Righteousness?

What is with American Catholicism that it puts out traitors? Is American Catholicism just so much cultural marxism? What kind of people do Catholic Churchs put out?

c matt said...

Under a taxpayer-funded system, frequent users of the system pass the cost on to you/people who use it less frequently, and to people in higher tax brackets.

But that is the wholepoint of deductibles and co-pays - to make the frequent users only use it for true energencies. Once you have to pay $100 for a scraped knee or slight fever, guess what - next time you just go to CVS and pay $5 for your own band-aid or Advil.

TheOFloinn said...

@JoeK

My outlook is that as Wm Briggs has said: "the love of theory is the root of all evil."

Any time you see someone arguing from a theoretical stance rather than from experience with the world toward a theoretical stance, you are on the express train to whackadoodle land. This is as true of inhabitants of that strange childless world of libertarian Randroids as it is of the prison camps of the mind in crypto-Marxist gulags.

Verbose Stoic said...

rank sophist,

I just skimmed through this discussion, and I think that your rhetoric ran ahead of your point, even as you concede at the end. Crude has pointed out, and you seem to agree, that if insurance companies did not contain clauses saying that they will not cover pre-existing cases they would go bankrupt. Putting aside the reason you've purported for WHY they do that, I think we can all concede that if all of these insurance companies go out of business, it will leave people uncovered and unable to preserve their right to maintain their health, and so it is therefore better for the preservation of that natural law right for insurance companies to include than clause. Therefore, there is nothing a priori immoral about insurance companies having that as a clause.

Then we can flip this around to look at the clause under Obamacare to mandate that insurance companies include this. Because if left alone this would bankrupt the companies and therefore leave them uncovered and unable to preserve their right, this in and of itself WOULD be a priori immoral without there being something else to cover it. We all agree, I think, that mandating insurance coverage covers that off, but do you think that forcing someone to purchase medical insurance who doesn't want or need it doesn't in some way violate natural law (I'm not well-versed in it myself, although I think I recently got some books on it that I really should put on my reading list [grin])?

So, now we can turn to the extreme cases, and the impression that I -- and I think Crude -- have been getting is that under this system you think that the primary agent to be held culpable if someone will die without medical treatment, cannot pay for it themselves, has no insurance, and is denied insurance on that basis is the insurance company, and not people like friends, family, neighbours, churches, the government, charity, etc, etc. This, you argue, is because of their insensitivity to mercy. But given the arguments above, I would disagree that they are the PRIMARY agent culpable here. Since it is agreed that they need to have that clause in order to survive, and that their surviving is better on the grounds you argue than their not surviving, I think a good case can be made that the only time they should break that rule is when there is absolutely no alternative, meaning that all other options have been exhausted first, including charitable organizations and, perhaps, even the services being provided for free by the medical institutions. Thus, you are right that in very extreme cases the insurance companies ought to suspend that rule and provide it, but those cases are far more extreme than the ones you have mentioned.

Thus, no matter how greedy you claim the people running it actually are, the system is not in and of itself in any way greedy, even under your definition, until it denies it in cases where ALL alternatives have been exhausted.

Now, onto captialism. The debate here is going to be over when taking profit will be acceptable. Skimming at least one of your sources, it seems that greed can be defined loosely as "Treating wealth as an end in itself and not just as a means". That handles all of the other cases for the most part, as it allows you to work for a profit to provide for your family and living, and such. The question then will become what ends are acceptable. Comfort, not just survival? Luxuries? This is a far deeper question than a quick skimming can answer, but is mostly compatible with capitalism. About the only think that is problematic is the law of supply and demand, since one of your last sources seems to explicitly advocate against raising prices because they value it more than you do, but the reply from the capitalist would be that there is no inherent value in these things, but the value is determined solely by what people think the value is worth, and the law of supply and demand simply codifies that. Which gets into problems with necessities, but capitalism has always had problems with necessities.

TheOFloinn said...

3. Denying coverage of pre-existing conditions in cases like children with cancer, for instance, stems from this business philosophy.
4. This denial is an instance of insensibility to mercy.
5. Greed and insensibility to mercy go against natural law and virtue ethics.


Why is it the denial of coverage that instantiates greed and not the charges levied by the doctor or hospital? If nurses and medical technicians and the rest did not demand payment, the poor kid would get treated, right?

TheOFloinn said...

Which is why I keep saying that insurance is built on greed. It is based on building money to maintain the business, so that ever greater amounts of money can be made. Its funds are not directed toward modest or charitable ends, but toward further money-making and expansion; and this money is sustained in part by denying service to certain members of the poor and needy.

One way of denying service to the poor and needy is to bankrupt the insurance pool so that no one is covered.

Does it occur to you that a charity or a business might "maintain the business" because otherwise no one gets served? (And that the wealthy will miss the service rather less than the poor?) Or that "ever greater amounts of money can be made" in order to cover ever-greater claims drawing on the pool? Or even that the funds actually are directed toward the modest and charitable end of covering the costs of medical treatment? Or that the poor and needy already have Medicaid?

The motives of the director of the charity or of the CEO of the business apply only to his own hope of salvation. They do not affect the laws of system dynamics.

TheOFloinn said...

As I said before, even if we had saints running the place, who didn't want a dime for themselves, denying coverage to a child with cancer would still be a sin against mercy.

Then why have you not sold everything that you own and donated the proceeds to that child? (I notice that you cite "denying coverage" and not "denying health care.")

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I may be wrong, but I'm suspicious of the "Rank Sophist". Could it be that the Rank Sophist is really Dr. Feser playing Devil's advocate? Something of an alter ego? Trying to move the talk along, in order to pull out the best?

Just wondering.

BenYachov said...

I may not agree with RS semi-liberal economic views & I don't care enough about it to argue it here.

But Mr. W. LindsayWheeler so called self proclaimed "racial realist"....

http://www.wikinfo.org/Multilingual/index.php/Race_realist

Don't you go casting aspersions on a guy I have been proud to stand next too in the internet wars against the Gnus.

Especially with your fruitbat fringe wacko views.

I have my eye on you.

Glenn said...

rank calls attention to http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3077.htm#article1, within which we find:

Now whatever is established for the common advantage, should not be more of a burden to one party than to another, and consequently all contracts between them should observe equality of thing and thing. Again, the quality of a thing that comes into human use is measured by the price given for it, for which purpose money was invented, as stated in Ethic. v, 5. Therefore if either the price exceed the quantity of the thing's worth, or, conversely, the thing exceed the price, there is no longer the equality of justice: and consequently, to sell a thing for more than its worth, or to buy it for less than its worth, is in itself unjust and unlawful.

If what Aquinas is saying here is inverted and stood on its head what Aquinas is saying here, the result is a set of perverse justifications for forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions:

1. There should be more a burden to one party than to another;

2. contracts should not observe equality of thing and thing;

3. there is equality of justice when the a thing exceeds the price; and,

4. to buy something for less than its worth is in itself just and lawful.

Glenn said...

s/b If what Aquinas is saying is inverted and stood on its head, the result is...

s/b ...the thing exceed the price...

Crude said...

Yeah, I don't have time to respond right now - busy day - but my disagreement with rank is not some condemnation of his reasoning skills generally. I think politics does odd things to how some folks reason through stuff. Perhaps someone else will be able to say better what I tried to say here.

Glenn said...

Hey... don't let the, I'm guessing, frustration and disappointment of (apparently) not getting through obscure the fact that you did well. You did do well.

My covertousness is probably showing its face when I say this, but I wish I had your patience.

Tony said...

The culture is not a singular thing being steered by one guy. We can produce our own culture. We can, to an extent, tune OUT other culture. But it really is something that requires a conscious effort and some cooperation. Not to mention skill.

Yes, but the culture "we" try to produce cannot be made independent of the culture all around us, imposed by the media, the educationcrats, and the government (among other players). We have lost all power to even keep up with the influence they have on us and our communities, much less overcome that influence.

Face it, guys: given the further corruptions, exacerbations and gov. control the Dems aim at for the next 4 years, and their already existing lock on the major drivers of culture, THERE IS NO FORESEEABLE civil human effort or combination of actions available that could, with even a 10% chance of working, turn our society away from its chosen path toward doom.

NONE.

No community program, no new colleges, no new political party, no new education trend, no new technology like the internet, etc, has any foreseeable chance of turning our culture around. Not any more. Obama won because, by and large, our people WANT the evils he is promoting. It's that simple.

You have, therefore, 3 options: (1) join the party while it is fun, and plan on going to hell; (2) expect either the slow martyrdom of dhimmitude, or some faster martrydom; or (3) hope for Divine intervention. It is even possible to combine (2) and (3), sort of.

I will just mention you that Divine intervention, to a nation that has consciously and deliberately (over the course of 5 decades) repudiated God, always has in the past taken the form of some kind of chastisement. See: Sodom and Gomorrah, Jews and Babylonian empire, Romans and barbarians, etc.

Crude said...

Yes, but the culture "we" try to produce cannot be made independent of the culture all around us, imposed by the media, the educationcrats, and the government (among other players). We have lost all power to even keep up with the influence they have on us and our communities, much less overcome that influence.

I disagree. You are under the impression that unless you can take over the entire cultural complex in one swoop, you can have no effect, not even a lasting effect. That's simply wrong.

Crude said...

Glenn,

If that was to me, that's no problem. I just, quite literally, am busy today. And really, other people say things in different ways, and have more success. Nothing more!

Glenn said...

Crude, yes it was. Okay, glad I missed the mark!

Tony, a fourth option is available. And I know you know what it is. Okay, I don't really know that you know what it is; but I'd very surpised if you didn't. Maybe more later; gotta run now.

rank sophist said...

Wow. Lots of responses.

Mary,

Liar.

We know that you are lying, because if you really believed that not paying for an impoverished child's cancer payment was a sin against mercy, you would be bankrupt yourself and so unable to get online like this.


I am merely repeating a tenet of natural law. The situation I presented--that is, denying health care coverage to a child in poverty who has a dire illness--, is a by-the-books example of a rich man letting a starving man die. It isn't allowed.

c matt,

When they cannot afford to cover the risks, they close up shop. Basically, you want to require a business to act like a charity.

As I have repeated countless times, I am making a point about natural law and health insurance. I don't actually think that health insurance companies will operate according to natural law, nor do I think that it is even remotely plausible. My only goals are to show that the current practices of health insurance agencies are indefensible from a natural law standpoint, and that an individual mandate for health insurance is the more acceptable option for a Thomist.

Jack,

An insurance policy won't help your generic cancer-stricken child. He needs surgery, or drugs, not insurance! In other words, he needs healthcare. And doctors and hospitals sell healthcare.

I am well aware of this fact. But, as I have had to keep repeating, it is a sin under natural law to deny assistance to someone in such dire need. This includes monetary assistance, if we're talking about the need to pay for medical care.

If you've been reading the argument, I've already said that one possible scenario would be that the insurance industry more-or-less ceases to exist as we know it. This would get them out of the sin of denying money to the desperate. Instead, the problem would more clearly be with the doctors, who deny non-ER service to the people I'm describing.

Again, though, my only goal here is to show any attempt to defend the insurance industry with natural law to be futile.

1. You expect doctors and hospitals to bankrupt themselves providing their healthcare

2. Your sob-story can try to buy a lot of money cheaply - but this is also not the role of insurance companies.


Let me repeat myself: I am arguing that health insurance companies cannot be defended with natural law, and that an individual mandate is the superior choice under Thomism. It is not my intention to destroy capitalism or to suggest that all business should become charity. The situations I'm describing are merely examples of the common violations of natural law that exist in the business world, and my goal in presenting them is to invalidate any attempt to defend modern business with natural law, as Prof. Feser was trying to do.

You denounce as greedy the very means by which most subscribe to the principle of subsidiarity (ie, by buying health insurance) so that they will be able to provide for their own should circumstances arise. And yet you're insist that forcing insurance companies to provide a product that they don't provide, paid for by people who didn't ask for it and won't benefit, isn't counter to the principle of subsidiarity.

You cannot invoke natural law to defend practices that violate natural law. That's my whole point, here.

Further, the purpose of an individual mandate is to allow those who would not otherwise be covered to avoid being locked out of the system. These people are generally poor, and many of them have pre-existing conditions--some of them serious. It does not violate the principle of subsidiarity to allow these people, who--because of a pre-existing condition or the high price of health insurance--could never even buy into the system anyway, to get insurance.

rank sophist said...

TheOFloinn,

Even if this were true, it does not magically exempt insurance companies from the need to take in more energy than they expend. I cited a range of examples precisely to illustrate that the need for revenues or calories is not confined to "capitalist" organizations, but is simply a structural fact of organizational systems.

To return to the example of a starving man being allowed to steal food to avoid death: it is obviously not moral to deny help in these situations. The scenario I'm describing is desperate enough to negate natural property rights.

Further, modern business practice would be considered greed by Aquinas, as I illustrated earlier. While it is true that an organism, for example, must take in more calories than it burns to avoid death, these calories are directed toward a good end: the flourishing of a natural organism. But the flourishing of a business is not a good end in itself, because a business is not a natural entity. Just as the flourishing of a nuclear bomb is not necessarily morally right, the flourishing of a business is not necessarily morally right. Hence, we must look at the ends toward which that business is directed to determine its morality. Is it, as Aquinas suggests, directed toward a modest income to sustain a household or to give to charity? Or is it growth for the sake of growth, which Aquinas describes as greed?

Insurance companies do not deny health. At best, they may decline to pay for a treatment.

Which, in the situations I'm describing, is a violation of natural law. It's the starving man being left to die by the wealthy man, when that wealthy man has lost his natural property rights due to the extreme nature of the situation. As I've said, my goal is to argue that natural law cannot be used to defend the health insurance industry, and that an individual mandate is the preferable option for a Thomist. I have no intention of calling for the destruction of capitalist enterprise simply because it does not fit with natural law. Rather, I am attempting to make a point about the immorality of health insurance companies from the perspective of Thomism, to show that Prof. Feser's argument does not work.

rank sophist said...

Verbose Stoic,

Crude has pointed out, and you seem to agree, that if insurance companies did not contain clauses saying that they will not cover pre-existing cases they would go bankrupt. Putting aside the reason you've purported for WHY they do that, I think we can all concede that if all of these insurance companies go out of business, it will leave people uncovered and unable to preserve their right to maintain their health, and so it is therefore better for the preservation of that natural law right for insurance companies to include than clause. Therefore, there is nothing a priori immoral about insurance companies having that as a clause.

As I've said, this is the only plausible counterargument to my case. However, what you're doing is appealing to the doctrine of double-effect. To avoid confusion, here is a link to the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_double_effect. Here is a brief rundown of its tenets:

"This set of criteria states that an action having foreseen harmful effects practically inseparable from the good effect is justifiable if the following are true:

the nature of the act is itself good, or at least morally neutral;

the agent intends the good effect and not the bad either as a means to the good or as an end itself;

the good effect outweighs the bad effect in circumstances sufficiently grave to justify causing the bad effect and the agent exercises due diligence to minimize the harm."

Now, your move only works if the nature of denying assistance in the extreme cases I mentioned is good or neutral. But, as I've argued, this is impossible. To deny coverage to a child in poverty who will die without that coverage is not a good or even neutral act, because, in the case I'm describing, natural property rights would be negated. Just as it is a sin to withhold food from a starving man who will die without it, it is a sin to withhold monetary assistance in the situation with the child. Hence, you cannot appeal to the doctrine of double-effect, and, even if the alternative is bankruptcy, it remains evil to deny coverage. Certainly you could appeal to utilitarian concerns--the death of one for the well-being of many--, but this is not natural law, and so it does nothing to disprove my case. Natural law makes it a sin to murder an innocent man even if the alternative is the death of the entire human race.

We all agree, I think, that mandating insurance coverage covers that off, but do you think that forcing someone to purchase medical insurance who doesn't want or need it doesn't in some way violate natural law

Well, the first question is whether there is any sense to be had in the notion of someone who does not want or need health insurance, given the climate of the current health care industry. Most without it simply cannot afford it, or are shut out due to a pre-existing condition.

But given the arguments above, I would disagree that they are the PRIMARY agent culpable here.

The agent culpable in this situation is the agent who denies assistance when asked for it. If the doctors themselves denied health care on the grounds that it could not be paid for (in these dire situations), then that would be a sin against mercy. I fully agree with you, there. But, if the situation is that someone asks for monetary assistance to pay for the medical care, then the burden falls to the person who is asked for that assistance.

Since it is agreed that they need to have that clause in order to survive, and that their surviving is better on the grounds you argue than their not surviving, I think a good case can be made that the only time they should break that rule is when there is absolutely no alternative

This is not in line with the doctrine of double-effect.

rank sophist said...

Comfort, not just survival? Luxuries? This is a far deeper question than a quick skimming can answer, but is mostly compatible with capitalism.

As Aquinas says, gain for the purpose of modest household upkeep and/or charity is what's allowed. I do not believe that this is compatible with the growth-for-the-sake-of-growth mentality of capitalism.

the reply from the capitalist would be that there is no inherent value in these things, but the value is determined solely by what people think the value is worth, and the law of supply and demand simply codifies that

As I've said, I'm not here to get into a super-in-depth debate over the existence of capitalism. I don't believe that it should be stopped by government intervention, or that there's anything realistic in the thought that it could be destroyed. My only concern is with showing capitalism--particularly as seen in the insurance industry--to be incompatible with natural law, so that no one can use natural law to defend it.

TheOFloinn,

Why is it the denial of coverage that instantiates greed and not the charges levied by the doctor or hospital? If nurses and medical technicians and the rest did not demand payment, the poor kid would get treated, right?

As I said above, the responsibility falls to the person or organization asked in the situation. It is not a sin to give no bread to a starving man if one does not even know of his existence. If the doctor is asked (in a situation extreme enough to warrant free help), then it is a sin against mercy for them to refuse.

One way of denying service to the poor and needy is to bankrupt the insurance pool so that no one is covered.

I don't think that what I'm describing could ever actually happen, which is why I'm far more in favor of an individual mandate. I'm making a point here about using natural law to defend practices that violate natural law. Further, once again, your counterargument only works if the doctrine of double-effect can be applied to this situation--and it can't be applied here, as I've argued above.

Then why have you not sold everything that you own and donated the proceeds to that child? (I notice that you cite "denying coverage" and not "denying health care.")

The child is hypothetical, and I have never been in a situation like the one I'm describing.

Ben,

I may not agree with RS semi-liberal economic views & I don't care enough about it to argue it here.

[...]

Don't you go casting aspersions on a guy I have been proud to stand next too in the internet wars against the Gnus.


Peace be with you, Ben.

rank sophist said...

Glenn,

If what Aquinas is saying here is inverted and stood on its head what Aquinas is saying here, the result is a set of perverse justifications for forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions:

1. There should be more a burden to one party than to another;

2. contracts should not observe equality of thing and thing;

3. there is equality of justice when the a thing exceeds the price; and,

4. to buy something for less than its worth is in itself just and lawful.


http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3118.htm#article8

"Now since covetousness is excessive love of possessing riches, it exceeds in two things. For in the first place it exceeds in retaining, and in this respect covetousness gives rise to "insensibility to mercy," because, to wit, a man's heart is not softened by mercy to assist the needy with his riches [See 30, 1]."

My argument for covering the desperate is not based on Aquinas's rules of trade in general, but on his views regarding the rights of the needy. Natural property rights do not allow someone to prevent a starving man from stealing food: to deny him that food is a sin. Likewise for health care (in the case of doctors) or the money to pay for health care (in the case of insurance agencies).

Crude,

Yeah, I don't have time to respond right now - busy day - but my disagreement with rank is not some condemnation of his reasoning skills generally.

I, too, would like to clarify that there are no hard feelings involved in this. You're a great poster. Our disagreements in the last few comboxes are the result of our clashing views, not of a lack of respect.

Tony said...

Natural property rights do not allow someone to prevent a starving man from stealing food: to deny him that food is a sin.

Unless, of course, you had already determined and set aside that food for even more worthy starving people, such as those who have a higher claim on you personally, or those who did nothing that contributed to their being poor (unlike this man, per hypothesis). Then denying it to this starving man for the sake of those starving men is merely carrying out the proper stewardship of goods.


Likewise for health care (in the case of doctors) or the money to pay for health care (in the case of insurance agencies).

RS, you make 2 grave errors here. First, no Church doctrine, document, or Doctor has proclaimed that amassing wealth for the sake of some alternate good is contrary to proper observance of charity and mercy to the needy. This principle has been held throughout the Church's history. So, for example, since the earliest times Christians used wealth for building churches - money that "could have given to the poor", as good 'ol Judas said once upon a time. Jesus rebuked him. The Church has explicitly upheld the view that people have a legitimate stewardship role in deciding how to allocate the assets placed in their hands for meeting many alternate calls, many optional goods to be achieved. Sometimes a good way to do that is to give food, clothing, and shelter to the poor, but sometimes a good way to do that is to build a church even though you are certain there is some poor person somewhere in the world - findable if you search for him - who needs food.

Part of the reason for all this is that there are higher goods than those of the body. Spiritual goods, including those that contribute to suitable worship of God by being in a worthy church and having suitable music (organs, say), can be more important than finding some distant poor person to feed.

Secondly, those who are close to us have a higher call on our use of wealth than those who are far from us - but "close" and "far" are in terms of relationships more than in terms of distance. Thus my niece who lives 1000 miles away can call on my charity more readily than the poor guy 1 mile away.

Thirdly, our responsibilities in charity and in justice intermesh, so that those who have a natural JUST call on us who are our less immediate neighbors than others who have a claim in charity on us, have a higher priority in our stewardship: we are required to meet all obligations in justice before any claims of charity can arise.

Fourthly, the God-designed natural effusiveness of resources to produce new wealth when intelligently applied means that amassing initial wealth for a large-scale project can end up feeding more people by the profitability of the project than the initial wealth itself can feed. This is the root fact of Centissimus Annus: saving up your wealth to put it TO USE in making new wealth can itself be a service to your neighbor, including the poor.

There is nothing wrong with preserving the capital you need to foster large numbers of jobs, i.e. wealth-creating productive employment, instead of simply handing it out to the poor. That is one version of intelligently and charitably handling the stewardship of your wealth for the good of the community, choosing one high good instead of alternate goods.

Tony said...

The second error is in treating the insurance company's "obligations" as if they were something separable from the underlying investors' and managers' obligations. They can't be, not in the final analysis: the insurance company is simply an aggregate structure agreed to by a number of people to carry out a limited, designated task (or set of tasks). The company has only the authority to act that was given to it by the people who consented to it's creation. If they gave it no authority to carry out works of charity, it CANNOT carry out works of charity without violating the rights of the people who only agreed to give it certain limited tasks.

Now, it may well be the case that people SHOULD NEVER create insurance companies. In that case, RS, what you should be arguing is not that the insurance companies are being immoral by carrying out their designated tasks, but that the existence of insurance companies is immoral. But then, of course, Obamacare - which chose to work through insurance - would also be an immoral structure of law.

A for-profit company is merely a tool for carrying out aggregated tasks upon aggregated capital. It is essentially impossible that by nature structuring such a tool so as to generate a profit is immoral. Popes Leo XIII through Benedict XVI have said otherwise. The obligation to CHARITY fall not on the limited tool designed to carry out aggregated tasks for generating profit, but on the PEOPLE who receive the profit and must account for their use of it to God. Nothing prevents these capitalists from using their wealth for relieving poor people's misery. But there is simply no way to establish that the specific tool created to generate that new wealth is ITSELF the very tool that they should employ to relieve the misery of others. They are free to create other tools for that, charity does not obligate them to use exactly one tool only to carry out that obligation in charity.

Crude said...

RS, you make 2 grave errors here. First, no Church doctrine, document, or Doctor has proclaimed that amassing wealth for the sake of some alternate good is contrary to proper observance of charity and mercy to the needy.

Oh, there's more to it than just that.

Mary said...

What is with American Catholicism that it puts out traitors?

Do you think that the end of the world has already come?

If not, why are you surprised that the wheat and the tares are growing together until harvest.

Neil Parille said...

Ben,

Say what you want about "racial realists," is there any doubt that demographic changes -- in particular the immigration of millions of nominal Hispanic Catholics -- has lead to the Democrats obtaining a lock on the Electoral College?

rank sophist said...

Unless, of course, you had already determined and set aside that food for even more worthy starving people, such as those who have a higher claim on you personally, or those who did nothing that contributed to their being poor (unlike this man, per hypothesis). Then denying it to this starving man for the sake of those starving men is merely carrying out the proper stewardship of goods.

True enough. But this doesn't apply to health insurance, particularly in the case on which I'm basing my argument. A child has no control over its funds, and making it suffer for the sloth of its parents (if applicable) is a sin against justice. This is on top of the sin against mercy that occurs when assistance is denied. Now, you want to say that, because health insurance is already going to people who need it, it's not a sin to withhold it from someone else. That's what you seem to be getting at in your example of the starving man, at least. But, if we're talking about distributing goods in fairness, then, according to you, it's only right that the healthy get cut from the program so that the desperate can get coverage. If the needy on the program are being tended to, and more such individuals require help, then those without health issues are the ones who should be denied coverage: not the needy who could benefit from the money. Otherwise, you have no moral justification for denying coverage in the situation I described.

The Church has explicitly upheld the view that people have a legitimate stewardship role in deciding how to allocate the assets placed in their hands for meeting many alternate calls, many optional goods to be achieved.

And, as I've repeated, property rights are negated in extreme situations like the one I described. Your counterargument was to say that, were the property already going to a more worthy cause, then it would be justifiable to deny aid; but that only works if there is such a cause. Following out this logic, it's clear that insuring the rich and healthy is not as worthy as helping the poor and sick, and we're left with redistribution.

Sometimes a good way to do that is to give food, clothing, and shelter to the poor, but sometimes a good way to do that is to build a church even though you are certain there is some poor person somewhere in the world - findable if you search for him - who needs food.

I fully agree. However, I am talking about a specific scenario: the poor parents of a child with cancer attempt to get coverage, and are denied it. This is not a matter of "some poor person somewhere in the world"--it's a matter of intention, a direct choice between one course of action and another. The choice is between sinning against mercy and possibly justice by denying coverage, or costing the company by providing it. You cannot appeal to the doctrine of double-effect, as I've said, because denying coverage here is not a good or neutral act in itself. It would be neutral if the money was already guaranteed to a person who was also in dire need of it, but that isn't what we're talking about. Insurance agencies are businesses--not charities. They pay for the health care of the sick by taking money poured in by the healthy and wealthy. This means that they will always have healthy clients who don't need the coverage that could be given to desperate cases instead. Hence, a large portion of the money is not being used to help the sick, and so it remains true that denying coverage to the child with cancer is not a neutral act.

rank sophist said...

Secondly, those who are close to us have a higher call on our use of wealth than those who are far from us - but "close" and "far" are in terms of relationships more than in terms of distance. Thus my niece who lives 1000 miles away can call on my charity more readily than the poor guy 1 mile away.

Again, I'm in full agreement. But the scenario I've outlined takes this into account.

Fourthly, the God-designed natural effusiveness of resources to produce new wealth when intelligently applied means that amassing initial wealth for a large-scale project can end up feeding more people by the profitability of the project than the initial wealth itself can feed. This is the root fact of Centissimus Annus: saving up your wealth to put it TO USE in making new wealth can itself be a service to your neighbor, including the poor.

This is not growth for the sake of growth, but growth for the sake of charity. It isn't how business works.

There is nothing wrong with preserving the capital you need to foster large numbers of jobs, i.e. wealth-creating productive employment, instead of simply handing it out to the poor.

Unless we're dealing with a situation in which natural property rights are negated, which is the foundation of my argument.

If they gave it no authority to carry out works of charity, it CANNOT carry out works of charity without violating the rights of the people who only agreed to give it certain limited tasks.

You're letting positive law override natural law. If an individual at a company building a chemical weapon decided to sabotage the process because it was immoral, then it would not violate virtue ethics or natural law. If there existed a company that ran death camps, and everyone who started it agreed that running death camps was all that the company should do, then it would not violate natural law to act against that purpose. The question is whether or not an insurance company is exempt from moral concerns simply because no one decided that the company would be a charity. Is the evil action of denying coverage (again, in the specific scenario I mentioned) justified by the company's intended purpose? Or does the company's intended purpose necessarily incline it toward sinful actions, which cannot be carried out in good conscience? I think it's pretty clearly the latter.

rank sophist said...

Now, it may well be the case that people SHOULD NEVER create insurance companies. In that case, RS, what you should be arguing is not that the insurance companies are being immoral by carrying out their designated tasks, but that the existence of insurance companies is immoral. But then, of course, Obamacare - which chose to work through insurance - would also be an immoral structure of law.

As I've said, I don't think there's any sense in the notion that insurance companies could be done away with entirely, or even partly. My only goal is to show that some of their key practices prior to Obamacare cannot be defended by an appeal to natural law. However, if the industry is restructured so that pre-existing conditions and poverty do not lock people out of getting assistance, then I cannot point to an unavoidable sin in the insurance business. Hence, I am arguing the the individual mandate for health insurance is more acceptable to Thomism than was the old health insurance industry.

But there is simply no way to establish that the specific tool created to generate that new wealth is ITSELF the very tool that they should employ to relieve the misery of others. They are free to create other tools for that, charity does not obligate them to use exactly one tool only to carry out that obligation in charity.

This is a fairly strong argument. However, I still believe that denying coverage in extreme cases is necessarily immoral, for the reason that failing to provide assistance to the desperate, when natural property rights have ceased to apply, cannot be right. Now, if there was a separate, charitable tool used to fix these situations, then it would be moral to deny coverage and then provide assistance through this other system. But it remains true that the executives of health insurance companies rarely (if ever) do charity work to help those who cannot get coverage. If this situation amounts to the oppression of the poor, which I believe it does, then it is lawful for the government to step in and even the odds. This is because the principle of subsidiarity asks that we use the lowest agency possible to take care of issues, and no agency lower than the government can deal with the systemic oppression of the poor by the rich. Had the rich actually bothered to provide charity support for the desperate individuals whose coverage they denied, this step would not have been necessary

Crude said...

But, if we're talking about distributing goods in fairness, then, according to you, it's only right that the healthy get cut from the program so that the desperate can get coverage.

You'll recall that the administration points out that everyone will eventually need health care.

Your response here makes no sense. What does it mean to "cut the healthy from the program"? Not... give health care to healthy people? They don't need it when they're healthy. They need it when they get sick, which can take place (and again, according to the administration, WILL take place) in the future.

You've repeatedly used the example of the starving man being allowed to steal bread. Can he steal it from a man who's hungry now, but will be starving in a few days if that bread is stolen?

Glenn said...

The love of God, reciprocal of God's love for us, supports and carries gentle reasoning, truth soft yet sure, and nourishment not to be found in material food. Many have been provided with sustenance tonight (though some may see only bones on their plate).

rank sophist said...

Your response here makes no sense. What does it mean to "cut the healthy from the program"? Not... give health care to healthy people? They don't need it when they're healthy. They need it when they get sick, which can take place (and again, according to the administration, WILL take place) in the future.

You seem to forget that I'm not actually endorsing the position that healthy people should be cut. I'm saying that, as long as there is a non-needy individual receiving health care from an insurance agency, these companies are not allowed to use the moral justification that Tony suggested. My personal view is that an individual mandate is the way to go, although I do not agree with Obamacare in its entirety--most importantly on the subject of the HHS mandate, which I hope the Catholic church takes to court.

Tony said...

for the reason that failing to provide assistance to the desperate, when natural property rights have ceased to apply, cannot be right.

It's not the case that "natural property rights cease to apply". That's not what happens when a poor person is in desperate situation. As I showed above: if you (the owner of the food) have already set that food aside to relieve OTHER poor people, this specific poor person has no right to set aside your stewardship of your private property. The inherent private property principle still obtains. What happens is that that your private property rights are subservient to a still higher-order good. Within that larger context, you are not right to dispose of that wealth in any fashion you might choose, (including burning it for a pretty fire). As long as the higher-order good is being served suitably, your right to control and allocate that private property remains. The fact that your allocation is not the same allocation that HE would make is OK, you still retain the right to make that decision. His starving to death (while you feed other people so they don't starve to death) does not give him the right to take away your property, and that means it remains private property.

and no agency lower than the government can deal with the systemic oppression of the poor by the rich. Had the rich actually bothered to provide charity support for the desperate individuals whose coverage they denied,

Now you are confusing obligations in justice with obligations in charity. 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. But not giving away wealth to the poor is not an obligation in justice, it is an obligation in charity. It is still an obligation of individuals to carry out to their ability, but it is not a failure of justice when they don't. But the government's role in righting errors in the order of charity is MUCH lower down. It must be MUCH more reticent to overstep individual and lower-community actions. Thus, for example, the charitable non-profit hospitals have a role to play. An insurance executive who "allows" his company to generate a just profit, and then uses his profits to donate to a non-profit hospital, is meeting his obligations in charity, even if his company is not directly part of the charity activity. Obamacare is attempting to eradicate the Christian hospitals, which is contrary to subsidiarity and contrary to private property principles as applied to charity. If you stop equating justice with mercy, you see that these two spheres don't require the same sort of government involvement.

Tony said...

I disagree. You are under the impression that unless you can take over the entire cultural complex in one swoop, you can have no effect, not even a lasting effect.

Crude, I take that into account. At this point, by any reasonable estimate of gradual process, the corruption of the culture around us is bound to have a more sure result of withering and unraveling any effort of ours than any effort of ours has to generate some sustained progress toward a renewal by unraveling any corrupt aspect of society. Not only are there far more agents for corruption than committed agents for renewal, but they have vastly better control of most of the tools of persuasion, inculturation, education, government, etc. We are now at a point where, for any large concerted human effort we might initiate, they are fully capable of tackling it directly and defeating it in open (cultural) conflict. Checkmate is still many moves down the road, but we are playing with 2 pawns left, and they are playing with multiple queens, rooks, bishops and knights, and checkmate is inevitable looking to human action alone.

Take the old "we'll out-produce them" theory: we are having lots of babies, they are having at most 1 or 2. Nope, that won't solve it, even over 10 generations: by controlling the education, entertainment, and media of society, they "take" many of the children conservatives have and they turn these kids into liberal-obeying stooges. The conservative base is shrinking, not growing, even though good conservative families have been out-performing others in generating children by a 3 to 1 margin.

Tony, a fourth option is available. And I know you know what it is. Okay, I don't really know that you know what it is; but I'd very surpised if you didn't.

Glenn, I know of another route, but it does NOT fall into the description of the actions I mentioned (foreseeably likely to be successful, civil human effort). Nor are the various human approaches that are NOT "civil human effort" foreseeably likely to succeed either.

Glenn said...

rank,

My argument for covering the desperate is not based on Aquinas's rules of trade in general,

One can see why.

...but on his views regarding the rights of the needy.

Which, presumably, includes those with end stage renal disease who also are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Natural property rights do not allow someone to prevent a starving man from stealing food: to deny him that food is a sin. Likewise for health care (in the case of doctors) or the money to pay for health care (in the case of insurance agencies).

Given that many on the transplant list die each year for want of a matching kidney, it would be in keeping with your position for you to have no cause for complaint or redress were someone to harvest from you--without either your permission or consent--one of your two good kidneys.

Since you need only one good kidney to live a normal life, it would be, to use your words, a sin against mercy were you to attempt to prevent or interfere with someone taking a kidney from you. And since that kidney is needed by the other in order to remain alive, that other has, according to your interpretation of natural property law, acted properly and not done anything wrong.

Were I you, I'd be sleeping with one eye open (if you have two good kidneys, that is).

Better than sleeping with one eye open--why not call your local hospital or chapter of The National Kidney Foundation (or equivalent if you don't live in the U.S.) and inform them of your desire to be an altruistic donor?

If you have only one good kidney, you're off the hook (of having to abide by the theory you seem to think others ought to be guided by (at least as it might apply to the status of a superfluous organ)); and if you have already donated one of two good kidneys, then I, sincerely, tip my hat to you.

Crude said...

I'm saying that, as long as there is a non-needy individual receiving health care from an insurance agency, these companies are not allowed to use the moral justification that Tony suggested.

First, what makes you think insurance agencies tend to be privy to the relative neediness of who they're covering? Certainly with car insurance, it's not normal practice to launch an investigation into a person's net assets and outstanding debts in some effort to judge whether they really need to have their Mazda Miata covered for collision.

Second, the whole point of insurance is to mitigate against future unforeseen disasters. A person who isn't 'needy' right now can damn well become so in the future, especially given the right health problem.

Crude said...

Tony,

Crude, I take that into account. At this point, by any reasonable estimate of gradual process, the corruption of the culture around us is bound to have a more sure result of withering and unraveling any effort of ours than any effort of ours has to generate some sustained progress toward a renewal by unraveling any corrupt aspect of society.

That assumes that an 'agent of corruption' can't be persuaded or change their mind, which is a poor thing to assume. What's more, the great thing about modern culture is that it has, to large degree, fragmented. It's no longer a situation where the only culture people have contact with is that which is supplied by major media. It's still a large part, but it keeps on shrinking in many ways.

The cultural front is changing. Sure, it's been harmful to conservatives, but partly because conservatives tend not to produce any culture, which in turn has been due to being blocked out from it. Blocking is more difficult now.

The conservative base is shrinking, not growing, even though good conservative families have been out-performing others in generating children by a 3 to 1 margin.

I don't think this is true. Specifically, I think the base is shrinking proportionately, precisely because they're being outproduced not by liberals, but by people who are ultimately beholden to them, even if they personally reject quite a lot of liberalism.

rank sophist said...

Tony,

It's not the case that "natural property rights cease to apply".

I was trying to summarize the concept that Prof. Feser discussed in his "Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Private Property":

"The most obvious implication is that individuals in circumstances of absolute distress have a right to the use of the resources of others, where the paradigm examples would be the starving man in the woods who takes food from a cabin, or someone fleeing robbers who can only escape by running through someone else’s back yard. Someone in circumstances like these is not guilty of theft or trespassing, because for actions like the ones in question to count as theft etc., the cabin owner or homeowner would have to have such an absolute right to his property that he could justly refuse to allow others to use it even in the circumstances in question, and according to natural law theory, no one could possibly have so absolute a property right."

As I showed above: if you (the owner of the food) have already set that food aside to relieve OTHER poor people, this specific poor person has no right to set aside your stewardship of your private property. The inherent private property principle still obtains. What happens is that that your private property rights are subservient to a still higher-order good.

But, as I said, this does not work in the case of insurance. There will always be people who do not need coverage even remotely as badly as others, and so your talk of stewardship does not get insurance companies off the hook. It is still a violation of natural law to deny coverage to the desperate for a less noble end, and it's pretty clear that profiting from the healthy is a lower-order good than aiding the sick.

One's duty to the purpose of the company does not excuse moral violations caused by the rules of that company. If covering the sick is better than milking the cash cow of the healthy, and if it is a sin to deny aid in serious cases unless those funds are secured for an equally good cause, then it is clear that the company is still violating natural law. As a result, there is no justification for the denial of coverage.

Now you are confusing obligations in justice with obligations in charity. 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.

I would call throwing children with cancer, military vets with disabilities and the extremely poor (among others) under the bus unjust. Wouldn't you?

rank sophist said...

But not giving away wealth to the poor is not an obligation in justice, it is an obligation in charity.

It isn't a matter of merely giving away wealth. The health care industry, from the insurance companies to the hospitals, is practically designed to exclude these people from the start. It's a business, which means that they try to minimize the highest-cost cases and maximize the highest-profit cases. In other words, the more basically-healthy middle class people, the better. The poor and those with pre-existing conditions have the ER, which is worthless for long-term care--it's where they go after their serious illnesses have progressed to life-threatening states. Are you calling this justice? Aquinas defines justice as "the perpetual and constant will to render to each one his right". Are you trying to tell me that the right of disabled vets and dying children is to be left stranded for the sake of minimizing loss? Somewhere along the line, you've managed to confuse Thomism with anarcho-capitalism.

Insurance companies, as I have shown, engage in practices that violate natural law. They sin against justice and mercy, they indulge in greed--among other things. There is absolutely no Thomistic justification for what they've done, and, for the sake of the natural right to health (not health care, not health insurance) shared by the people they've shafted, it is only fitting that the government require an individual mandate.

It is still an obligation of individuals to carry out to their ability, but it is not a failure of justice when they don't.

6-year-old gets cancer. Parents never made enough money to afford health insurance. 6-year-old takes the fall. Where is your justice, again?

Glenn,

One can see why.

No offense, but it isn't my fault that you don't understand a core tenet of natural law. I recommend this article: http://libertylawsite.org/liberty-forum/natural-law-natural-rights-and-private-property/

Given that many on the transplant list die each year for want of a matching kidney, it would be in keeping with your position for you to have no cause for complaint or redress were someone to harvest from you--without either your permission or consent--one of your two good kidneys.

My kidneys are not my private property--they are me. Your reductio doesn't work.

Crude,

Second, the whole point of insurance is to mitigate against future unforeseen disasters.

The point of insurance is to pay for health problems that would otherwise bankrupt someone.

W.LindsayWheeler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W.LindsayWheeler said...

There were too many spelling errors.

What is going on in this thread is exactly what is wrong with conservatism in America in regards to health care.

When All of Europe was Christian, under Christian direction in Christendom,---was there national health care? Was this even talked about? on the radar? Did Christian governments tax the rich in order to give health care to the poor?

I've been a conservative all my life starting from when I was first cognizant of politics. I've noticed that all conservative speech is nothing but a reaction to democrat/socialist challenges and initiative. The democrates do something, bring something up--and then the conservatives talk about it. The democrats/socialists drive conservativism.

150 years ago, was there any talk in Catholic journals about national health care and forcing insurance companies to take care of the poor? no.

Under Christendom, did Christian governments tax the rich in order to give health care to the poor? National Health care for the poor is a communist/socialist position. Here we are talking about "Catholizing" or "giving Catholic reasoning" what was first a communist/socialist project.

I really ask--do you know what you are doing? You are really engaging in socialism under the umbrella of being "Catholic". Were the Founding Fathers of America socialists? Was America founded on being Socialist or communist? What are Catholics engaging in trying to normalize a Socialist project for? Are we a part of the transforming of America into a Socialist state?

Are you Catholics of the Old Order, or are you Socialists with a Catholic glaze?

I find it amazing is that our talking points, what we are spending so much ink over, was started by godless, atheist, materialist socialists who are full of error. They dictate the grounds, the telos, and the methods of discussion.

Normal Catholics don't do this. If there is a problem, Catholics go out and build a hospital, staff it with nuns--walla-la. Health care for the poor. This is how Catholics thru the centuries have done things! Now we are following the lead of Socialists, engaging in Liberation theology or in this case Marxist program and giving it the veneer of Catholic respectability! So then Catholics can march in lockstep with their fellow socialists! This has to be the plan of the "rank sophist". He is trying to find a way of Catholicizing socialism. Us Catholics are being led by the nose. Nowhere throughout history or even in the Old Testament has government been responsible for health care. Never. So why are we talking about it? Why aren't we condemning socialism? Because underneath it all American catholicism is only Marxism with a cross.

Crude said...

The point of insurance is to pay for health problems that would otherwise bankrupt someone.

First, that's not totally correct - but go ahead and run with it for a moment. You've said explicitly that insurance companies should perform acts that would bankrupt them (you even admitted it would bankrupt them). In the process of bankrupting these insurance companies to serve a needy person NOW, you are sacrificing people who may well be, and very likely will be, needy people LATER. You didn't respond to my critique.

You implied it was an insurance company's duty to deny coverage to people who aren't needy. But insurance companies don't know who is and isn't needy - that's not their job or interest. Your position is that the companies should be bankrupted, but bankrupting those companies also would drain out the money people paid in via premium to cover their fellow policyholders.

Are you under the impression that insurance companies only insure wealthy people with no health problems?

Tony said...

Rank, Feser's natural law discussion of private property and how it is limited falls into the exact point I made: it is precisely because private property is a lesser principle within a larger context that usual private property results don't always apply. That context is the good of the whole of which you (and your property) are parts. (It is also the reason the government can tax your private property away from you.) But nothing you quote that he said about the fact that private property is not absolute disturbs my point in the least. If the "owner of the cabin" isn't there when the starving man walks in, and this poor fellow finds a bag of food with the note: "for Widow Jameson, so she doesn't starve", then YES, he would be stealing the food if he took it instead of leaving it for the widow. He no longer has any sound presumptive basis for thinking "if the owner were here, he would give me the food because of my desperate condition", nor does he have any certainty that his need exceeds the widow's.

There is no "natural right to health". If a person gets sick, you mean their rights have been violated? By whom, God? C'mon, think it through. It is a little bit better to suggest that there is a "natural right to health care", but only a little. The reason it is still wrong is that you cannot have a RIGHT that someone else must care for you who does not owe you something in justice. And a stranger does not OWE you, in justice, to take care of you without pay if you can afford to pay. So his freely-given care is not a natural right. And it doesn't CHANGE to a natural right if you cannot afford to pay for it. What is correct is that everyone has a natural right to seek health care, just as everyone has a right to pursue happiness. If the government, or your neighbor, prevents your attempting to get someone to provide care, that's wrong (which Obamacare is going to do to people who want to buy care outside of the system). But FORCING a specific someone to provide care to you, whether he would like to or not, is constraining HIS right to pursue his happiness: you cannot have a natural right to press-gang strangers, nurses and doctors, into bathing you and so on when they have no inclination to do so and no natural relationship which makes your care their just duty to you personally. If your being sick gave you a natural right to doctors taking care of you, then ALL doctors would be obliged to come and care for you, even if (for example) they had just done 24 hours of duty for others. It's nonsense on stilts.

Sorry to say, your other points were even worse, so full of sophistry, equivocation, confusing things that are distinct and distinguishing things that are not distinct, that I refuse to even start to undo the nonsense. For example,

6-year-old gets cancer. Parents never made enough money to afford health insurance. 6-year-old takes the fall. Where is your justice, again?

is probably the most nonsensical thing you have said in a year. I might reply "kid gets hit by a meteorite, they find parts of his body in 3 counties. Parents did not buy meteorite insurance when it was offered to them at an affordable price. Where is your justice now?" except that I would just be participating in sinking the discussion to worthless lows.

Crude said...

Just to comment on this...

6-year-old gets cancer. Parents never made enough money to afford health insurance. 6-year-old takes the fall. Where is your justice, again?

I don't know. Maybe it's with their family. Maybe it's with their community. Maybe it's with their state. Maybe it's with doctors.

I do know that the clear and obvious answer, even under natural law, is not 'They should have been covered by a health insurer after the fact, because when someone gets sick, the absolute first person morally responsible for their receiving coverage for treatment is with whatever health insurance company I can think of.'

I'd further ask the following: parent pays into health insurance for their 6 year old. 6 year old gets cancer. Insurance company tells them they're not covered, because someone decided that the moral thing to do was to pay out for all claims of anyone who applied for insurance with a pre-existing condition. 6 year old takes the fall.

Where's the justice, indeed.

Glenn said...

rank,

You: My argument for covering the desperate is not based on Aquinas's rules of trade in general,

Me: One can see why.

Non sequitur: No offense, but it isn't my fault that you don't understand a core tenet of natural law.

- - - - -

My kidneys are not my private property--they are me. Your reductio doesn't work.

Perhaps you were too busy looking at kidneys to notice what my remarks were really all about. The purpose of my remarks regarding your kidneys was to show what can result when reasoning is based on distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected. In short, they were meant as a kind of mirror.

Glenn said...

PS,

Regarding distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected, if you read through all the comments again (well, most of them), you may notice that at least several people over the last three days have labored without pay to help you get them right.

Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

The purpose of insurance companies differs generally with owners and buyers of insurance. Historically, the first purpose was to share the risks in undertaking risky investments. The purpose of health insurance for the buyers is to share the risk of varying degrees of ill health. The purpose of today's owners of insurance companies is to make money.

rank sophist said...

If the "owner of the cabin" isn't there when the starving man walks in, and this poor fellow finds a bag of food with the note: "for Widow Jameson, so she doesn't starve", then YES, he would be stealing the food if he took it instead of leaving it for the widow.

You keep repeating this. I've pointed out that insurance doesn't work this way. Ball's in your court.

There is no "natural right to health". If a person gets sick, you mean their rights have been violated? By whom, God?

Every innocent person has a natural right to their own life, and to their own well-being or health. If you cut off an innocent man's arm, you have violated his rights. If you (Glenn suggested above) illegally harvest someone's kidney, you have violated his rights. Likewise, everyone has a right to care for his own well-being. As Feser says:

"Hence we are obliged (for example) to pursue truth and avoid error, to sustain our lives and health and avoid what is damaging to them, and so forth (ignoring for present purposes the various qualifications and complications a fully developed natural law theory would have to spell out)."

Taking care of our health is a natural end. It's part of us. If we don't have a right to our own health, then it follows that the government could infect us with a plague without violating our rights, as long as it didn't kill anyone. Now, a child has a right to its own well-being (and its own life), regardless of the actions of its parents. You are suggesting that a child's natural right to well-being should be taken away because of its parents' failure to procure it health insurance. Is that justice?

It is a little bit better to suggest that there is a "natural right to health care", but only a little.

There is no natural right to health care. That would be absurd--and it would essentially entail that all health care should be free. But we most definitely all have a natural right to our own well-being, in the same way that we have a right to our own lives. Otherwise, we could all become kidney thieves.

Unless someone does something to violate that right--say, cutting off his own arm--, I don't see how it could possibly be just to deny that person the ability to take care of his health. Normally, this means that he pays an insurance company to pay a doctor to help him. In the same way, an average man does not need to steal food, but should buy it instead. In an extreme case--such as the ones I've mentioned--, it means giving free aid. But it is most definitely an issue of justice if you deny a man his right, and that is what happens when health insurance is denied in the cases I keep talking about. You claim that the insurance company has an absolute right to its funds--such an extreme right that it allows them to leave desperate people, who are not responsible for their lack of well-being, out in the cold.

rank sophist said...

Let me clarify that having a right to health does not mean that people are obligated to give us stuff for free. We have a right to eat, but we must still pay for food. We have a right to private property, but we must earn that property fairly. We have a right to health, but it is our job to take care of it (and whatever bills are associated with it). However, extreme situations change these rights. It is okay to steal food to survive, to run across a lawn to escape death and to be given the funds to pay for health care (or be given the health care itself). Hence, it is not moral for a health insurance company to withhold an insurance policy in the case I'm describing, any more than it is moral for the government to infect someone with AIDs (say), or for a rich man to keep his food away from a starving man.

Sorry to say, your other points were even worse, so full of sophistry, equivocation, confusing things that are distinct and distinguishing things that are not distinct, that I refuse to even start to undo the nonsense.

Basically, you couldn't be bothered to answer? That isn't much of an argument.

is probably the most nonsensical thing you have said in a year. I might reply "kid gets hit by a meteorite, they find parts of his body in 3 counties. Parents did not buy meteorite insurance when it was offered to them at an affordable price. Where is your justice now?" except that I would just be participating in sinking the discussion to worthless lows.

Let me put it another way. A six-year-old is never fed by his parents, for no reason at all. He goes out and tries to steal food to avoid death, but is prevented from doing so. There's no justice in that. Similarly, there is no justice in preventing the six-year-old with cancer from getting money to pay for his medical care, because he has done nothing to lose his right to well-being.

rank sophist said...

I'd further ask the following: parent pays into health insurance for their 6 year old. 6 year old gets cancer. Insurance company tells them they're not covered, because someone decided that the moral thing to do was to pay out for all claims of anyone who applied for insurance with a pre-existing condition. 6 year old takes the fall.

Where's the justice, indeed.


I'm pretty sure you haven't been reading my posts, because I've said about 900 times now, give or take, that I don't actually endorse the position that the insurance industry should go bankrupt. It is merely the probable consequence of that industry falling in line with natural law.

Non sequitur: No offense, but it isn't my fault that you don't understand a core tenet of natural law.

Right.

Perhaps you were too busy looking at kidneys to notice what my remarks were really all about. The purpose of my remarks regarding your kidneys was to show what can result when reasoning is based on distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected. In short, they were meant as a kind of mirror.

No, I understood what your remarks were about, which is why I referred to them as a "reductio". You were attempting to show that my chain of reasoning could be reduced to absurdity. The flaw in that attempt was that kidneys are not private property, and the loss of rights I'm describing applies to private property in a unique way. You don't seem to understand natural law's view on private property, which is why I linked you that article. Whatever, though.

rank sophist said...

Clarification: "It is okay to steal food to survive, to run across a lawn to escape death and to be given the funds to pay for health care (or be given the health care itself) if one is, for example, the hypothetical 6-year-old."

rank sophist said...

Also, before someone misunderstands: by "well-being", I mean "physical well-being".

W.LindsayWheeler said...

I really wonder what is going on in amongst the intelligentsia of Catholicism.

I like the ignorance and the ramblings of the "Rank". Rank writes this: We have a right to eat,

What does the Bible teach?

"If you do not work---YOU SHALL NOT EAT".

Where is the "right to eat" in that? Where do you people live?

What is with this "right to health", right to life, natural right to our own well-being, ...etc.

You know all of this "right to this" and "right to that" is just so much hogwash from the "Enlightenment". When God commanded the killing of the Canaanites by Israel, was God even concerned about the "rights" of the Canaanites? When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, did God abrogate the right to life of their inhabitants?

All of this "rights" stuff is an "Enlightenment" thing. Almost all of the writers of the "Enlightenment" were Atheists. So now Catholics pick up the meme speak of Atheists? When do Catholics follow the lead of Atheists? What do Catholics have to do with the Atheist so-called "Enlightenment" for? Did not the Catholic Church burn many people at the stake? What about their "rights"? I say the Catholic Church had the right to burn heretics at the stake.

Stop with all of this crap. It is all nonsensical. None of this is Catholic. Socialist and Atheist BS have no place in Catholic thought except to denounce it.

We have a "right to our well-being"???? Huh? Ever serve in the military and pull a grueling watch? Ever hump a radio in the desert? Maybe the Marine Corps should have provided me with a limo and champagne if I have a "right to well-being". Really. Go jump off the bridge. This is the problem with intellectuals. Too much intellectualizing that they leave the earth.

Want to help the poor? Build the hospital and you help the poor. That's it. No position papers. No Catholic Natural Moral Law junk. No endless articles and back and forth debate. None of this is needed. Just get together, build a hospital, fund it with donations--help the poor. That's it.

Crude said...

I'm pretty sure you haven't been reading my posts, because I've said about 900 times now, give or take, that I don't actually endorse the position that the insurance industry should go bankrupt. It is merely the probable consequence of that industry falling in line with natural law.

You yourself brought up the example of the 6 year old and spoke of justice, as a means to support your view of natural law. I think it's entirely fair that I bring up the 6 year old to support my view. Especially since your reply seems to be, 'Yes, okay, the 6 year old would die there. But that would be just.'

Look, part of your problem here is you seem to think of the reserves of a medical insurance company as, basically, profit. That's not the case. It's money banked to handle claims, and they can't just spend it on whatever they wish. Yes, there's profit involved with typical insurers - far and away not anywhere near the majority.

When your reply is that justice under your interpretation of natural law demands, basically, giving money to anyone with a claim at any time, and that there's basically no duty to premium payers because the whole thing is a 'first come first serve' affair or else you're greedy, I don't find that compelling. In fact, I find it to be evidence that your view of natural law on this subject has gone off the rails - and further evidence comes in when these replies are deflected with condemnations of capitalism in the abstract.

Let's say I'm an average person. I'm saving up money in case my son ever gets sick - no insurance involved. I have 20k banked, it took a while to have that happen. Another guy comes to me and says, 'I need 20k for my sick son. Give it.' Does natural law say I have to pay because hey, I have 20k, and if my son gets sick in a week, or a month, or a year, well, tough - it'll be time to beg then, because Natural Law functions strictly on a 'first guy to claim it, gets it' system?

Crude said...

When your reply is that justice under your interpretation of natural law demands, basically, giving money to anyone with a claim at any time

And I'll correct this in advance to 'anyone at any time, who doesn't have the money otherwise'.

Glenn said...

rank,

Me: Perhaps you were too busy looking at kidneys to notice what my remarks were really all about. The purpose of my remarks regarding your kidneys was to show what can result when reasoning is based on distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected. In short, they were meant as a kind of mirror.

You: No, I understood what your remarks were about, which is why I referred to them as a "reductio". You were attempting to show that my chain of reasoning could be reduced to absurdity. The flaw in that attempt was that kidneys are not private property, and the loss of rights I'm describing applies to private property in a unique way. You don't seem to understand natural law's view on private property, which is why I linked you that article. Whatever, though.

Allow me to rephrase:

Perhaps you were too busy looking at kidneys to notice what my remarks were really all about. The purpose of my remarks regarding your kidneys was to show what can result when reasoning is based on distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected. In short, they were meant [to serve] as a kind of mirror [for you to see how others see some of your reasonings relative to distinctions improperly made, confounded and/or not respected].

rank sophist said...

You yourself brought up the example of the 6 year old and spoke of justice, as a means to support your view of natural law. I think it's entirely fair that I bring up the 6 year old to support my view. Especially since your reply seems to be, 'Yes, okay, the 6 year old would die there. But that would be just.'

Look--I'm trying to make a point. It's fairly simple, although I haven't done the best job explaining it. Here is what I've been trying to say:

Modernism brought with it a lot of strange notions. We all know this much. The problem is that some of these notions make up the current free-market capitalist practice. Now, a lot of Thomists are conservatives, and they try to combine Thomism with modern conservatism (with its free-market capitalism). Prof. Feser was trying to do this in his post. The problem is that these free-market capitalist ideas are not necessarily compatible with Aquinas's development of natural law theory, which occurred during an age of feudalism. Aquinas lived in a time when big business was unimaginable, and the capitalist idea of minimizing loss and maximizing profit did not even exist. As a result, you see him talk about moral principles that completely contradict modern business sense. One of these incompatibilities arises with the insurance industry, which even a free-market conservative linked by Prof. Feser in his post (here) agrees has run amok. For Aquinas, there was no insurance industry as we know it today, even though there was insurance of a sort.

Now, if Aquinas had been asked whether a doctor should provide free service in one of those extreme cases I keep talking about, he would undoubtedly have said yes. But doctors don't work in the same way anymore: they are now tied up in the health insurance industry. To get health care, you need health insurance. The problem is that the health insurance industry doesn't (can't) play by the rules of natural law--and so you're going to get contradictions if you combine them, like the entire system falling apart and leaving everyone without coverage. If you apply the natural law principles of mercy and justice to an insurance agency, it will die, because it was built on modernist notions that do not fit with natural law theory. The contradiction of the 6-year-old in your example is the result of this problem. His coverage is maintained unjustly because the company providing it engages in immoral practices (of the type I've been describing), but he still does not deserve to lose his coverage. Hence, we're led into a kind of contradiction: both losing his coverage and keeping his coverage are wrong.

Does this mean that natural law is wrong and capitalism is right? That's another topic. My point is that they are incompatible. 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.

rank sophist said...

When your reply is that justice under your interpretation of natural law demands, basically, giving money to anyone with a claim at any time, and that there's basically no duty to premium payers because the whole thing is a 'first come first serve' affair or else you're greedy, I don't find that compelling.

This is just another one of the strange contradictions I've been trying to highlight. There's no way out of it without something like an individual mandate--even the conservative in Forbes quoted by the conservative at WWWTW quoted by Prof. Feser suggests individual mandates. Either that, or the entire industry would have to be gutted and restructured from scratch, like the people Prof. Feser quoted also suggest. (I personally think this is pie-in-the-sky dreaming.)

In fact, I find it to be evidence that your view of natural law on this subject has gone off the rails - and further evidence comes in when these replies are deflected with condemnations of capitalism in the abstract.

It isn't my understanding of natural law that's gone off the rails--it's the combination of natural law and capitalist business. Now, I personally do not think that capitalism is a great idea, but I don't find socialism or communism very plausible, either. I'm not endorsing a "dream solution", and, even if I had one, I wouldn't be ranting about it in some blog combox. My goal here is simply to show the impossibility of reconciling capitalism and natural law.

Let's say I'm an average person. I'm saving up money in case my son ever gets sick - no insurance involved. I have 20k banked, it took a while to have that happen. Another guy comes to me and says, 'I need 20k for my sick son. Give it.' Does natural law say I have to pay because hey, I have 20k, and if my son gets sick in a week, or a month, or a year, well, tough - it'll be time to beg then, because Natural Law functions strictly on a 'first guy to claim it, gets it' system?

This scenario is easier to resolve, because it doesn't involve modern business. No--you would not have to give this man money, at least not at first. First, it would be necessary to weigh the scenario, to find out about the guy and to know how desperate the conditions were. Even if you discovered that you had a moral obligation to give the man money, it doesn't follow that you have to give all of it. You could donate some (keeping enough to prevent your son from being left in the lurch) and ask neighbors or the community or local church for help. This is the kind of common sense that Aquinas himself endorsed, and I don't think that anyone would disagree that it's a perfectly fine solution. Unfortunately, it cannot be applied to big business.

Papalinton said...

Obamacare is the first of many seminal changes ringing in the transition to a fairer, more just and more compassionate society, one that envisions looking after the community's most vulnerable members as being more that just pious, meaningless rhetoric. And that is the proper role of government.

Indeed from a singularly economic perspective, the Affordable Care Act is a direct national response to reversing the effects of a decades-long market failure in the health industry. It is a direct national response to a model that has (a) failed to broaden coverage, (b) failed to keep down costs, indeed its practice is to offset cost blowouts by reneging on existing insurance claims through perverse reinterpretations of contracts in the full knowledge clients are not financially able to mount a legal challenge, (c) operated in a monopolistic environment with little if any notable competitive variation, and (d) failed to contribute to improvements in the underlying general national health indicators.

As is currently structured, the private health care industry is little more a cash cow for executives and shareholders growing fat on health misfortunes of others.

At last, the government is doing what it rightfully has a mandate to do, care for its citizens, all of them. Call it what you will, but the enabling of socialized medicine is a clear indictor of a society maturing and finally, beginning to accept responsibility for all its citizens as the most fundamental existential level, with good health care.

Despite all the hand-wringing, Obamacare is not the 'end of the world', the 'we'll all be doomed' prophecy that Feser trots out in this nonsense OP. To subscribe to the notion of health as simply another tradable commodity to be shaped and controlled by the vagaries of the market, or to bundle it up as a perceived attack on the freedom of the catholic church, is to compromise the discussion about a civil society.

It is a most welcomed and pleasant circumstance to appreciate that, even for a catholic like John Roberts, a reasonable person can make sensible and reasoned decisions, overcoming strong personal biases in search of the greater good, reflecting the sentiments of the wider community and not pandering to the sectional interests.

The world is smiling.


Glenn said...

rank,

Re your last two comments (@November 9, 2012 11:46 PM): nicely done.

!

Anonymous said...

@Papalinton

"The world is smiling."

I guess being an European places me in “the world” you are talking about, so I feel I am at least as qualified as you to interpret its facial expression.

Well, "the world" you are talking about is not smiling. It is giggling.
T.H.

Papalinton said...

Anonymous

Yes, giggling at what is described as 'a violation of the natural law principle of subsidiarity'.
Yes, giggling at the '... consequences of that victory will be as devastating as possible' armageddon that has now befallen the nation because of Robert's 'imprudent' stance.

The tenor of this OP exposes little other than a churlish hissy-fit, reflective of the whining that masquerades as informative discourse in the public square by the affronted religiose.


Robert's legacy, as much as Barack Obama’s, was indeed cemented yesterday. Reason, logic, fairness, justice and doing good, all prevailed. The transiting of society to a post-Christian era, moving inexorably as it were to an enlightened, more informed and educated life, one no longer captive to the darkness of superstition and magic, and thanks to the robust scientific investigations into the abstruse and primitive antecedents of the supernatural mindset, this legacy has begun to positively contribute to the well-being of society.

And this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"The transiting of society to a post-Christian era, moving inexorably as it were to an enlightened, more informed and educated life..."

Where late-term abortions are defended purely because the other tribe doesn't like them.

Tell me, what's the empirical evidence for inalienable human rights?

Anonymous said...

What compels Papalinton to post in a blog like this? Baffling.

Tony said...

Look, part of your problem here is you seem to think of the reserves of a medical insurance company as, basically, profit.

I'll go a point further, and say to Rank, you seem to think of the reserves of a medical insurance company as "health care" deposits just sitting there waiting to be used, like a barrel of apples in the cellar waiting to be used. They aren't. Units of "medical care" always amount to somebody performing some act, either a doctor sitting there diagnosing a problem, or a nurse washing a patient's arm in preparation for a needle, or a lab tech doing a blood test, or a pharmacist drawing out the next set of pills, etc. These people's services DON'T BELONG TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY.

There are a network of mutual contracts between patients, medical professionals, and insurance companies. The medical professionals have no personal relationship to me, they are not in justice obligated to perform any of their services to me except insofar as they contract to do so. The insurer's own set of contracts with me provide the insurer will use some of its reserves to pay the doctors under certain situations. The contracts the investors have with the insurer spell out some limitations on what the insurer can do with THEIR MONEY. If the insurer simply ignores those contracts and does something different from what those contracts spell out, they are stealing money from the investors.

Rank, what you are really point toward is the notion that society should not allow for-profit health insurance arrangements. Maybe that's a valid theory, but you can't get there from the starting point of HAVING an existing health insurer with existing interlocking contracts, including with investors. Once an investor is allowed to make a contract giving the company limited rights to use his money, the company is obliged to live within those limitations. Intentionally constructing contracts with customers that will certainly bankrupt the company isn't one of the rights he gives the company over his money. Maybe investors shouldn't be allowed to make such arrangements but that's a DIFFERENT ARGUMENT.

Look, there are insurance companies that are not "for profit". Mutual life insurance or mutual home insurance looks a lot like for-profit from the outside, but it isn't. It may look like "profit", but it isn't the same contractual thing. When the company has a better year than expected (fewer claims, etc), they return some of the reserves back to the insured people. Suppose a client Bob Jameson decides he doesn't want his term life insurance coverage anymore, decides to not pay the premiums, and lets the contract lapse. The company would HAVE NO RIGHT, under the structure of those contracts it has with everyone else, to decide (for example) that Widow Jameson's late husband's decision to stop premium payments shouldn't be honored, and go ahead and pay the death benefit to the widow even though the contract ceased to exist when he stopped payment. Even though it is clear that the widow needs the money. It just isn't the company's money for them to do that with it. If each individual member of the mutual wants to give some of their "profits" to the widow, but that's their own business, not the company's.

Tony said...

There are some contractual terms that society ought not support and enforce: contracts to sell someone into slavery, for example. Contracts for prostitution. In those cases, the nature of the act itself is inherently morally evil, and a contract to do an immoral act should not be enforced.

Other contracts society chooses not to allow, or to enforce, for public policy reasons. For example, during most of the 20th century, almost all states had explicit laws against contracts forming perpetual trusts - agreements to hold money for certain purposes into perpetuity - unless they were charitable trusts only. There is nothing inherently immoral about such arrangements, but they were viewed as creating problems for society as a whole, and were not enforceable by law. Natural law doesn't preclude these things, but they are viewed as imprudent all things considered. I could see society deciding for-profit health insurance is imprudent for society because it leads to certain ills, but that's NOT what society decided (even in Obamacare). So Rank, get off the high natural law horse here, and recognize the fact that investors making contracts to use their money within certain constraints for health insurance is not contrary to natural law, even if there may be an argument that society should no longer allow such contracts given the rest of social structure (like large hospital organizations, etc.)

My goal here is simply to show the impossibility of reconciling capitalism and natural law.

Contrary to the explicit teaching of the Popes from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. Sorry, I'll go with the popes and their understanding of natural law.

Anonymous said...

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

Joe K. said...

When someone makes broad moral claims like this:

"Obamacare is the first of many seminal changes ringing in the transition to a fairer, more just and more compassionate society, one that envisions looking after the community's most vulnerable members as being more that just pious, meaningless rhetoric. And that is the proper role of government."

And then follows it up with something like this:

"The transiting of society to a post-Christian era, moving inexorably as it were to an enlightened, more informed and educated life, one no longer captive to the darkness of superstition and magic, and thanks to the robust scientific investigations into the abstruse and primitive antecedents of the supernatural mindset, this legacy has begun to positively contribute to the well-being of society."

I truly lose hope in the world.

Alat said...

Does anyone have a good book on Thomist natural law theory to suggest to a beginner? I've learned a lot from Rank Sophist's metaphysical comments in other posts, and now I'm appalled that, apparently, Thomist natural law collapses into communism ("to each according to his need"), at least in the area of healthcare.

And that's as perfect a reduction ad absurdum of Thomist natural law as the ones Dr. Feser does with Rosenberg's materialist arguments.

Anonymous said...

PAPALINTON IS A PLAGIARIZING TROLL, as one can discover from some other recent threads. Don't feed the trolls!

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Alat is right to concur that "I've learned a lot from Rank Sophist's metaphysical comments in other posts, and now I'm appalled that, apparently, Thomist natural law collapses into communism ("to each according to his need"), at least in the area of healthcare." That is what I have been warning about in the posts in this thread. Thomist natural law collapses into communism. Personally and knowlingly, I think that Aquinas did not have the real and original natural law and is following the Stoic bastardization of the natural law.

Alat is right in his conclusion about "The Rank sophist"'s goal and conclusions.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

In defense of Paplington, Paplington is no troll. He is upfront, honest and he is an atheist. Just because we don't like his comments/ideas doesn't make him a troll. Unlike the Rank sophist, he has a page where we can find information on him, who he is. He is not anonymous. Paplington is not a troll whatsoever. He is an atheist and throws his inflamatory viewpoint into the mix here. He may be tweaking our noses, but he is no troll. The rank on the other hand....

Daniel Smith said...

Mary: There will be PLENTIFUL money.

Yes plentiful worthless money. You are right. We are inching closer to the cliff every day. The breaking point, as I said, will come when oil is no longer sold exclusively for US dollars. We are almost there. China has agreed to buy oil from Russia for Yuan: Today’s volatility of the dollar exchange rate creates major risks for that security; Russia and China have come up with a proposal to respond to that challenge. On September 7, at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia and China signed an agreement by which Russia agreed to sell oil to China, in any quantities, in exchange for payment in Yuan.

Other countries that have proposed such a strategy (Saddam's Iraq, Gaddafi's Libya) have met with serious repercussions (and we thought it was about 'weapons of mass destruction' and 'social justice'!)

Iran is also currently pursuing the idea (and we're told it's about nukes!)

Insignificant middle-eastern dictators are one thing, Russia and China are another. It will be interesting to see what our government does to demonize powerful countries with whom war is out of the question.

Eduardo said...

Watch out Lindsay you are not exactly considered in high regard for other people xD.

Daniel Smith said...

Papalinton: And that is the proper role of government.

Don't forget that when you define something as being "the proper role of government" you are agreeing that it is perfectly legitimate for the government to wield the sword in enforcement over that area.

So when you say that healthcare is something over which the government should exercise control, you are saying that it is fine to force insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and patients into compliance under penalty of law.

You are advocating for 'Health Police' (in addition to all the other 'police' that already exist).

Big Brother gets even bigger!

Anonymous said...

@Papalinton

Well, well.---
The gigglers have been around since the times of Arch-Giggler Marx followed by a host of giggling Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro…Caucescu…Hoeneker - the bunch of ogres which, driven by the vision of a “post-Christian era” and “enlightened, more informed and educated life” succeeded in completely ruining economies of nations, devastating nature, poisoning soil and waters of entire countries and, imprisoning and slaughtering countless millions of innocents. All that while giggling at “a violation of natural law principle of subsidiarity”.

And since we are at “giggling” I can’t help giggling noticing that America, who for past century, has been in front of “the world” in education, science, technology, medicine, psychology, economy and liberty of the individual, managed to achieve all that without first ditching “superstition and magical” and “supernatural mindset” like the rest of “the world”. Must be a miracle...

T. H.

Tony said...

Getting back to Ed's first point: Justice Roberts' responsibility here. I agree. But I think that comments have ignored one of the plausible motivations behind Roberts' decision. Friend Lydia at WWWtW coined the term: the "silly clevers", referring to people who have a high IQ, have had many years of schooling, are mentally sophisticated, and are convinced that there is always a clever way to "solve" a problem. Often enough, they are convinced that there is a clever way to "solve" a problem so that everyone walks away with something approximating what they wanted after all. Then they construct ever more complex "solutions" that thread and jink 15 different directions "solving" each stake-holder's concerns, all the while re-inforcing their cleverness at finding a solution that nobody else could locate.

Roberts was at the helm of a supposedly "non-political" arm of government, supposedly charged with finding TRUTH and RIGHT, but in the aftermath of 60 years of politically-charged judicializing, no decision made that was simple would have avoided the charge that the decision was political. So what to do? Basically, he sat there cleverly coming up with a judicial opinion that threads its way through rounds and rounds of opposing "needs", such as the conservative need to not grant new powers to government that aren't in the constitution, and the liberal need to solve the health care "crisis", and his own need to appear non-politicized. Solution? Agree with the conservatives on part, with the liberals on part, and constrain the final answer in favor of the liberals into a narrow window. If he were a monarch weighing options proposed by competing ministries, it probably would have been a relatively decent bit of statecraft. If.

It is a perfect example of the silly-clever approach. And in this case Roberts is TOTALLY AND SINGLY responsible for this bit of cleverness. He gets to "shine" with his cleverness in center stage. There is no question that he made legal and logical mistakes in his decision, but those were probably intentional, in the sense that he was willing to have those mistakes there in order to achieve a middle, "non-political", CLEVER solution.

The problem with this solution is that the government WON'T be bound by his constraint of the answer that the individual mandate is a tax. It won't pursue it that way, and neither will the lower courts. In the absence of a police force answerable to Roberts himself, he is going to find (in a short 3 to 5 years) that his nice, clever solution is being ignored a thousand times a day, and there is nothing he will be able to do about it. Because the emperor has no clothes, basically. If King Roberts had an army, he would be able to enforce his clever dictum. But then we would no longer be a republic, would we?

Here is an interesting question: when Roberts finds that the government doesn't give a hoot for his theory (that the mandate is valid under the tax authority) and won't be bound by it, and nobody else in government will be either, will he resign his position in protest and shame? If you said yes, what have you been smoking?

Daniel Smith said...

The problem with government these days is that it doesn't seem to be bound by ANY constraints!

Glenn said...

(Nothing important here, so no need to read; skip ahead or scroll back.)

Friend Lydia at WWWtW coined the term: the "silly clevers", referring to people who have a high IQ, have had many years of schooling, are mentally sophisticated, and are convinced that there is always a clever way to "solve" a problem. Often enough, they are convinced that there is a clever way to "solve" a problem so that everyone walks away with something approximating what they wanted after all. Then they construct ever more complex "solutions" that thread and jink 15 different directions "solving" each stake-holder's concerns, all the while re-inforcing their cleverness at finding a solution that nobody else could locate.

Reminds me of an old joke: A camel is a horse put together by a committee.

The joke, however, is indeed old, and things have improved with time, so it really should be updated: A camel is a horse put together by a "silly clever".

But, no, this is not nice. Besides, it does an injustice to "silly clevers". Gives 'em a bad name, too, it does. So let's revise it: A camel is a horse put together by someone not yet clever enough to be truly silly.

W.LindsayWheeler said...

To further back up Alat's conclusion where he writes: and now I'm appalled that, apparently, Thomist natural law collapses into communism ("to each according to his need"), at least in the area of healthcare.

The Catholic idea of the natural law and St. Thomas's comes from the Stoics. The first premise of Natural Law and true philosophy is "What does Nature teach". Anyone looking at nature sees automatically hierarchy, in the farmer's lingo, The Pecking Order. You see that in chickens, lion prides, wolf packs and cow herds. It is everywhere including in the chimapanzees and gorillas. (Now if you believe in evolution and if we descended from Apes, and they have hierarchy in their social groups, would not humans also exhibit this?)

Yet, the Stoics rejected hierarchy; they were egalitarians. To reject a teaching from nature and operate on human ideology makes one a sophist, not a true philosopher. The Stoics were NOT philosophers; they were Sophists. Along with this egalitarianism was their cosmopolitianism. To set up their cosmopolitianism required a "universal human law". They rejected the real, original natural law, and made up another thing. This is what is at the basis of the Catholic/Thomist idea of the Natural Law.

Communism has another name, it has several names like Marxism. But one of its first names that nobody remembers is "International Socialism". It was called "International Socialism" for a purpose. Karl Marx ended his manifesto with the phrase, "All the workers of the world unite". As John Kiang in his book, One World points out, is that Communism is about destroying nations and bringing about Cosmopolitianism. International Socialism in some of its parts is based and fed on Stoicism with its egalitarianism and its cosmopolitianism. Then, it is no wonder that Thomism natural law descends into communism for they both have the same source!

And for Alat, an introductory book on the real, original natural law is Plato's Republic. It is based on one of the premier laws of nature, Dikaios, (in English, justice or righteousness); the dictum that all things are constructed to do one thing.

Crude said...

Re: Papalinton, as others have said, he's a troll. Not only that, but a known liar and plagiarist. He doesn't even care about the subject at hand, folks - he is literally here to rile you. That's the last I'll say about him - really, the link says it all.

Rank,

Prof. Feser was trying to do this in his post. The problem is that these free-market capitalist ideas are not necessarily compatible with Aquinas's development of natural law theory, which occurred during an age of feudalism.

Like I said - the fact that, whenever I point out a flaw in your reasoning regarding medical insurance, you respond by going off on an attack on capitalism and its excesses, is really not encouraging.

First off, your interpretation of Ed's post is just bizarre. Where is this 'defense of capitalism' in it, much less capitalism as you see it? The closest he comes to is in his regarding Obamacare as a bad solution to health care problems, owing to the principle of subsidiarity. Yet to hear you talk, Ed just said that Ayn Rand and Thomism are saying the exact same things.

If you apply the natural law principles of mercy and justice to an insurance agency, it will die, because it was built on modernist notions that do not fit with natural law theory.

Your interpretation of "justice and mercy" is "payment must be made immediately to anyone who wants coverage for a pre-existing condition." You keep seeming to think that this means "greedy people lose their money - ha!", but what it really means is "people who have paid premiums and are relying on those reserves for the case of a catastrophe have their security destroyed".

Crude said...

His coverage is maintained unjustly because the company providing it engages in immoral practices (of the type I've been describing), but he still does not deserve to lose his coverage.

And I have pointed out, repeatedly, that the practice of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, especially given an environment where mandatory purchasing of coverage is not allowed, is not immoral or greedy. You'll go off about profit and greed, but I'll point out that these denials are necessary even in the absence of any profit or pursuit of it.

You are done on that point, Rank. And eventually you're going to have to admit that much. Even if you think it's wrong for other reasons, 'greed' is not the cause for the denial on a fundamental level.

There's no way out of it without something like an individual mandate--even the conservative in Forbes quoted by the conservative at WWWTW quoted by Prof. Feser suggests individual mandates.

Yes, there is a way out of it: your reasoning of 'first come, first serve, and also the medical insurance company must be the one to cover everyone' is absurd. Reality is far more nuanced and complicated than that. You talk about how 'Natural law was formulated in such and such a time, Aquinas didn't account for these kinds of business structures' - but oddly enough, that gives you absolutely zero pause in terms of wondering whether your reasoning in this context is at all wrong-headed. Instead you act like the answer is crystal clear, and if anyone disagrees it's because they're in thrall to the most excessive kind of laissez-faire capitalism. It's absurd.

Even saying 'an individual mandate is ideal' doesn't get you to Obamacare, because you're still dealing with a federal level solution to what is arguably a state-level problem. Again, there's a supreme irony in the fact that Obamacare was supposedly based on a state-level blueprint that was successful. But if a state level blueprint is successful, why is there a federal level pursuit?

Even if you discovered that you had a moral obligation to give the man money, it doesn't follow that you have to give all of it. You could donate some (keeping enough to prevent your son from being left in the lurch) and ask neighbors or the community or local church for help.

What? How the heck do you know how much you need to 'prevent your son from being left in the lurch' when you're attempting to bank against the literally unforeseen? How come when it comes to the individual level, then suddenly the responsibility shifts to the entire community and whether or not you even have a moral obligation is open to question?

Most of all, for all this talk of moral obligation - are you really about to take the position that any case of perceived moral obligation must be enforced by law? Aquinas would not argue that, and it does not follow from natural law.

Glenn said...

enough to be truly silly.

November 10, 2012 12:15 PM
W.LindsayWheeler said...

Papalinton said...

Daniel Smith
"So when you say that healthcare is something over which the government should exercise control, you are saying that it is fine to force insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, nurses, and patients into compliance under penalty of law."

No, not at all. Your perspective on the role of democratically elected governments and prescribing what they should or should not do, is obdurate, wrong-headed and utterly perverse. However, you do get the opportunity to elect the government you deserve every four years. What that government does in those four years is a reflection of what the majority of citizens' desire, require. It is all written into the constitution. The final washup resulting in the re-election of Obama, and quite comfortably in the end, tells us that the community clearly called attention to a significant market failure in the health industry, sufficient to warrant taking regulatory remediation. And as it rightly has a mandate to do, the government identified the shortcomings of the industry and established a framework around which community expectations and national economic demands.

And how that remediation impacts on ".. the freedom of the Catholic Church to carry out its mission", isn't an argument against the government's healthcare legislation, or against Justice Roberts' ruling, it's an argument against the doctrines of Catholicism and their relevance in a post-Christian society.

That is why we have democratic governments, to balance the competing demands and needs between the 'freedom of religion' and the 'freedom from religion'.

As an aside, following the catastrophic financial debacle of the Bush era experience, funding two recent wars in the Middle East on the credit card, is it any wonder that the citizenry are now wanting some clear air, a little more reason, a little more fairness and a little more balance between the interests of Main Street and Wall Street, together with improved diplomatic relations with the wider global community?




Joe K. said...

That plagiarism stuff is really embarrassing, yikes...

Tony said...

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

Please do not feed the laughing hyenas!

BenYachov said...

Add to the fact the only person here to defend the plagiarist is the self-confessed "racial realist" who wants us all to condemn Rank Sophist because as some type of "troll" just because we disagree with him on Obamacare.

Hey Paps the only person who has defended you is a self-confessed racist.

That is very fitting. Myself, I can't stop laughing it's making my ribs hurt!:-)

Papalinton said...

Crude
"Re: Papalinton, as others have said, he's a troll. Not only that, but a known liar and plagiarist. He doesn't even care about the subject at hand, folks - he is literally here to rile you. That's the last I'll say about him - really, the link says it all."

What? No christian forgiveness for a little transgression? No christian empathy, sympathy, love your enemy, for little ole' me.
What? No concession, not even a little christian sliver of a concession for the apology I offered.

You even admitted, "This is small stuff - a comments section dustup. A bug fart in the grand scheme of things."

All I ask is a modicum of christian forgiveness, Crude, if not by your God then perhaps just by you, that is all I ask.

I am reminded of Jules Feiffer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1986:
"Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?"

Surely, you can appreciate that one might deserve to be hung, drawn and quartered, but for a bug fart of a misdemeanor?

And in respect of not caring, you are fundamentally wrong. I care too much to allow good folk to be dragged through the mire of religious superstition and magical beliefs. This is the 21st century, and the inexorable transposition to a post-Christian era is quickening as we speak. It is fundamentally important that religious believers are apprised of the facts and the reasons underpinning this momentous change in society. To circle the Catholic wagons is no longer a viable option against the exponential growth of scientific literacy and knowledge that is dramatically changing our perception and understanding of the universe, about the world, about the environment, about man, and indeed even about religions. Theology as an explanatory tool has simply been dwarfed by far greater explanatory tools now in humanity's reach. What was once 'possession by the devil' is now schizophrenia or epilepsy; lightning, once explained as the wrath of god, is now known as discharge of static electricity, what was explained as heaven during a NDE episode is now understood as the effects of oxygen deprivation and increased carbon dioxide in the brain.

CONT.

Papalinton said...

CONT.
It is important that the theistic bubble in which this blog functions, must necessarily include a measure of external balance. Religious discourse on gods, supernaturalism, resurrections, cadavers rising from the grave, trinitarianism; on the ".. freedom of the Catholic Church to carry out its mission", to mention a few, must all be tempered with rationality, logic, good and sensible reason, and moderated by down-to-earth, practical, and plain good sense. While it is fine to float off into a god-filled ether, it is best to ensure one keeps at least one foot on the ground. A correcting lens on the superstitious nonsense that masquerades as theological metaphysics, is an important standpoint, a prudent attitude, and a wise frame of mind, mitigating rampant and undisciplined teleology and our evolutionary proclivity for detecting agency where there is none.

And what do I mean by a 'theistic bubble'? Perhaps the most recent example is of a book written by a neurosurgeon that declares he saw heaven during a Near Death Experience [NDE]. Read about it HERE. There is little difference in the unrestrained and unchecked effects religion can manifest whether by this neurosurgeon or by the purveyors of religious imaginings in this blog. It is important to offer a balanced perspective to ensure the religious are not left ignorant of the abundant research and investigation being conducted into the 'human condition'.

One might define this a culture war, but it largely a function of theology found unable to explain the dynamics of societal change in any meaningful way. Even Aquinas must be circumspectly read within the context of his environment of a 1,000 years ago.

Papalinton said...

I am Daniel in the lion's den.

The christian dogs are straining on their leashes with the blood lust for tearing my carcass apart in their nostrils.
That is the effect of religion. Christian savagery is but a micrometre under the veneer of pious civility.

To the dogs, I am a troll. But then anyone who challenges their superstitious mumbo-jumbo is branded a troll. There is nothing new in that. In earlier times christians called them heretics and burned them at the stake, just as god wanted them to; nay! As He commanded them to. Such christian beneficence is simply awe-inspiring. Oh how we wish for the days of Aquinas and CS Lewis.

Someone once said, Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. But for good people to do bad things, that takes religion. I am reminded of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock here; both avowed and ardent christians commenting on legitimate rape as distinct from illegitimate rape; both informed by their christian upbringing. But in their case, bad people do bad things, and bad people with religion do unconscionable things.

Papalinton said...

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


Two things Tony.
1. There is no god. Just a figment of your addled brain.
2. You are not being punished. You are being brought to book to justify your claim of superstitious supernaturalism.

Ditch the god and self-persecutory image. You will find a world resplendent in natural beauty. :o)

Crude said...

Continuing as I do to ignore the liar and plagiarist, I'll write some more to the man a million times his better, Rank Sophist.

Rank,

I want to be clear here. I am no fan of unrestrained capitalism in the personal sense. I don't think it's possible to justify, within Catholicism specifically or Christianity generally, the pursuit of wealth above all else. I think it's obvious. I'm not even against some form of government health care - that gets into an issue of whether it's best provided at the local, state, or federal level, and what role charity should play. I don't think the answer is nearly so clear cut.

When I am pointing out that an insurance company cannot function while granting insurance to people with pre-existing claims, I am not running defense for 'people who value profit above all else' or any other nonsense. I am talking about the requirements of a system itself, divorced from profit motives. That system, in practice, may have a variety of other problems that are worth talking about - but on that specific point, the problem isn't what you insist it must be.

I also reject the very modern instinct that, when faced with problems like this, the root of the problem is legal, and the solution is legislative. I think by and large the problem is personal, moral, and on the community level. People now consider the problem of the poor to be, explicitly and almost exclusively, the government's problem. In fact, they tend to think ALL problems are ultimately government problems. That applies every bit as much to the wealthy as the non-wealthy.

So again, just to be freaking clear - I am not defending some absurd Ayn Randian capitalist vision here, and I think the claim that Ed was defending some form of unrestrained capitalism in his OP is absurd. I am pointing out that, regardless of greed, insurance works on certain principles which are fundamentally divorced from greed, even though you can of course have greedy businessmen and a greedy culture. Those principles don't become 'greed-driven' just by the actions of the greedy, any more than butcher knives are 'meant to murder humans' even if they become a weapon of choice for a while.

rank sophist said...

Glenn,

nicely done.

Going to assume this isn't sarcasm and say, "Thanks!"

Tony,

Units of "medical care" always amount to somebody performing some act, either a doctor sitting there diagnosing a problem, or a nurse washing a patient's arm in preparation for a needle, or a lab tech doing a blood test, or a pharmacist drawing out the next set of pills, etc. These people's services DON'T BELONG TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY.

That's irrelevant to my point. The question is whether they violate natural law by denying funds. If a rich man denies a beggar, whose landlord charges an unjust amount, a donation to pay his bills, then he's sinning. If the insurance agency denies one of my extreme cases the money to pay for an unjustly expensive medical procedure, then it's still a sin. Another example: a murderer is chasing a man and you deny that man help. Yet another: a man injured and lying on the side of the road asks for help (you had nothing to do with his injury), and you deny him help on the grounds that you didn't injure him. The sinful actions of another do not excuse your own sinful actions. That isn't even limited to natural law--it's Christianity 101.

There are a network of mutual contracts between patients, medical professionals, and insurance companies. The medical professionals have no personal relationship to me, they are not in justice obligated to perform any of their services to me except insofar as they contract to do so.

So you're saying that a doctor has rights so absolute to his services that he can refuse one of those desperate cases? Aquinas would not have agreed. Again, you've got some capitalism mixed in with your natural law, and it isn't pretty.

The contracts the investors have with the insurer spell out some limitations on what the insurer can do with THEIR MONEY. If the insurer simply ignores those contracts and does something different from what those contracts spell out, they are stealing money from the investors.

You've conflated positive law with natural law, once again. If a positive law violates a natural law, then that law can be ignored. I'm arguing that no legal obligation can rewrite moral obligation. If I invest in a company that runs death camps, and someone in that company uses my money for a different and non-evil cause, then there is no violation of natural law even if there might technically be a legal violation. Why? Because the person who took my money cannot in good conscience use it for its intended purpose. You have yet to explain how insurance companies are any different.

Rank, what you are really point toward is the notion that society should not allow for-profit health insurance arrangements. Maybe that's a valid theory, but you can't get there from the starting point of HAVING an existing health insurer with existing interlocking contracts, including with investors.

Actually, I'm just arguing that you can't reconcile the duty to natural law and the business sense of capitalism. Thus far, you haven't shown otherwise.

rank sophist said...

Once an investor is allowed to make a contract giving the company limited rights to use his money, the company is obliged to live within those limitations. Intentionally constructing contracts with customers that will certainly bankrupt the company isn't one of the rights he gives the company over his money.

Again, the death camp example deals with this contingency.

Suppose a client Bob Jameson decides he doesn't want his term life insurance coverage anymore, decides to not pay the premiums, and lets the contract lapse. The company would HAVE NO RIGHT, under the structure of those contracts it has with everyone else, to decide (for example) that Widow Jameson's late husband's decision to stop premium payments shouldn't be honored, and go ahead and pay the death benefit to the widow even though the contract ceased to exist when he stopped payment.

I agree. But we're talking about extreme situations, which change everything. Also, there is a difference between someone having and then cancelling an insurance policy and someone begging for and being denied an insurance policy. No legal contract can override natural obligations--one of the many reasons why big business practice is largely a non-sequitur under natural law.

Even though it is clear that the widow needs the money. It just isn't the company's money for them to do that with it. If each individual member of the mutual wants to give some of their "profits" to the widow, but that's their own business, not the company's.

That's capitalism, not natural law. Again, under natural law, one would be required (if this woman were desperate) to give her money. Her late husband's life insurance money? No--that, clearly, vanished into the ether, never to be seen again. But the members of the company still have a moral obligation, no less than does the owner of a small business, to provide the desperate with assistance. That's how natural law works. Big business has made interactions impersonal, and so it seems like the same laws and rights shouldn't apply--but that's not correct.

There are some contractual terms that society ought not support and enforce: contracts to sell someone into slavery, for example. Contracts for prostitution. In those cases, the nature of the act itself is inherently morally evil, and a contract to do an immoral act should not be enforced.

I'm glad we're agreed, here. But it also follows from this that contractual obligations do not negate moral obligations. If a contract means that you sin against mercy and justice, then it's the contract that's wrong.

So Rank, get off the high natural law horse here, and recognize the fact that investors making contracts to use their money within certain constraints for health insurance is not contrary to natural law, even if there may be an argument that society should no longer allow such contracts given the rest of social structure (like large hospital organizations, etc.)

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.

Now, if denying aid in the cases I mentioned is a sin (it is), then it remains a violation of natural law regardless of any contracts or what have you. Your example of a perpetual trust is not a violation of natural law--my example is one. Hence, you haven't cleared insurance companies. You can't clear them.

rank sophist said...

Contrary to the explicit teaching of the Popes from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI. Sorry, I'll go with the popes and their understanding of natural law.

As Anon said, this is an argument from authority. You're going to have to do more than that.

Anon,

I've learned a lot from Rank Sophist's metaphysical comments in other posts, and now I'm appalled that, apparently, Thomist natural law collapses into communism ("to each according to his need"), at least in the area of healthcare.

It isn't communism--it's just community-centric. The desperate are tended to, but the healthy have to work just like everyone else. Property rights remain fairly solid unless there is some desperate scenario that changes them. In any case, if you want to see a solid run-down of natural law's basics, I recommend Prof. Feser's article Natural Law, Natural Rights, and Private Property: http://libertylawsite.org/liberty-forum/natural-law-natural-rights-and-private-property/

Crude,

Like I said - the fact that, whenever I point out a flaw in your reasoning regarding medical insurance, you respond by going off on an attack on capitalism and its excesses, is really not encouraging.

In other words, you ignore my points because they don't feel right to you. Take or leave my arguments for what they're worth--not for whatever you're reading into them.

First off, your interpretation of Ed's post is just bizarre. Where is this 'defense of capitalism' in it, much less capitalism as you see it? The closest he comes to is in his regarding Obamacare as a bad solution to health care problems, owing to the principle of subsidiarity.

To my knowledge--and I just went through my posts to double-check--, I never said that Prof. Feser was "defending capitalism". It's the Thomists in this combox who've done that, such as TheOFloinn and Tony. I said that Prof. Feser was trying to merge his modern conservatism with natural law, which is true. He was arguing from a conservative standpoint that Obamacare is a bad idea, and then invoking the natural law principle of subsidiarity to further support that view. As I've said from the beginning, requiring coverage of the poor and those with pre-existing conditions (which entails an individual mandate) does not violate natural law. On the contrary, it's the current practices of the health insurance industry, which multiple Thomists here have endorsed, that violate it. Prof. Feser did not justify those practices--indeed, he probably disagrees with some of them, given the WWWTW link--, but his argument against the penalty required by an individual mandate was that it's unconstitutional. The Constitution is positive law, not natural law. My argument is that an individual mandate not only does not violate natural law, but that it is in fact preferable to Thomism given an alternative that entails multiple violations of natural law. (And it goes without saying that natural law overrides concerns about the Constitution, should the two conflict.) Hence, my goal is to show that there's a contradiction involved in endorsing both Thomism and parts of modern conservatism. Obviously, free-market capitalism figures very heavily into the modern conservatism dialogue, which is why it's been a topic of discussion here.

rank sophist said...

Your interpretation of "justice and mercy" is "payment must be made immediately to anyone who wants coverage for a pre-existing condition."

I've made clear that this is not my belief, so that's a pretty strange thing to read into my posts.

You keep seeming to think that this means "greedy people lose their money - ha!", but what it really means is "people who have paid premiums and are relying on those reserves for the case of a catastrophe have their security destroyed".

Is this honestly what you think I'm saying? Because, again, that's a fairly serious misreading. I've explained the contradiction and why I'm pointing it out--I have no interest in doing so again.

And I have pointed out, repeatedly, that the practice of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, especially given an environment where mandatory purchasing of coverage is not allowed, is not immoral or greedy.

What you've done is point to the practical necessity of doing such things, given the modern version of business sense. Natural law overrides practical necessity that does not fall in line with its tenets. Hence, the moral thing for a murderer to do is to turn himself in--not to continue his practical need for self-preservation. The moral thing for a Nazi to do would have been to disobey orders and even martyr himself if required. Practical? No. Moral? Yes.

Now, if insurance companies carry out actions that violate natural law (they do, as I've shown time and time again), then it follows that there is a contradiction between morality and the business sense you keep defending. That's all there is to it. Your options are either to show that such practices don't violate natural law or to call it quits.

You are done on that point, Rank. And eventually you're going to have to admit that much. Even if you think it's wrong for other reasons, 'greed' is not the cause for the denial on a fundamental level.

Greed drives insurance companies to be structured in the way that they're structured, but I agree that other sins are far more centrally involved in the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions (given extreme situations). I grant you that much. But you don't seem to realize that my claim that "greed" drives their denial of coverage was not central to my argument--my only purpose in mentioning greed was to highlight a sin perpetrated by insurance companies. I have since replaced it with sins against mercy and justice, which serve the point I'm trying to make just as well as greed did.

Reality is far more nuanced and complicated than that. You talk about how 'Natural law was formulated in such and such a time, Aquinas didn't account for these kinds of business structures' - but oddly enough, that gives you absolutely zero pause in terms of wondering whether your reasoning in this context is at all wrong-headed. Instead you act like the answer is crystal clear, and if anyone disagrees it's because they're in thrall to the most excessive kind of laissez-faire capitalism. It's absurd.

That isn't an argument. Again, you disagree with me because it feels to you like I'm wrong, even though you haven't managed to show how that might be the case.

rank sophist said...

Even saying 'an individual mandate is ideal' doesn't get you to Obamacare, because you're still dealing with a federal level solution to what is arguably a state-level problem.

I'm not arguing for the entirety of Obamacare, as I've said. In fact, I only came here to debate one aspect of the program: coverage for the poor and those with pre-existing conditions. You can find this focus in my first post, as well as in all my later ones. This necessarily entails an individual mandate, and, if worst comes to worst, subsidies for the desperate. You say that it's a state-level problem, but, as I've shown, we're dealing with a problem of oppression. There are systemic sins against mercy and justice involved in the insurance industry's actions. Hence, if the states won't do it (and they have not done it), then it's up to the central government to make them do it.

What? How the heck do you know how much you need to 'prevent your son from being left in the lurch' when you're attempting to bank against the literally unforeseen?

Give him five thousand dollars, say, and keep fifteen thousand dollars. Then have your community help. If your son gets sick and you turn out not to have enough money, due to your charitable work, then it's the duty of your neighbors and community and local church to do the same thing for you. It's pretty simple.

How come when it comes to the individual level, then suddenly the responsibility shifts to the entire community and whether or not you even have a moral obligation is open to question?

I said earlier that, had those who own insurance companies bothered to help the unfortunates who can't get coverage--using charitable methods similar to the ones I've just described--, then an individual mandate would not even have been necessary. But that isn't how impersonal capitalist enterprise functions.

Also, the moral obligation of an insurance agency is pretty obvious in the case of a child with cancer trying to get health insurance. Your example had no details whatsoever, which is why I said you'd need to find out about the guy. You don't throw money around just because someone asks for it--it might be (probably is) a scam.

Most of all, for all this talk of moral obligation - are you really about to take the position that any case of perceived moral obligation must be enforced by law? Aquinas would not argue that, and it does not follow from natural law.

I take these two sentences as proof that you haven't been reading my posts. Look at these past quotations from this combox:

"Again, stuff like the principle of subsidiarity means that it isn't lawful to shut down capitalism by fiat."

"Now, I'd agree that the answer is not more laws to prevent greed from obtaining--this is the totalitarianism that the principle of subsidiarity holds at bay."

Need I say more?

Let me repeat, though, that it is the government's job to stop oppression of the poor and downtrodden if no one else is willing or able to do it. If the actions of insurance companies constitute such oppression (I have argued that they do), and no one has stepped up (they haven't), then the government's job is to do something about it.

Crude said...

In other words, you ignore my points because they don't feel right to you. Take or leave my arguments for what they're worth--not for whatever you're reading into them.

No, that's not 'in other words'. There's no way to parse my response to get that reply out of it. "In other words", whenever I present you with an argument that shows you're wrong, you shift topic. I focus on the system structure of an insurance company even if it's run by monks who have taken a vow of poverty, and you respond by railing against capitalism.

But you don't seem to realize that my claim that "greed" drives their denial of coverage was not central to my argument--my only purpose in mentioning greed was to highlight a sin perpetrated by insurance companies.

Great, then how about you finally concede the point that denials of people with pre-existing conditions is not done due exclusively or fundamentally due to greed, but to maintain the integrity of the system for those paying in?

I don't care if it's not central to your argument. If it's not, then it should be that much easier for you to concede.

Give him five thousand dollars, say, and keep fifteen thousand dollars. Then have your community help. If your son gets sick and you turn out not to have enough money, due to your charitable work, then it's the duty of your neighbors and community and local church to do the same thing for you. It's pretty simple.

Yeah, it's pretty simple because you're just pulling the response out of thin air. 5000 dollars? Why not all 20000? Why not 0? The response is completely arbitrary. You could just as easily have said 'Pay 20k. Then if your son gets sick, rely on the community.' or 'Pay 0. Have him rely on the community.' or 'Pay 100$. It's up to everyone else now.'

That isn't an argument. Again, you disagree with me because it feels to you like I'm wrong, even though you haven't managed to show how that might be the case.

Yes, it's not an argument - it's an observation. You yourself said that Aquinas didn't take these things into account. But you're damn sure you know how Aquinas or any Natural law theorist would and should respond.

I take these two sentences as proof that you haven't been reading my posts. Look at these past quotations from this combox:

I've been reading your posts. Even the response you give right now basically amounts to "No, no, no, I'm not saying that. I'm saying, you know, if there are moral failings, then get the government involved."

As if the government has a great track record of being neither oppressive nor corrupt?

Take a good look at what you said:

Let me repeat, though, that it is the government's job to stop oppression of the poor and downtrodden if no one else is willing or able to do it. If the actions of insurance companies constitute such oppression (I have argued that they do), and no one has stepped up (they haven't), then the government's job is to do something about it.

First off, a lack of charity is hard to equate with oppression. But second, notice how 'try to persuade, through personal and community and cultural appeal, businesses and people to assist as needed' is utterly absent from your description of the process.

You keep saying, repeatedly, that I'm not reading your posts - despite quoting you over and over and directly addressing what you're talking about. My reply is that you've not been paying attention to responses, and have a nasty habit of seeing apologists for capitalism where there are none.

Papalinton said...

"Continuing as I do to ignore the liar and plagiarist, I'll write some more to the man a million times his better, Rank Sophist."

Yes, of course, my little crudey rudey, you just keep on telling me and the others how you are ignoring me and write to the man a million times my better.

I don't like it when you so ignore me this way. I can really feel the great overwhelming swell of your indignant ignorance in the way you convey how you are ignoring me. I am soooo angry about your continuing ignorance towards me.

But, I guess I'll just have to suck it up, dust myself off and accept that I have been [figuratively at least] hung, drawn and quartered. [I praise my lucky stars not to have been born a couple of centuries earlier when christianity was literally a life and death matter.] After all, who am I to suppose that christians would act in a manner any different to your exemplary and archetypal christian conduct?

I guess I will have to suffer the everlasting ignominy of your telling me how you continue to ignore me.

rank sophist said...

Crude,

I'll write some more to the man a million times his better, Rank Sophist.

And I'd like to restate that there are no hard feelings on my end. My phrasing has a habit of coming off as blunt or angry when I'm debating--please forgive me if you take it this way.

I want to be clear here. I am no fan of unrestrained capitalism in the personal sense. I don't think it's possible to justify, within Catholicism specifically or Christianity generally, the pursuit of wealth above all else. I think it's obvious. I'm not even against some form of government health care - that gets into an issue of whether it's best provided at the local, state, or federal level, and what role charity should play. I don't think the answer is nearly so clear cut.

I agree that it isn't normally clear-cut. My argument for the federal government's involvement is based on the failure to act by the other branches. Massachussetts did a great, if long-overdue, job with this. No one else has followed their lead. Hence, to avoid any more oppression, I believe that the central government needs to act.

When I am pointing out that an insurance company cannot function while granting insurance to people with pre-existing claims, I am not running defense for 'people who value profit above all else' or any other nonsense. I am talking about the requirements of a system itself, divorced from profit motives.

I understand this, and it's entirely true. But, as I keep repeating, if the actions required to maintain the system violate natural law, then they are immoral under Thomism. That's how it works.

I also reject the very modern instinct that, when faced with problems like this, the root of the problem is legal, and the solution is legislative. I think by and large the problem is personal, moral, and on the community level.

I fully agree with you. I do not believe that the government should create laws for every possible contingency--that ends in totalitarianism. It violates the principle of subsidiarity. My argument relies on the fact that the insurance companies are violating natural law, that the lower levels of community or government largely haven't done anything about it, and that the lowest agency available to take care of the problem is the federal government.

People now consider the problem of the poor to be, explicitly and almost exclusively, the government's problem. In fact, they tend to think ALL problems are ultimately government problems. That applies every bit as much to the wealthy as the non-wealthy.

Agreed. It's one of the many problems introduced to the world by modernism.

So again, just to be freaking clear - I am not defending some absurd Ayn Randian capitalist vision here, and I think the claim that Ed was defending some form of unrestrained capitalism in his OP is absurd.

I know that Prof. Feser wasn't endorsing Randianism, and I don't believe I've accused you of operating under those principles. Closest I've come is saying that Tony was arguing from anarcho-capitalism.

I am pointing out that, regardless of greed, insurance works on certain principles which are fundamentally divorced from greed, even though you can of course have greedy businessmen and a greedy culture.

We're agreed on this point, but that doesn't give practical necessity the ability to override moral concerns about justice, mercy and charity, among other things.

Crude said...

I know that Prof. Feser wasn't endorsing Randianism, and I don't believe I've accused you of operating under those principles.

You said: Now, a lot of Thomists are conservatives, and they try to combine Thomism with modern conservatism (with its free-market capitalism). Prof. Feser was trying to do this in his post.

Find me the defense of free market capitalism, especially the kind that justifies greed, in the OP. Seriously, let's see it.

rank sophist said...

No, that's not 'in other words'. There's no way to parse my response to get that reply out of it. "In other words", whenever I present you with an argument that shows you're wrong, you shift topic. I focus on the system structure of an insurance company even if it's run by monks who have taken a vow of poverty, and you respond by railing against capitalism.

I responded by pointing out that the structure of capitalist business is greed-based in general, and then by noting that the monks would sin, if not through greed, at least through violations of justice and mercy.

Great, then how about you finally concede the point that denials of people with pre-existing conditions is not done due exclusively or fundamentally due to greed, but to maintain the integrity of the system for those paying in?

I don't care if it's not central to your argument. If it's not, then it should be that much easier for you to concede.


I just did concede this.

Yeah, it's pretty simple because you're just pulling the response out of thin air. 5000 dollars? Why not all 20000? Why not 0? The response is completely arbitrary. You could just as easily have said 'Pay 20k. Then if your son gets sick, rely on the community.' or 'Pay 0. Have him rely on the community.' or 'Pay 100$. It's up to everyone else now.'

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.

As if the government has a great track record of being neither oppressive nor corrupt?

This has no bearing on whether or not it's just for the government to intervene in the situation I'm describing.

First off, a lack of charity is hard to equate with oppression.

What they're doing violates mercy and justice, as I've explained. Charity, too; but that's not the main point I've been arguing.

But second, notice how 'try to persuade, through personal and community and cultural appeal, businesses and people to assist as needed' is utterly absent from your description of the process.

That's because the problem has gotten too big to deal with at the lower level. We've let it get this big.

rank sophist said...

Find me the defense of free market capitalism, especially the kind that justifies greed, in the OP. Seriously, let's see it.

More proof that you aren't reading what I'm writing. When you ask questions that I've already answered, and when you don't respond to important parts of my posts, it gets kind of obvious that you're skimming. Let me repost:

"To my knowledge--and I just went through my posts to double-check--, I never said that Prof. Feser was "defending capitalism". It's the Thomists in this combox who've done that, such as TheOFloinn and Tony. I said that Prof. Feser was trying to merge his modern conservatism with natural law, which is true. He was arguing from a conservative standpoint that Obamacare is a bad idea, and then invoking the natural law principle of subsidiarity to further support that view. As I've said from the beginning, requiring coverage of the poor and those with pre-existing conditions (which entails an individual mandate) does not violate natural law. On the contrary, it's the current practices of the health insurance industry, which multiple Thomists here have endorsed, that violate it. Prof. Feser did not justify those practices--indeed, he probably disagrees with some of them, given the WWWTW link--, but his argument against the penalty required by an individual mandate was that it's unconstitutional. The Constitution is positive law, not natural law. My argument is that an individual mandate not only does not violate natural law, but that it is in fact preferable to Thomism given an alternative that entails multiple violations of natural law. (And it goes without saying that natural law overrides concerns about the Constitution, should the two conflict.) Hence, my goal is to show that there's a contradiction involved in endorsing both Thomism and parts of modern conservatism. Obviously, free-market capitalism figures very heavily into the modern conservatism dialogue, which is why it's been a topic of discussion here."

Papalinton said...

Perhaps it is best to lay out a few facts. You may have heard of them, Crude, facts.

Start HERE.

When you have finished, have a look at THIS. The upshot in this international report is that:

"The extreme failure of the United States to contain medical costs results primarily from our unique, pervasive commercialization. The dominance of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, a new wave of investor-owned specialty hospitals, and profit-maximizing behavior even by nonprofit players raise costs and distort resource allocation. Profits, billing, marketing, and the gratuitous costs of private bureaucracies siphon off $400 billion to $500 billion of the $2.1 trillion spent, but the more serious and less appreciated syndrome is the set of perverse incentives produced by commercial dominance of the system."

From a different perspective you might wish to read THIS. It makes the point:

"Health consumers in this system are further encouraged to go along with this because of the "use it or lose it" prisoner's dilemna they find themselves in. The result is an innefficient and expensive system that benefits very few consumers yet generates profit and wealth for doctors and insurers - a market failure."

This is precisely the reason that Obamacare is good governance. The Administration recognised systemic market failure and appropriately addressed the issue. This is what democratic governments do.


Crude said...

I responded by pointing out that the structure of capitalist business is greed-based in general, and then by noting that the monks would sin, if not through greed, at least through violations of justice and mercy.

So when people pay premiums into a system meant to cover premium pays who experience catastrophic losses, it's a sin against justice and mercy to refuse to give that money to people who the guardians of it determine are in need of it?

By extension, when someone walks into a bank and says 'I need money, open the safe deposit boxes and give me some', the proper thing to do is for the bank manager to say 'Well, alright, let's evaluate your situation and if I determine it to be dire enough, we'll just start giving you this'? What's more, this should be defended by law?

You're basically saying that if you save money to protect yourself from future losses, you're duty bound to sacrifice it whenever someone has an immediate loss - and if someone is holding your money, they're duty bound to give it over if they think someone else needs it more? And what's more, this is the clear and obvious route from natural law?

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.

The numbers and order of duty is utterly arbitrary. Why do I owe 5k just by virtue of having 20k banked? Why don't 2000 community members owe 10 dollars? Why don't 200 owe 100 dollars?

This has no bearing on whether or not it's just for the government to intervene in the situation I'm describing.

It has utter bearing, because the entire justification for imposing government intervention from the federal level onto the state level is judging the competence of the state to do its job. So the states' competence is relevant, but the federal government's is irrelevant?

Crude said...

What they're doing violates mercy and justice, as I've explained. Charity, too; but that's not the main point I've been arguing.

Denying mercy or charity is hard to equate with oppression. Justice? Sure, but then you're not talking about mercy or charity anymore.

That's because the problem has gotten too big to deal with at the lower level. We've let it get this big.

Apparently not, because there was already a state solution in one state, and it came recently to boot.

More proof that you aren't reading what I'm writing. When you ask questions that I've already answered, and when you don't respond to important parts of my posts, it gets kind of obvious that you're skimming.

I'm picking out what I think are important points, because if I respond to each and every point that seems open to me this entire conversation will get even more absurdly long than it currently is.

I already posted where you were suggesting that Ed was throwing out a defense of capitalism. You say he's not on reflection, alright. I don't see where TOF or Tony were defending the version of capitalism you're railing against here either, but let's put that aside.

You also say:

My argument is that an individual mandate not only does not violate natural law, but that it is in fact preferable to Thomism given an alternative that entails multiple violations of natural law.

This entire claim hinges on whether the problems of health care can be A) largely or satisfactorily settled on a smaller than federal level in principle, or B) in practice. I say A is obvious - it can be. I say B is not obviously false, and that's precisely where efforts should be directed.

Keep in mind that the principal of subsidiarity is not simply a schedule of how to address problems, but entails within it a criticism of organizations that are far too large and impersonal addressing needs. It is, itself, a problem. Let me stress that: immorality is multiplied by oversized central solutions. There's more to be concerned with than whether immediate problem X is addressed by a given act.

Glenn said...

rank,

Going to assume this isn't sarcasm and say, "Thanks!"

Your read is correct. There was a noticeable upgrade in the presentation of your ideas, and it would not have been right not to acknowledge it.

Tony said...

I'm showing that you can't reconcile capitalism and natural law.

Rank, I am going to make one last attempt, and assume that you are at least trying to make sense.

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".

If a man finds that he has an ability to persuade, direct, and organize men well so that they accomplish more under his direction than they do without any director, he may gather a group of men together and say: You, Tom, and Jerry, have carpenter's tools, but sometimes one of you is over-busy while the other is without work, and sometimes vice-versa. Bill, you have lots of lumber, but sometimes it sits gathering dust. Frank, you are good at talking people into buying houses, but let's face, it, you aren't all that good at building them. I propose that we POOL our resources, tools, lumber, customer list, skills, and my organizational ability and form a corporation, Builder Bob. The physical resources we all commit to the enterprise will be allocated under contracts X and Y. These contracts will specify to what extent Builder Bob can use them, and to what extent that notional corporate aggregation of our resources cannot use these assets. (For example, Monday - Friday Tom's tools must be available for the corp, but on Saturday Tom has free use of them.) Contract Z will spell out to what extent we promise our labor to the enterprise.

There is nothing contrary to natural law going on here. They have every right to take their own assets and re-organize them according to a plan under which those very same assets (and labor) will be more productive. This is capitalism at its most basic, and NOTHING about capitalism even begins to suggest that this is against natural law. Contracts for how resources you own will be allocated in the future are simply the private property right of deciding how to handle your property to best effect.

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.

I responded by pointing out that the structure of capitalist business is greed-based in general

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. That's the core of capitalism, and greed is not there. Certainly not as such. You have mistaken an attribute frequently present for an essential property of the thing.

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