November 14, 2009

Issues-Based Politics and Government Philosophy

Justin Katz

Bishop Thomas Tobin makes a fortuitous juxtaposition in a recent edition of his "Without a Doubt" column (emphasis added):

Therefore I'm looking for candidates who will explain their stance on the dignity of human life and how that translates into action. I want candidates to address the value of marriage and family, and explain to me how homosexual marriages won't erode the traditional underpinnings of our society. I'd like to find candidates who’ll support the comprehensive reform of the health care system in a way that preserves important moral values. I'd like to see candidates embrace authentic educational choice and describe to the public how such competition would be good for our community. And I want candidates who can repair the economy and maintain fiscal discipline without placing the burden upon or targeting the unemployed, the homeless, the indigent elderly or the immigrant.

Certainly, there are "comprehensive reforms" of healthcare that would point in a direction of increased consumer choice and autonomy — which I believe to more fully conform with the Church's understanding of reality than increased socialization. However, none of the plans currently being described with that phrase are otherwise than degrees of government takeovers and mandates. In other words, they're precisely of a kind with the political theory that created the education regime into which the bishop would like to introduce choice.

It's a central plank in Christian social teaching that ends do not justify means. The end of helping ailing people does not justify the cost of diminished freedom of conscience and autonomy of action inherent in direct government manipulation of the society any more than the objective of ensuring an educated population did in the past.

It seems to me that the quality of our students' education has been on a steadily declining course, under government watch, and that the majority of young Americans are educated in an environment in which officials are explicitly forbidden from behaving as if it is more likely than not that God exists. Regrettably, it's not a topic that I've had the time to explore in detail, but I would hope that the Catholic Bishops would devote some resources and prayer to the question of what effect the Democrats' "comprehensive healthcare reforms" would have on Catholic hospitals, not to mention Catholic employers that cover employees health insurance... even if there are conscience clauses and restrictions on support for abortion.