More Equal Than Others

Among Christianity’s many influences on Western civilization is the concept that “all men are created equal.” The idea that human beings are equally valuable simply by virtue of being human is common even among those who otherwise reject religious teachings. What was once solely a religious principle has become almost universally accepted as a humanist principle. Two people might differ in their race, gender, intellectual abilities, age, or level of wealth, but both are equally deserving of respect, fair treatment, and equality under the law.

Call this “Belief A”.

Most people who support abortion argue that the fetus gradually acquires human rights as his/her nervous system develops in utero. According to polling done by Gallup, 61% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy. That figure drops to 27% during the second trimester, and to 14% during the third trimester. Since human life biologically begins at conception, this means that roughly half of Americans believe that some human organisms (third trimester fetuses) should have a legal right to life, while other human organisms (first trimester fetuses) may be legally dismembered with metal clamps and vacuum hoses.

DE-abortion1

In other words, these individuals believe that human worth is not derived “simply by virtue of being human,” but rather by possessing certain physical qualities. Thus, all humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others. Call this “Belief B”.

A person cannot rationally hold both Belief A and Belief B. If “social justice” extends to some groups of humans – but not to others – then it isn’t really social justice.

President Obama Attacks a Woman’s Right to Choose…to Stay Home with Her Kids

You know a society has its priorities backwards when it celebrates what is unnatural (a mother’s choice to dismember her unborn children) and criticizes what is natural (a mother’s choice to raise her children).

This week, the president of the United States took another swipe at mothers who choose to stay home with their children.

“…and sometimes someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

In recent years, the Democratic Party has built its platform on women’s issues. In theory, the emphasis on “choice” would imply equal respect for the working mom and the stay-at-home mom. Yet in practice, liberal attitudes and policies are profoundly anti-family. (And why wouldn’t they be? Broken families = more Democrat votes. Single women are far more likely to vote Democrat than married women.)

Imagine the public outcry if a conservative politician had suggested that mothers entering the workforce is “not a choice we want Americans to make”.

Progressives claim to value tolerance and diversity, yet in practice they have little tolerance for opinions different than their own. What progressives do care about is collectivism, and collectivism requires conformity, and conformity requires indoctrinating children. Hence the attacks on stay-at-home moms, and the attacks on homeschooling, and the push for enrolling children in public daycare programs and preschools. Melissa Harris-Perry explains:

Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies, and The Huffington Post Still Fails at Science

In response to yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, an article from The Huffington Post is going viral. The article, entitled, “Hobby Lobby Still Covers Vasectomies and Viagra,” not-so-subtly accuses the Green family of moral inconsistency and misogyny.

From the article:

“Evangelical Christians have long argued that life begins at conception, and therefore that medical procedures that disrupt the first stages of pregnancy amount to murder. In the case of Hobby Lobby, this extends to a woman taking pills such as Plan B, Next Choice or Ella, any of which would prevent her ovaries from releasing an egg that could be fertilized after unprotected sex.”

Hobby Lobby objected to covering Plan B, Ella, and the 2 IUD’s in question because the owners believe these can interfere with implantation – not because they interfere with the ovaries releasing an egg, as this article states. This is an extremely important distinction. (One can debate the scientific evidence for this belief. But that actually misses the point. Their religious convictions should still be protected, even if they think these specific forms of birth control are immoral because they’re cursed by Zeus.)

IUD

Intrauterine Device

Since a fertilized egg is, biologically speaking, a human organism…and since an unfertilized egg & sperm are not human organisms…there’s no inconsistency in the owners of Hobby Lobby covering vasectomies, viagra, (most) OCP’s, condoms, or any of the other 16 of the 20 FDA approved forms of contraception that they already cover.

The article continues:

“Perhaps taking a note from Catholic Church’s opposition to sterilization, Hobby Lobby also objected to long-term birth control methods such as IUDs, which can cost women up to $1,000. But that does not explain why Hobby Lobby doesn’t object to covering the cost of its male employees’ vasectomies.”

Sterilization and long-term methods of birth control are not the same thing. So this comparison is head-scratching. The owners of Hobby Lobby don’t object to IUD’s because they prevent pregnancy (or even because they prevent pregnancy “for a long time”), but because they believe these devices can cause the death of a human organism by preventing implantation of the blastocyst. Vasectomies work exclusively by preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg.

If the Huffington Post wishes to use smear tactics, they’re free to do so. This article, however, relies not only on a gross misunderstanding of the Green family’s moral stance, but on an embarrassing ignorance of human biology.

Why Do Progressives Oppose Evidence-Based Solutions to Income Inequality?

Perhaps the trendiest issue among modern progressives is the supposed problem of “income inequality”. In ominous tones, we’re told that the gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and that the top 1% of income earners are getting richer while the poor grow poorer.

It’s easy to see how such a narrative might gain traction. Most people – regardless of political orientation – recognize the depravity and excesses that often accompany extreme wealth. The injustice is especially clear when juxtaposed with the millions who die every year from thirst, malnutrition, and preventable diseases.

inequality

On the surface, it might seem that these injustices can be addressed by focusing on “income inequality” – the relative gap between the rich and the poor.

Consider, though, the following thought experiment (from Steve Horwitz):

“Want to have some fun with your leftist friends who are complaining about supposed growing income inequality? Ask them if they’d prefer the status quo or a world in which everyone’s real income got doubled. The latter, of course, would have much more inequality. If they prefer the latter, then they really aren’t so concerned about inequality, but something else. And that’s a different conversation. If they prefer the former, then at least you know where they stand: they prefer equality so much that they are willing to condemn all of us, including the poor, to worse lives to achieve it.”

This isn’t a new idea, of course:

For the sake of argument, though, let’s imagine that our goal is to reduce income inequality. Where should we begin? What policy initiatives should be put in place?

As it turns out, there are a couple of clear, evidence-based solutions to income inequality. Ironically, these proposals are widely rejected and/or ignored by progressives – the very people who claim to care most about this issue.

Solution 1: Reduce income taxes and enact right-to-work laws.

According to economists Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder, “the income gap between rich and poor tends to be wider in blue states than in red states. Our state-by-state analysis finds that the more liberal states whose policies are supposed to promote fairness have a bigger gap between higher and lower incomes than do states that have more conservative, pro-growth policies…The two of us have spent more than 25 years examining why some states grow much faster than others. The conclusion is nearly inescapable that liberal policy prescriptions—especially high income-tax rates and the lack of a right-to-work law—make states less prosperous because they chase away workers, businesses and capital.”

Solution 2: Embrace pro-family social policies (and start by repealing no-fault divorce laws).

As explained by economist Mark Perry, it’s actually household inequality – not individual inequality – that has been increasing over the last several decades. “The combination of a flat Gini coefficient index for individual income inequality for more than 50 years along with rising Gini coefficients for US households and families means that social, rather than economic factors, are responsible for the most frequently reported rise in income inequality for households and families.”

This has been driven primarily by an increasing number of single-parent families and single-person households. Yet this crucial distinction goes largely unrecognized:

“[In] the current discussions about increased inequality, few researchers, fewer reporters, and no one in the executive branch of government directly addresses what seems to be the strongest statistical correlate of inequality in the United States: the rise of single-parent families during the past half century.”

Following the second-wave feminist movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, many states enacted no-fault divorce laws – allowing either spouse to unilaterally obtain a divorce without penalty, and without having to demonstrate infidelity or wrongdoing.

divorce rate

As a result, marriage is perhaps the only legal contract that can be violated by one party, without that party facing any kind of penalty. As an added perversity, the party that walks away from the marriage (breaking the contract) is often granted financial rewards and/or child custody.

These laws have resulted in higher rates of divorce, which not only harms children, but also directly contributes to income inequality. Yet no-fault divorce laws are staunchly defended by mainstream progressives.

So You’re a Conservative? Why Do You Hate Poor People?

“Every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.”

– Frederic Bastiat

“There is an almost universal tendency, perhaps an inborn tendency, to suspect the good faith of a man who holds opinions that differ from our own opinions.” 

-Karl Popper

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Poisoning the well” isn’t something unique to political progressives. Lately, though, it seems to have become standard practice among Those On The Left to assume that anyone disagreeing with their policy positions is acting out of bad faith. Consider, for example, President Obama’s recent remarks on the Affordable Care Act:

“[Republicans have] spent the last few years so obsessed with denying [people] access to health insurance that they just shut down the government and threatened default over it.”

According to this narrative, opponents of Progressivism don’t simply have different ideas about how to make the world a better place. Opponents of Progressivism are actually just mean, spiteful people who want to harm others. Because they’re mean. Here’s another shining example from the College Democrats of America:

college dems

In other words, if you don’t support the Democrat Party’s specific plan for organizing the American healthcare system, you don’t care about human life. Because you’re trying to take away people’s healthcare. Meanie. Yet another example from left-leaning news site Slate:

“When we talk of cutting food stamps or gutting education, we shouldn’t just call it greed. We should call it a sin.”

Translation: “If I think the government should set aside X% of the federal budget for education, and you only think it should set aside Y% of the budget for education, YOU’RE A SINNER.”

When someone has the audacity to oppose re-defining society’s definition of marriage, the progressive is unable to comprehend that his opponent could be motivated by anything other than ill will toward homosexuals. Hence, the labels “bigot” and “homophobe” are swiftly handed down to anyone who disagrees with the progressive’s viewpoint.

When someone questions why businesses should be forced to offer their employees free birth control pills (but not free allergy pills, or free pain pills), the progressive indignantly asks why that person is “anti-women”.

buckley

Such rhetorical tactics are deeply authoritarian. “Agree with me, or you’re a bad person.” “Stay silent, or I’ll drag your name through the mud.”

It seems especially ironic, then, that this approach has been embraced by self-described crusaders of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Why Do So Many Christians Favor “Small Government”?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

– C.S. Lewis

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Anyone who tries to claim that the Bible prescribes his or her specific political opinions should be met with a certain degree of skepticism. The Bible does, however, hint at how Christians should interact with the societies in which they live (go read Acts 5:29 and Luke 20:25). It also provides strong caution against placing one’s confidence in Earthly governments (go read I Samuel 8 and Judges 8:22-23).

My purpose here is to address the common (and erroneous) claim that Christians who favor “small government” are, by definition, being hypocritical. Or as Jimmy Carter puts it,

jimmy carter

For one thing, I only know of maybe 2 or 3 people who oppose tax dollars going to help the poor. All of them are anarchists. So it’s not entirely clear who, exactly, Carter is addressing. But I’m pretty sure he’s just addressing anyone who favors a more limited welfare system than he does.

The real debate, if we’re being honest, is the extent to which – and the means by which – public assistance should be directed to the poor. The question is whether primary responsibility for assisting the poor should rest with government, or with individuals, churches, and private charities.

To many on the Left, conservatives who attempt to reduce the size of the welfare state are either acting out of greed, malice, or a lack of empathy for the poor. In reality, the conservative’s goal is to limit and decentralize power. The conservative understands that power leads to corruption, and that powerful, centralized governments have a long history of abusing human rights.

The conservative also recognizes the importance of individual responsibility and the dignity of providing for oneself and one’s family. In this sense, the conservative is concerned not only with the poor man’s physical needs, but also with his spiritual, non-material needs. Any form of government assistance should therefore have the aim of making the recipient self-sufficient, rather than perpetually reliant on public assistance.

Unfortunately, there’s an epidemic of young, progressive, “enlightened” individuals in this country who eagerly vote to expand the welfare state, and conclude that this makes them champions of the poor. Yet when asked, directly, what they’ve personally done for the poor, the only things they can come up with are Holding Benevolent Opinions, paying taxes, and maybe attending a charity walk.

I realize that sounds a tad anecdotal…but as it turns out, there’s solid data to back it up. According to research out of Syracuse University, “people who reject the idea that ‘government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality’ give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.” In the U.S., conservative states consistently see higher levels of charitable giving than liberal states.

In short: when a person considers his taxes to be a legitimate form of charity, he becomes less charitable.

The modern progressive, unwilling to recognize mankind’s fallen condition, sincerely believes that the State provides the means of realizing his egalitarian utopia. The Christian should know better. Those who place their faith in the strong arm of government walk a fine line between folly and idolatry.

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See also:

“Why Christians Make Great Libertarians” (part 1, part 2, part 3)

“Primum non Nocere” and the Affordable Care Act

A typical physician begins her career as a thirty-year-old with six figures of debt. While her peers have spent the last decade accumulating income and work experience, she’s been pulling all-nighters in the library – living on coffee, Ramen noodles, and student loans. She enjoys what she does, but the hours are brutal. After 8+ years of post-secondary education (plus another 3-6 years of residency) and tremendous personal and financial sacrifice, she has finally scaled the summit. She’s a doctor. In the meantime, changes in the U.S. healthcare system leave her feeling more like a glorified bureaucrat – trying to navigate the mountains of paperwork and ever-changing federal guidelines that stand between herself and her patients.

Most of the medical students and young physicians that I interact with are growing increasingly disillusioned with the future of our profession. The outlook is especially bleak for those considering primary care – the dwindling supply of “front line” doctors expected to accommodate an exploding demand for office visits. In their great wisdom, the architects of Obamacare sought to extend health insurance to 32 million new Americans without taking any steps to increase the number of practicing physicians.

I'm no economist, but this doesn't look like a recipe for "affordable healthcare".

I’m no economist, but this doesn’t look like a recipe for “affordable healthcare”.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are quick to point out that the law was endorsed by the American Medical Association. What they won’t tell you is that only 15% of America’s physicians are members of the AMA (compared with 85% of American’s dentists who belong to the ADA). In fact, individual physicians oppose the Affordable Care Act by a wide margin, and believe it will ultimately increase the cost of healthcare.

In a recent interview with MSNBC host Chris Matthews (may the thrill run ever up his leg), the president characteristically deflected blame for the Obamacare website debacle. Yet along with the usual finger-pointing at House Republicans, he actually suggested that the problem might lie with overly bloated government agencies, “some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”

"If you like your health care plan..."

“If you like your health care plan…”

This kind of schizophrenic assessment – blaming, in the same breath, both government bureaucracy and those who opposed the law’s reliance on government bureaucracy – seems strangely befitting. The Affordable Care Act is a stamp collection of such paradoxes.

Most of us in the medical field aren’t policy wonks. Our primary interest is fixing sick people – preferably with as little interference from third parties as possible. There are, however, a number of sensible and liberty-minded proposals that receive widespread head-bobbing in hospital break rooms. Physicians are generally receptive to the very solutions that were conspicuously absent from the ACA: tort reform, health savings accounts, conscience protections for healthcare providers, and market-based reforms to Medicare and Medicaid. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, proposed some very workable (but largely ignored) reforms back in 2009.

Returning control of medical decisions to patients and their doctors would go a long way toward controlling costs and reversing the damage done by the ACA. The U.S. healthcare system has a fever, and the only prescription is less government.