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Stating the Obvious

Remarking on my earlier post, Robert George writes:

... someone "claiming the banner" of Catholicism who says, (1) "the plight of poor people who do not have access to health care is no concern of mine (except, perhaps, as a matter of private charity) and is not a legitimate subject of public deliberation and policy-making, and (2) "the unborn must be protected by law against being killed by abortion," is being morally incoherent. By the same token, someone who says (1) "we must reform the health care system to ensure that basic care is reasonably accessible to all members of the community," and (2) "the unborn have no right to legal protection against being killed by abortion," is being morally incoherent.Or so it seems to me.I don't know whether John Schwenkler would agree. I'm sure that Ross Douthat would.

Well yes, I do agree! But it also seems to me that I shouldn't really have had to go through that ritual, given that not only does my dotComm bio indicate that I've gone through the sort of advanced study in philosophy that enables one to recognize that the charge of moral incoherence can be applied bidirectionally, but I also identified myself as pro-life in the very post Prof. George is discussing. At this point it strikes me that it might be permitted by the rules of the game to demand that Prof. George swear fidelity to Rome on such matters as transubstantiation and the Virgin Birth, but that would likely be taken as mere pertinacity.Prof. George also reminds us, presumably bearing in mind my stated opposition to the Democrats' health reform bill, that the question of how best to ensure access to adequate health care is a prudential one:

The Church ("that very same church") teaches that efforts must be made to ensure that all members of the community, including the poor,have reasonable access to basic health care; but it does not prescribe a government run health insurance or health care system or a particular scheme or degree of government regulation of health care providers or insurers. People can reasonably and responsibly "claim the banner of church teaching" while advocating different policies for the structure (or reform) of the health care system to make sure that as many members of the community as possible have reasonable access to basic care (and insurance against medical catastrophes).

Indeed they can, and in fact this is a point that I've argued at some length. But the fact that there can be health care policies that will do an equal (or better!) job than the Democrats' of ensuring widespread access to health care does not alleviate the problem I was identifying, namely that of "conservatives stunning inability to propose a coherent and forward-looking agenda of their [read our] own to address this countrys very real need for serious health care reform". Appeals to prudence are fine and good, but absent a political agenda that centers on more than simply saying "No" to the Democrats, mainstream conservatives are in a poor position to complain when they're accused of incoherently regarding the bishops' statements on health care with something less than the seriousness with which they treat their views on abortion.Or so it seems to me.I'm sure that Ross Douthat agrees; he says just this in the very post I was discussing. And I'll assume for charity's sake that Prof. George would, too.

About the Author

John Schwenkler is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University.



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Who cares what notions a Princeton elitest has about law when I watched his Senate lawmakers play grab-ass kid games into the middle of last night?

Mr. SchwenklerI submitted a comment in response to your previous post "Democrats and the Pro-Life Movement which for some reason was not posted. My comment was prompted by Mr. Douthat's criticism of conservative pro-lifers, which criticism you endorsed by your assertion of a "stunning inability" on the part of conservatives "to propose a coherent and forward-looking agenda of their [read our] own to address this countrys very real need for serious health care reform". Since you repeat that observation in your present post, I will incorporate my previously rejected comment here in hopes you will acknowledge your claim of conservatives' alleged "stunning inability" was unjustified.I found much to agree with in the Ross Douthat column referred to by John Schwenkler, but in my opinion his criticism of "conservative pro-lifers" and Republican leadership in Congress was unfair. Douthat is correct, of course, in noting that President Obama's executive order is "is probably meaningless", and that "the health care bill, as passed, effectively tilts public policy in a more pro-choice direction" in that "federal dollars are being spent in ways that make it much easier to obtain abortion-covering insurance." He also aptly notes that "the pro-choice left was willing to sacrifice the entire health care bill to the principle that nobody should have to pay for an abortion out of pocket" and that the attitude of "liberal Catholics (like) E.J. Dionne (and) the editors of Commonweal seemed to be, 'cmon, Stupak, just get with the program, and sign up for the compromise that a pro-choice White House wants you to live with.' ".Not quite as accurate is Douthat's assertion that "anti-abortion conservatives backed him to the hilt not because they wanted him to succeed, but because they assumed that he would fail, and in failing, drag the whole health care package down to defeat." It wasn't that simple. As conservatives, pro-life conservatives wanted the senate bill to fail. As pro-lifers, pro-life conservatives preferred the house bill over the senate bill if it was certain one would pass. Only when Scott Brown was elected did it seem possible for a time that neither would pass. But even then the general attitude toward Stupak was that he was bravely standing up for his pro-life principles despite his liking for the Democrats massive health care reform proposals. Up until his turn-around, Stupak's "hell", as he described, it was from attacks by the left. See for example "Catholic film maker ridicules "fertilized egg police," calls for repeal of Hyde Amendment".Where Douthat is mistaken, in my opinion, is his assertion that although "there are conservative and market-oriented proposals on health care reform that are consonant with Catholic teaching on a just society the Republican Partys leadership wasnt interested in talking about them, and conservative pro-lifers didnt seem particularly concerned about this lacuna in the debate".First, the fact is, despite the plethora of conservative proposals for health care reform demonstrably superior to liberal proposals in every meaningful way with potential for bipartisan support and interest of the Republican leadership, (see sampling of proposals and commentary below) there was no way liberals in the House and Senate during the period form 2001 through 2006 were going to let Republicans take the lead in health care reform any more than they were willing to cooperate with Social Security reform. In contrast, having obtained a huge majority in the House and a filibuster proof Senate the Democrats led by a left of center president and congressional leadership saw and took advantage of an opportunity to ram through their regressive statist agenda for heal care reform. Therefore the focus for the past year has been almost entirely on the Democrats proposals and conservative and moderate Republican criticisms. Conservative proposals did not have a snowball's chance in hell of gaining Democrats attention much less serious consideration. In addition, given President Obama's indisputable commitment to pro-choice and even pro-abortion policies as evidenced by policy decisions and appointment of a who's-who list of abortion rights advocates, conservative pro-lifers have had to focus entirely on defending against the pro-choice onslaught across the board. Of course conservative pro-lifers endorse conservative health care reform proposals, but first and foremost they have had concentrate on exposing the greatest expansion of abortions rights since Roe v. Wade inherent in the senate bill. So Douthat's claim that conservative pro-lifers failed in their responsibility with regard to health care reform doesn't hold water. Instead, it is the liberal pro-lifers such as Rep. Stupak and Senators Casey and Nelson who have failed in their responsibility - by failing to place pro-life concerns ahead of their liberal ideology and partisan Democratic politics to the great disadvantage of the pro-life cause. The Patients Choice Act Care in America: A Catholic Proposal For RenewalStatement of The Catholic Medical Association, 9/04 on Health Care Reform Catholic Medical Association, 7/29/09 Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.WSJ, 8/11/09 Don't Call It Health Reform Alain Enthoven, Marriner S. Eccles Professor of Public and Private Management, Emeritus, Stanford University, Sep 10, 2009 Better Health Reform , WSJ, 7/23/09 Real Health Care Radicals, Time, 11-8-07, by Ramesh Ponnuru,8816,1682269,00.htmlUniversal Coverage's MavericksBy Ruth MarcusWednesday, February 27, 2008 Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health CarePublished on December 18, 2006 by David Gratzer


Hi, John, fwiw, I thought Prof. George was just more or less using your dotCom post as a launching pad for his own reflections on moral incoherence. I didn't read it that he was "targeting" you for criticism. If anyone is being targeted, it would be those who would have been willing to settle for health care reform with lesser protections than is found in the new law and executive order. That's my reading, anyway.

It's interesting to me how many influential people read this blog, btw. Y'all need to stay on top of your games :-)

In my previous post I left out a link in connection with the last sentence, the third paragraph: "See for example "Catholic film maker ridicules "fertilized egg police," calls for repeal of Hyde Amendment". The omission of the link made the reference see irrelevant, or perhaps even "bizarre". The omitted link - - quotes a letter by Michael Moore posted on his website which stated in part "Well, our full court press on my congressman, Bart Stupak worked! Hundreds of my neighbors here in his Michigan district spent the weekend organizing thousands of voters to get busy and save the health care bill. We called Stupak's congressional office non-stop and we got thousands of people up here to flood his email box.And then a rare thing happened: An elected representative did what the people told him to do. It was nothing short of amazing.Stupak, and his seven "right to life" Democrats who had said they would vote against the bill, reversed themselves after what Stupak said Sunday afternoon was a week of his staff having "really taken a pounding." Hey, all we did here in northern Michigan was let him know that we would be unceremoniously tossing him out of Congress in this August's Democratic primary. One of our group announced she would oppose him in the Dem primary. That seemed to register with him.All of this made Stupak look pretty worn down at his press conference yesterday, pleading with people like us to stop calling his house and waking his wife "at two or three in the morning." Hey! That's not us. We never call during Carson Daly!Obama needed 216 votes in the House last night -- and he barely got them (219 was the final number). Had Stupak not done a 180 in the last 24 hours, the health care bill would have gone down in flames. Thank you, to all of you here in northern Michigan who did what had to be done. You and you alone saved this bill in the final moments.Stupak stood on the floor of the House last night and, in a surreal moment, spoke against the "Stupak Amendment"! Once he got through his medieval meanderings about where babies come from, he gave one helluva speech.And, that's when Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer of Texas shouted out: "Baby killer!" Wow. I guess the fertilized egg police felt betrayed by Bart."

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