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.

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

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