Sunday, November 16, 2014

Health, Government, Social, and Individual Goodness

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted.

Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden

Sunday is a day of goodness and forgiveness.

It is a day off from human meanness, political correctness, and plain greediness.

It is a day of doing good and being good.

From the Ideal to the Real

So much for the ideal world, now on to real world revelations on other days of the week.

When Jonathon Gruber made his statements of motives behind the passing of the Affordable Care Act, he set off a firestorm of negative comments about the motives of President Obama and his administration.

Personally, I give crafters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the President the benefit of the doubt.

I believe they had good intentions consistent with their political ideology.

They thought they were doing good for the people because the people themselves did not know what was good for themselves and other people, i.e., society as a whole.

The people, in their view, do not know what was good for themselves and their health and the rest of us.

Hence, the government had to step in to do what it believed was good for society.

At one stroke, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was intended to save the people from themselves and in the process, to achieve social goodness.

Conservatives' Disbelief

Conservatives did not believe this liberal version of events. They saw passage of the health law as an act of warped idealism, of a grab for political power, of liberal arrogance.

One critic quoted Mae West, who, in reply to someone's comment on the huge ring on her finger, exclaimed “Goodness, what a lovely diamond!” responded, “Goodness had nothing to do with it.”

I do not believe in this cynical interpretation. I believe those who wrote the law and believed in it had good intentions.

They thought they were doing what was good for all of us.

Gruber and his fellow followers never believed bewildered, benighted, beleaguered individuals could ever manage their own health care.

That took brains, data, and high IQs, ingredients the masses did not possess.

That’s why government had to intervene to make basic health care decisions for people, such as what benefits a health plan must include and what doctors and hospitals people should go to.

That’s why they could not let consumers choose how to spend their own money, or to decide what treatment courses to take, or to negotiate with doctors or hospitals about that mundane thing called money.

That's why they opposed Health Savings Accounts, which assumed people could fend for themselves when it came to their own health care.

That’s why they could not let people fall into the hands of those big, bad corporations and big, bad health plans, and and the big,bad medical industirla complex, who had the audacity to try to maximize shareholder value and to make enough profit to stay in business and together with other big, bad corporations and even small, bad businesses to generate economic growth and prosperity.

The people, they believed, were unwilling , unable, and incapable of making those inevitable choices that advance the social good and social goodness, such as transferring wealth, health and other resources, from the young, healthy, willing, and able to the old, sick, unwilling, and disabled, all of whom, for Goodness Sake, should and ultimately would depend on government for their health care decision-making and economic well-being.

Note: I am indebted to Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institute, for some some of the ideas expressed here (Lanhee Chen, “Liberal Arrogance at the Core of ObamaCare,” Bloomberg View, November 14, 2014).

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