March 2011


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Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

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Archive for March 14th, 2011

How can Christians be Conservative? Part II

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

I am continuing to answer the questions, posed to me on how Christians can be conservatives.  This time I will address the question, how can conservatives show such a lack of concern about the uninsured as seen in their objection to ObamaCare?

The question itself has some problems, the main one being that it confuses the lack of support for a particular governmental program, with a lack of concern for a problem.   This is something that I have addressed before (e.g., here, here, and on health care here). For many liberals the ideal of government activism is so strong and ingrained, it is hard for them to conceive of any other solution to a social problem.  In short, as a general rule, the solution to any social problem is to be found in government programs, and to oppose a government program is to show a disregard for the problem itself.

But however strong the view, it is still fallacious, and is in fact the fallacy of a false choice.  Not only are there other non-governmental options for addressing these problems, the simple fact is that, right or wrong, as a general rule conservatives believe that market based solutions grounded in choice and competition for consumers are better than government solutions.

The conservative view is often mischaracterized as an absolute position which would permit no role at all for government. This is not the case, nor is it correct to say that the conservative view is based on a trust of business or and corporations. It is also not the case. In fact, often conservatives share many of the same doubts and question about business as there liberal counter parts. This is why conservatives believe that choice and competition are so important, as they serve as the main check on businesses driven by the profit motive. This is also where conservatives see a significant role for government that of ensuring that the market place allow choice and competition.

So it is not that conservatives trust big businesses, it is that they mistrust government because choice and competition do not apply. If you don’t like a particular business, you are free go to another one.  If you don’t like government, you are stuck.

When it comes to health care in general, and ObamaCare in particular, the problems Conservatives see are many, and I have written about some of them (here, and here).  As I summarized this in another post,

Thus the Democratic Health care bill will increase regulation and reduce effective choice even if it doesn’t end in single payer.  While in theory it may be able to reduce cost and expand coverage, it cannot do this while improving health care.  In short, it is doomed. And this is best case. Given the past record of government programs, the actual likelihood is that it will not even be able to control costs and we will be left with worse health-care, even higher costs and a system that is even more difficult to change.

The reason for this is actually very simple. Improvements in Health care will come, as such improvements have always come, from innovation.  Yet government does not innovate, it regulates, and regulations kills innovation.

None of this should be taken as satisfaction with the current system.  Healthcare in the US is one of most highly regulated areas of the economy. It is far from a system where choice and competition are driving factors.  Conservatives see the problems and want to solve them.  The real problem here is not a lack of concern for “the least of these,” but rather a difference of opinion on how best to address the problems. The opposition to ObamaCare is rooted in the belief that it will not make things better, it will make them worse.

One final comment; while there certainly are absolutists, many conservatives acknowledge that market solutions will not solve all problems.  No matter how much market forces improve the health care system, you cannot purchase healthcare if you don’t have any money.   Here conservatives consider two additional mechanisms.

The first is charity. While liberals at time discount the viability of this option the fact is that here are hospitals across the country that deliver health care on an ability to pay basis or for free.  This focus on charity by conservatives and government by liberals is perhaps behind the difference in charitable giving between red state and blue statesbetween liberals and conservatives,  and as revealed in Aruther C. Brooks’ book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatives. If conservatives truly were heartless and greedy, why is it that on average, they give more to charity than liberals?

Finally, surprising as it may seem to some liberals, conservatives to not reject a government option as a last resort, for those with no were else to turn. The difference would be, however, that it would be a last resort, not the first and only resort, pushed by so many liberals.

So again, it is not a lack of concern that leads conservatives to reject ObamaCare, it is in fact an abundance of concern that ObamaCare will only result in making matters worse.