Monday, August 14, 2017

Democracy, Justice, and . . . Healthcare?



According to the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently announced that the Department of State is drafting new statements of purpose, mission, and ambition.  These will jettison the U.S.’s commitment to justice, democracy, and personal liberty.  As POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney said,

Such a move is especially alarming in light of other statements that suggest that this administration may seek to diminish the role of justice and democracy in U.S. foreign policy.  Changing policy in that way would not only be antithetical to basic American ideals, but would also benefit autocratic regimes and jeopardize U.S. security.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, which is why we quoted McInerney.  We find such a move disturbing.  While it has never been perfect, the United States has at least been able to claim that it has striven for justice and democracy from its very beginning, just as it says in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: the United States was formed primarily to "establish justice."
So, is getting rid of America’s ideals really the way to “make America great again”?  Is it a good idea to abolish even the lowest standard — although promoting democracy and justice is hardly setting the bar low — for any reason?
Quick answer: No.
Longer answer: democracy and justice must be preserved and promoted because they are important.  Why?  Because all society is supposed to run on justice, and democracy (both political and economic) means that people, not the State or some other institution, are in charge and have power over their own lives.
Lincoln and Douglas, 1858
Abraham Lincoln probably gave the best definition of political democracy as government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  We can paraphrase that for economic democracy and say it is an economy of the people, by the people, and for the people.
And justice?  Justice is defined as the virtue (“virtue” being “the habit of doing good”) that directs us to render to each what each is due.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Lincoln also gave a good idea of how a just society should work.  In his debate with Stephen Douglas on October 15, 1858, arguing against the idea that justice is only for some people, not for all, Honest Abe said,
That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.” No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.
Tillerson: Democracy and justice are for me, not for you.
So the message that Secretary Tillerson would have America send to the rest of the world is that most people don’t matter.  Government and economic life are not “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  No, they are “of the élite, by the élite, and for the élite.”  And justice?  Justice is the economic principle that says, “You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.”
Is that what the world really wants?  Is that what the world really needs?  And is that what America really wants or needs?
No, everybody wants democracy and justice.  The problem with the élites is that they only want it for themselves.  Except for the truly psychotic or those who are sociopaths, however (and few of those manage to stay in power for very long), the reason the élites fear democracy and justice for others is that both words have been redefined in ways that mean something different from what Lincoln meant.
Some revisions of Lincoln's words.
“Democracy” now means the collective rules (meaning those who control the State are in charge of everyone’s life), while “justice” means that all material needs (as defined by the State) are met . . . by the State.  In other words, democracy and justice mean socialism — State control — not free people in control of their own lives.
Thus, it’s no wonder that an extremely wealthy person Secretary of State Tillerson who favors monopoly capitalism would want to draft new mission statements for the United States.  If he were to promote the socialist version of democracy and justice, he’d just be increasing demands on his current and future wealth.
Consider, however, what things would be like if capitalists did not have a monopoly over future wealth, and America became firmly committed to genuine global justice and democracy, economic as well as political.   Most people could get what they need (including the legitimate services of government) with diminishing need for charity or government redistribution.
Take, as one obvious example, the healthcare system.
Or, preferably, don’t take it.  Leave it.  When government monopolizes a nation’s healthcare business, it does even worse than it does in other areas.  Government is supposed to look after the common good and enforce and lift barriers to economic justice, not look after everybody’s individual and personal needs (except in an emergency when there is no other recourse) — and, with few exceptions, nothing except education and a few other things is more personal and individual than healthcare.
A government monopoly over education is bad, and it’s even worse with healthcare.  Bad education means you might not live well.  Bad healthcare means you might not live at all.
Dr. Leo Alexander (1905-1985)
The dangers of politicizing healthcare have been known for decades.  One of the more obvious examples is what happened in the Third Reich.  In Nazi Germany, everything was political, with the results horrifyingly chronicled by Dr. Leo Alexander, Chief Medical Examiner at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, in his article, “Medical Science Under Dictatorship.”
What is needed is a health care system that puts physicians and their patients, not the government, back in charge.  Who, after all, is better able to make the best decision about someone’s health?  A trained professional consulting with the person to put or keep that person in good health, or a time-serving bureaucrat consulting the latest directive to keep his or her job?
For an alternative, consider “Affording Universal Healthcare: A Private Sector Alternative to Mandates,” from the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ).  It’s at least worth some serious study, and might even suggest one or two ways to get out of the hole people — and governments — have dug themselves into.
This is all very well, of course, but the questions arise, How are you going to do it?  Where is the money going to come from to put actual people back in charge, if not from the rich (as in capitalism) or the State (as in socialism)?  Without democratic access to money and credit, there will be no monetary justice.  Without monetary justice, there will be no economic justice . . . and without economic justice, there will be no political justice, no democracy, and the people of the world will remain at the mercy of either a capitalist or socialist élite.
And, having raised those key questions, we’ll look at them tomorrow.
#30#

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