While Watching the Debate

Good evening everyone.

I’m writing this post as I watch the second presidential debate, which, as you likely know, is taking place in Nashville, TN. For those who haven’t been there, the campus of Belmont is a beautiful place and I recommend visiting it if you get the chance.

As the debate grinds on, I wanted to just share my initial impressions as they come up. These are more my raw thoughts rather than a polished discussion. Did anything particular stand out to you?

9:20 Although the debate has only been going on for about twenty minutes so far, John McCain has mentioned three times, so far, the idea of having the government buy up and renegotiate bad mortgage loans. What a terrible and unconstitutional idea. Does anyone support such a plan? Do you want to pay for this scheme?

9:25 Unlike McCain, I do not like the ideas of Lieberman, Kennedy, or Feingold.

9:27 As we all know, Obama wants socialized medicine and education. Huzzah!

9:28 An important point early in the campaign was McCain’s plan to eliminate excess government and spending. He should talk more about these issues as opposed to spending more of our money.

9:37 McCain doesn’t want tax breaks for the wealthy? Doesn’t sound like a typical Republican idea. Reaganomics anyone?

9:43 McCain going on about global warming and climate change. Although I support nuclear power as he does (though for different reasons), I worry that his environmental plans will require increased government regulation.

9:49 We need offshore oil drilling to help ease our oil troubles. McCain is right.

9:54 McCain should continue to hammer Obama on the issue of healthcare (though he should avoid jokes because too few of his are funny.)

9:56 Obama says healthcare is a right, but we all know who he thinks should pay for this “right”. Are not our rights God given? You know, stuff like liberty, free speech, free association and the like? Pretty sure healthcare doesn’t qualify as a right.

10:21 Obama thinks that we need to rebuild the economies of the former Soviet Republics? Great idea! Even if it was constitutional, I’m sure our weak economy can support it.

10:27 A league of Democracies? Thank you Woodrow Wilson! Nothing warms my heart like mortgaging our national sovereignty.

Toward the end there, I guess you notice that I didn’t make too many comments. Starting about 10:00, the main thought running through my head was, “when will this be over?” Oh well. I’m sure that we will all be waiting “eagerly” for the next one.

7 Replies to “While Watching the Debate”

  1. I’m curious – if we have God-given rights, how do we utilize those rights when we are sick or dead? If we have the God-given right to “life”, doesn’t that require being alive? Shouldn’t basic healthcare be available so that people can take advantage of their rights? I think if conservatives are typically “pro-life”, that means they should be more than “pro-existence” or “pro-conception.” We shouldn’t stop our caring for a child right after it comes out of it’s mother’s womb. If abortion is abhorrent, so are deaths due to malnutrition, ignored medical conditions, or diseases left untreated. Rights are indeed given by God, not the Constitution – it’s high time we started honoring God by serving others (whether through taxes, tithing, public service, or whatever means) instead of focusing on how we will keep the most money in our wallets to pay for the “services” of healthcare, education, and the like.

  2. There are a number of things people need in order to survive in our world. Paramount among these is both food and shelter with healthcare a little bit lower on the list. The question is though; do people have a right to these items? For example, if I am starving, can I legally steal from you or anyone else in order to feed myself? Or if I am without a home, can I demand quarter from you? At the same time, if I am sick, can I force you, under penalty of law, to give me medical care or can I thieve medicine from a doctor? Of course I cannot. One important facet of our society is the belief that my survival cannot infringe on your survival or wellbeing.

    I would like to say that everyone has adequate food shelter and healthcare, but if they do not, who should provide for them? So many times liberals say that the government should do so. One glaring problem with this solution is the fact that the government has no legal authority to do so. Then again, even if it did have such power, should it exercise it? When does one have to take personal responsibility or can one rely on society to cover one’s needs? But Joshua, you might say, you’ve never had to do without. Here you are wrong. For the last several years when it comes to healthcare, many times I had to do without. I cannot recall specifically when I had health insurance last. It was 2003 I think. Unfortunately, I was in a situation where I was unable to afford it. There were several times when I thought I should go to the doctor, but did not do so due to lack of money. Should I be able reach into either your or the doctor’s pocket in order to cover my expense? Does my “right” to healthcare supercede your right to your property and your wealth?

    Now don’t misunderstand me. Should less fortunate people receive help? Absolutely. However, that task should not and must not fall to a nanny state government. Once we give the government the absolute power over our healthcare, food, or shelter, we become her slaves. Those in power can grant or deny these needs based upon blind loyally to the state and its ideology. With the death of personal responsibility comes the death of freedom. When freedom dies, so too does the spirit of our great nation. Charity is needed, but it must be freely given or else it is not charity, but rather an entitlement. We must not look to the government for our solutions, but rather churches, nonprofits, and kind-hearted individuals. Our creator, the Lord God YHWH, in his great wisdom, has given us all the power of free choice, the power to choose between right and wrong. Consider the example of the Good Samaritan. When some individuals saw the wounded man by the side of the road did they choose to help him? No, they did not. Did God strike them dead or imprison them for their choice? Or did God take money from their purses to aid the man? Of course not. But then did God abandon the man in his hour of need? No, one of his children, a Good Samaritan, chose to help him as a result of his own free will. I ask that if God does not force us to be charitable, then how can the government compel us to do so? Should we give freely to charity? Certainly. But it must be freely given. Let me ask you, does true authority come from God, or does it come through force and compulsion? Which do we want to serve as our highest model?

    Ultimately it comes down to a question of responsibility. Who is more responsible for my survival and my actions too? Is it myself, or is it my neighbor, society, or the government. For the conservative (and libertarian as well) the answer is clear.

  3. “it’s high time we started honoring God by serving others (whether through taxes, tithing, public service, or whatever means) instead of focusing on how we will keep the most money in our wallets to pay for the “services” of healthcare, education, and the like.”
    -Mike D

    I think the real question at hand is whether this is the responsibility of the government. The government should not force people to help those in need. It is a decision that must be made on a personal level and not forced upon people.

    The Romans during the time of Jesus were not helping those Jews who were facing hard times, yet Jesus still said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” To me this implies that Christians should not expect the government to carry out the lords work and recognize their is a separation between the Kingdom of God and the ruling governments. Christians
    should be giving and generous on their own time without being prodded into doing so by our governments.

    While you address this Joshua I think that your “book” length response if easy to get lost in.

  4. “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

    – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    (quote from speech on 04-07-1967, obtained from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm)

  5. I’m concerned by the constant references I hear on all sides to the “royal we” who should “care” more. Whenever someone uses a term like that they really usually mean “you.”

    I won’t get into the religious aspects of fundamental rights, but strictly from a moral-ethical point of view, one can see rights as positivistic or negativistic. That is, a right is either what is or is not permitted by law. In the Anglo-American system, one is generally assumed to have a right unless it is specifically abrogated or circumscribed. In the Continental system, one has a right if it is granted and delineated by an act of the government. I favor the former, needless to say – rights are natural, I would argue, not granted.

    So is healthcare a right? Let’s look at it a little more systematically. Right to life? Yes. But that means, a right not to have one’s life taken capriciously by government or private individuals, not a right to have one’s life maintained by and at the expense of others, indefinitely. Moreover, if natural rights move into the realm of subsidiary rights, that is “You can’t have X without Y,” then they aren’t really natural at all – they’re being conceptualized within a framework of someone giving out one thing and not another. That is to say, giving someone a right to life, but not the right to maintain it. This is a rhetorical construction right out of the Soviet era and it doesn’t work any better now than it did then. Every person has an obligation to see to their own wellbeing and to make choices that advance that goal. Dividing up the country into “needs” and “don’t-needs” is morally wrong. There’s a distinct difference between giving someone something freely and taking that thing from someone else.

    But if the more fundamental of the two is natural, not given, the subsidiary really becomes a responsibility in this case. You have a right to life, but so does everyone else, and it falls to you to maintain it and defend it, both philosophically, though your actions and participation in the governing system, and physically, by means of insuring yourself against harm.

    I agree that this is a hard thing to say, particularly when many people who are probably very deserving go without healthcare. But socializing the medical system would lead us down the road to negativistic rights. And to be honest, there are plenty of people who do not have insurance who still receive healthcare in emergencies – no hospital in the country has ever refused emergency healthcare to a patient in need without incurring the wrath of the medical establishment of violating their Hippocratic oaths. I don’t buy those arguments which run along the lines “What about the poor man in Miluakee who breaks his leg in a traffic crossing and then slips on an oil slick and…” etc. etc. And coercing some people into paying for others is no way to run a healthcare system.

    Moreover, I’d like to add that there’s a basic contradiction inherent in any plan of socialization in that it treats citizens differently based upon how much money they make. Somehow, having a lower income makes some citizens “real americans,” deserving of more rights than others, in particular the right to take part of what the rest (the “not-real” Americans, I suppose) have. Reverse the rhetoric and there would be total public outcry and the injustice of it all.

  6. I really appreciate Matt’s helpful and thorough response. I disagree with his conclusions, but his arguments and train of thought were clear and understandable. And I take to heart the criticism of using the “royal we”.

    As Brent points out, it can seem out of place to quote MLK in a conservative blog. However, some Republicans want to claim the “socialist” King – http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/18/AR2006101801754.html

    In a final response, the conservative movement’s selective appropriation of Scripture and Christian morals doesn’t sit well with me. For example, both Brent and Josh quoted Scripture to say that individuals, not government, should take care of others. Yet passages such as Acts 2:40-47 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=90647941) and Matthew 6:24-33 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=90648115) are ignored. Prooftexting is a horrible way to make any policy, in government or in religion. It leads to inconsistencies within the general message of Scripture and in the use of the policies itself. For example, I cannot remember a time when I heard a conservative say anything like ‘I wish I were taxed less so that I could give more to the least, the last, and the lost.’ The debate always centers around the “right to your property and your wealth”, as Josh put it. If giving to others as individuals is a genuine concern of conservatives, I would like to see it be made more explicit and see explanations as to how churches or other religious organizations can address the same needs of the poor and marginalized on a large scale. Consistency between faith/principle and action is essential in any philosophy of life, conservative or otherwise.

    I know this debate about responsibilities versus rights has been held throughout the ages, but I appreciate the opportunity to have it here. For however much I agree or disagree with Josh and others, it’s good to talk about, and then act upon, these ideas.

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