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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Healthcare reform: Personal responsibility or Welfare State?

Today two commendable articles touch on the topic of personal responsibility, which has profound implications for healthcare reform:
The Element of Seduction, a blog entry by T. M. Moore, and "GOP Rep. Paul Ryan tackles Obama's path to deficit disaster," a Washington Post Op-Ed by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson.
Moore writes, "Are Americans being seduced by government to acquiesce in the increasing centralization of power? Roger Kimball fears it may be so. Writing in The New Criterion (January 2010) he insists, following Hayek, that government's tendency to usurp responsibility from citizens becomes a form of seduction, enticing Americans to prefer an existence of being provided for over taking responsibility for their lives.
This shift of responsibility from individuals, families, churches, and communities to federal bureaucrats takes place slowly. Government is sapping the will of the electorate, who are simply unwilling to resist or decline whatever perk Washington waves before them. When government offers to pick up the tab and collect the revenues from someone other than us, we seem all too happy to let things happen.
Gerson contrasts the economic philosophy of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.; photo at left) with that of President Obama and his party:
"For decades, culminating in the Obama health reform proposal, Democrats have attempted to build a political constituency for the welfare state by expanding its provisions to larger and larger portions of the middle class.
"Ryan proposes a federal system that focuses on helping the poor, while encouraging the middle class to take more personal responsibility in a dynamic economy. It is the appeal of security vs. the appeal of independence and enterprise."
Most Americans want our government to help the poor. Lately, though, it seems that Washington politicians are borrowing our money and our children's money just to help themselves get reelected. They are doing so by expanding government-funded entitlements well beyond the poor and needy to the middle class, because the middle class largely determines who gets elected.
Besides borrowing, these politicians would attempt to put the burden of healthcare costs on businesses including insurance companies, as if a strong free market economy could ever be obtained through government mandates, unjust penalties and hyper-regulation. The current healthcare bills would also mandate that the young and healthy pay premiums that cover the costs of the old and sick.
These politicians would do well to remember that Americans favor compassion—not communism. The failure of communism has shown that Government is actually a lousy distributor of wealth, and that the best form of collectivism emanates from the character of the citizens, not the coercion of the government.
As T.M. Moore concludes, "Before the element of seduction turns us all into rats at the federal Skinner bar, we need something to renew and fortify the character of the American electorate. And this is not a job for political parties. The renewal of character must come from the churches and, ultimately, from the Lord."

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