Many conservatives would go this far with Frank: Government is one way we choose to work together, and there are certain things we need to do collectively that only government can do.
But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres.
I’ve noticed that we have no more private contractors, because we have an army. Before 1776, life was paradise for Blackwater but the minute we formed militias, they were fucked. Such a sad state for a glorious private enterprise.
Sometimes this crowding out happens gradually, subtly, indirectly. Every tax dollar the government takes is a dollar that can’t go to charities and churches.
Or to Applebees. Won’t the government think of the jalapeno poppers?
This is another “reasonable conservative” tic I’ve noticed from acquaintances of late: “I, personally, would give more money to charity or hire more people at my office if I paid less in taxes and various fees.” And yes, you, nice person that I know, probably would. Ross might actually give more to charity if he had that money laying around. Does that mean we should give EVERY rich person free money on the off chance one or two of them might kick in $25 to the local food pantry?
How is that any less governmental social engineering?
Every program the government runs, from education to health care to the welfare office, can easily become a kind of taxpayer-backed monopoly.
There is distinct lack ofsoup kitchens and food pantries, now we have a welare office. What a fucking idiot.
But sometimes the state goes further. Not content with crowding out alternative forms of common effort, it presents its rivals an impossible choice: Play by our rules, even if it means violating the moral ideals that inspired your efforts in the first place, or get out of the community-building business entirely.
This is exactly the choice that theWhite House has decided to offer a host of religious institutions — hospitals, schools and charities — in the era of Obamacare. The new health care law requires that all employer-provided insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization and the morning-after (or week-after) pill known asella, which can work as an abortifacient.
A) No, it doesn’t.
B) This does not, actually, violate the consciences of anybody, and here’s why: Hospitals and insurers only have to COVER contraception, andonly if they employ large numbers of non-Catholic employees. Nobody who is Catholic has to take it. Therefore, we should be counting on the large numbers of Catholics who are so serious about this shit that they won’t take the pill to stand up for their own morals and against the horror that is Obamacare.
Ponder that for a moment. In effect, the Department of Health and Human Services is telling religious groups that if they don’t want to pay for practices they consider immoral, they should stick to serving their own co-religionists rather than the wider public. Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not.
Yes. Catholic hospitals are justin this for the decency of serving others. I’m not saying some of them weren’t, in the beginning, but you can’t pretend that a lot of this isn’t profit-driven, and a lot of that profit isn’t helped by massive tax exemptions.
The rule suggests a preposterous scenario in which a Catholic hospital avoids paying for sterilizations and the morning-after pill by closing its doors to atheists and Muslims, and hanging out a sign saying “no Protestants need apply.”
Actually, that is exactly what Catholics leaders are saying by choosing not to follow the law. You know, this is a thing I keep hearing from Catholic officials in other contexts, this constant talk about church canon law, as if that should supersede actual real-life American law. I’m pleased as punch we all have our own ways of doing things and our own rules, but when you get right down to it, if you want to be a member of a community, you have to do more than just loudly demand that the entire community “respect” your beliefs by changing its morality to suit yours.
The larger point Ross is making is actually more offensive, though: We can either have government or charity but not both. Our government cannot pursue any common good, because that will mean that everybody will assume shit is all handled and we can go back to watching the Super Bowl. If someone else has it taken care of, then I don’t need to give a shit.
I don’t know if Ross has met any of his fellow humans, but we’re actually not like that. I post a lot of stuff about how stupid and selfish and mean we can be, but I believe people are basically decent and that given half a chance we will help one another. Given half a chance and a bit of encouragement, we will feed the stranger and clothe the naked and take care of the grandma whose car broke down on the freeway. I know this because I’ve seen it happen at least as often as I’ve seen people be awful, and I choose to believe that love isn’t a bowl of sugar. There isn’t only so much. If our government takes care of many of us, we will still take care of each other, because that’s what we do. It’s in our bones and blood, and hundreds of years of inhuman cruelty haven’t beaten it out of us, not entirely.
Decent government that acts in our interests doesn’t kill the charitable impulse. It encourages it. It offers official approval of the nagging feeling in the pits of our stomachs that says, “somebody should be helping these people.” It represents, outwardly, the best of us, and the only reason Ross or anybody like him has a problem with that concept is they don’t want to be forced to give a shit about anybody but themselves.
And that’s fine, really. There are nice libertarian islands being built for people like that.