A few mini-thoughts, conveniently assembled into a single post for your reading pleasure:
- I’m about one-third complete with A Patriot’s History of the United States. It’s not bad insofar as it hits the major themes of American history, but the book is vexing in that it seems written not as a one-volume primer on U.S. history, but as a point-by-point rebuttal of left-wing opinions about U.S. history. It’s unquestionably an ideological view of America — complete with unsupported assertions about what, e.g., the Founders thought about slavery and natural law — and it reflexively argues for a free-market interpretation of such events as Andrew Jackson’s crushing of the Second Bank of the United States, which in the context of the book was not a happy event. I’ll finish the volume, but from a purely historiographical perspective, I’m not impressed despite being sympathetic.
- One of the most sublime treatises on morality, I think, is the first half of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. The core argument — that there is no sin apart from the law — presents a useful check to those who wish to find a home in the law, or at least in moral code that’s heavily legalistic in its approach. The specific example I keep thinking about, in the context of this point, is sexual morality. A friend of mine from elementary school once remarked that although she wants a baby, she won’t have sex until she’s married. Her abstinence is cultural, rooted in religion; there is a perspective that religion forbids pre-marital sex, so she will remain a virgin until her wedding night. Fair enough. But the whole point about abstinence isn’t “don’t have sex until you’re married” — the point is that people are intrinsically valuable as moral agents in themselves, and ought not to be treated instrumentally. So, the letter of the law says, abstain from premarital sex. But the spirit of the law says, do not treat others as merely an object of desire-gratification; treat them as human persons worthy of dignity. Hence, many forms of premarital sex are surely sinful, in that they’re merely hookups designed for the easy fix. But is a non-marital but loving relationship that includes sexual activity genuinely sinful? What is it about the simple act of marriage — which, from the persepective of Catholic sacramental theology, is merely a function of desire for that long-term, loving commitment — that takes an activity and gives it a positive or negative moral status? Doesn’t intentionality trump the circumstantial accidents of an act?
- Yet another rhetorical question: What, exactly, qualifies Barack Obama to be the next chief executive of the most powerful state in human history? I’m genuinely curious.
- There’s a lot of hot air being bandied around about universal health care. One aspect of health care that receives too little attention — because, no doubt, of its status as “slayer of political ambition” — is reform of our odd system of employer-supplied insurance coverage. Jobs that provided health benefits are relatively new; the phenomenon started during World War II, when non-monetary benefits were extended to employees as an incentive that skirted the federal government’s wage controls during the war. Like all largesse flowing to the masses, it’s a one-way ratchet, so that today, we have an utterly bizarre system that treats all healthcare, even routine well care, as an insurable event (isn’t the point of insurance to mitigate against catastrophic risk?), and this insurance is supposed to be supplied not by the policy holder, but by the the policy holder’s employer. In a moral sense, can someone explain why my boss has to pay to ensure that I have my annual physical? Yes, it’s possible to rationalize the benefits of the current system retrospectively, but it’s a Sisyphean task to explain why the system itself is the most appropriate choice in a moral, political, or economic sense. If Americans want “affordable health care,” then Job #1 is cost containment. This is done chiefly by making the consumers responsible for their level of utilization (i.e., allowing the market to determine pricing), and THAT is done by ensuring that patients have a direct financial stake in their overall plan of care. Giving Uncle Sam a monopoly on the provision of benefits or services isn’t the right solution, in any sense.
All for now.