Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Battle for the Moral High Ground

Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, the long shot candidate Barack Obama was often criticized for being vague on the issues. But as I wrote in my critique on Obama’s roundly lauded Reverend Wright speech of 3/18/09:

Senator Obama is a thoughtful, philosophical, and talented orator. He apparently knows that to sell a political package requires a belief by people that it is right.

Statism rests on a collectivist base. But collectivism depends on a certain moral foundation without which it cannot be sustained. That moral foundation is altruism. Altruism holds self-sacrificial service to others as one’s highest moral purpose.

Cashing in on the dominant ideas accepted either explicitly or implicitly in most of American culture, this articulate, smooth-talking “uniter” will lead us down a well-worn path… a path leading to ever-diminishing individual freedom and self-determination.

That “cashing in” is now being brought to bear on the healthcare debate. In a clear political change in strategy, reports the New York Times, President Obama “sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as ‘a core ethical and moral obligation’ ”. Speaking to “a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system”, Obama said:

"There's been a lot of misinformation in this debate and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness. These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation, and that is that we look out for one another." (Emphasis added.)

“Let us be our brother’s keeper", implored the then Senator Obama in that 3/18/09 speech, “let us be our sister’s keeper…Let us find that common stake we all have in one another…and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.” (Emphasis added.)

The launch of his new strategy “to reframe the health care debate “ before a “group of religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system” is clearly motivated by Obama’s understanding of the common moral bridge between religion and the collectivist Left. More importantly, though, is the historical tie between religion and the state as the enforcer of religious moral law (statism). The Jewish state of Israel, after all, is a socialist-leaning mixed economy. Sharia law is common in Muslim countries. And Christianity’s dominant force, the Catholic Church, has a long-standing tradition of embracing the state to achieve its version of “social justice” and the “common good”. Declared Pope Paul VI in a major 1967 encyclical:

If the world is made to furnish each individual with the means of livelihood and the instruments for his growth and progress, each man has therefore the right to find in the world what is necessary for himself. The recent Council reminded us of this: "God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people. Thus, as all men follow justice and unite in charity, created goods should abound for them on a reasonable basis"[20] All other rights whatsoever, including those of property and of free commerce, are to be subordinated to this principle.

Individual initiative alone and the mere free play of competition could never assure successful development. Hence [government] programs are necessary in order " to encourage, stimulate, coordinate, supplement and integrate"[35] the activity of individuals and of intermediary bodies. It pertains to the public authorities to choose, even to lay down the objectives to be pursued, the ends to be achieved, and the means for attaining these, and it is for them to stimulate all the forces engaged in this common activity.
(Emphasis added.)

Many Christians, of course, disagree strongly that government force should be used to implement their Judeo-Christian altruist creed. But; In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.” The fundamental inconsistency of the Christian Right is a fatal flaw that dooms it to ultimate defeat against the moral righteousness of the statist Christian Left. This is what Obama understands, and is why his statement to the ministers is so logically consistent with his "Christian Strategy”.

And this is where the pro-capitalist forces in general stumble and ultimately fail. Almost across the board, the opponents of Obamacare concede the moral rightness of the President’s position. Said Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ anti-ideological ideologue of the Right:

"Talking Points" somewhat agrees with the president. Americans should look out for each other, but there are smart ways to do that and not so smart ways."

He then went on to tell us why Obamacare is impractical.

"The bottom line: Wild government spending has many Americans very concerned. The far left doesn't want to hear [about “practical” solutions] because those loons want income redistribution and see government-run health care as a way to do that."

Income redistribution is the political implementation of the “core ethical and moral obligation … to look out for one another”. Yet Mr. O’Reilly fails to challenge that ethical principle. Instead, he “somewhat agrees” with it, leaving Obama on the moral high ground.

Even when the moral issue is raised by someone on the Right, the fundamental principle of altruism is not exposed and explicitly challenged. The implicit egoistic ethics of America’s founding principles of the unalienable individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has been under relentless ivory-tower assault since the country’s start, because of just such a lack of any comprehensive philosophical defense. That attack descended from the ivory towers to the political arena by the 20th century, igniting a relentless statist trend under the banner of “Liberalism” (or "Progressivism") that continues with the Obama Democrats’ agenda.

This period of rising statism is marked by a steady, stair-step type advance punctuated by conservative -- or “swing to the Right” -- interludes. These conservative interludes have primarily been periods of consolidation for the statists in preparation for the expansion of government under the next electoral “swing to the Left”. A good example of this process is described by Dr. Michael J. Hurd:

"We stand where we are today, on the brink of government dictatorship in medicine, because after the defeat of Hillary Clinton's plan all those years ago, Republicans proposed NOTHING to replace the high level of government regulation and control we have."

Indeed, modern conservatives almost unanimously defend our current system. It has its strengths, of course, especially compared to the rest of the world. But those strengths come from the remaining elements of freedom in the system, which are fast disappearing under the darkening skies of statism. Conservatism is utterly devoid of any record of actually stopping the advance of statism, let alone rolling it back.

What accounts for this failure? Watch the Right’s response to Obama’s moral challenge. They concede all of the Left’s fundamental premises; that it is the government’s job to guarantee some level of healthcare to all through a social safety net (It was a GOP controlled congress that handed President Clinton the original SCHIP bill in 1997); that insurers should be “regulated”; that government is responsible, in some way, for insuring the “46 million uninsured”; that socialists are motivated by “good (i.e., altruistic) intentions”.

The American Right is in full moral retreat, with an unrelenting willingness to compromise on the political front as the logical manifestation. Moral surrender leads to political surrender. You will see that there is only one force from the Right…that is to say, the pro-capitalist…side of the political spectrum that will engage the Left directly on the ethical battleground.

It is only Objectivism …which is in fact a philosophical, not a political, movement … that will state clearly, unequivocally, and with full moral righteousness and certainty that there is no moral obligation to help others, that no man is morally his brother’s keeper, that no man has a moral claim on the life of another, and that President Obama’s healthcare “reform” plans are immoral to the core.

The issue, of course, is not charity (or looking out for one another) as such. That is a personal value decision. The issue is whether charity is a moral obligation. If it is, then those claiming a “need” have a moral claim on the earnings, wealth, property, skills…i.e., the lives…of their “brothers and sisters”. If this is the case, then socialism is moral, and capitalism is, at best, amoral. Once one concedes the moral altruist premise that promoting others’ well-being is a “moral obligation”, and that capitalism must be justified on the basis that it is the “smart way to do that”, the battle is over. This type of “defense” of capitalism is the primary reason for the utter failure of American conservatism. I offer, as proof, the example of American medicine and the ever-rising intrusion of government interference over the past 75 years.

Obama’s appeal to morality and to the religious community is extremely significant. He has now fully exposed, in a clear, concrete form, where the real battle lines are drawn.

"It is not from your own goods that you give to the beggar; it is a portion of his own that you are restoring to him. The earth belongs to all. So you are paying back a debt and think you are making a gift to which you are not bound. You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his." – St. Ambrose

"Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal." –Ayn Rand

The moral battle is – altruism vs. egoism. The political battle is – the state vs. the individual. The political battle depends upon the survival of America’s core founding principle…the principle of unalienable individual rights. But the outcome of the second battle depends upon the outcome of the first.

The reason is simple. You cannot separate the political right to life from the moral right to life, because the principle of individual rights is itself a moral concept. Individual rights are a guarantee of your freedom to act in accordance with your own moral values and independent rational judgement. The only political-economic social system consonant with the principle of individual rights is capitalism.

Capitalism has won the economic argument. It is, thus, the answer to the problems plaguing our semi-socialist, semi-fascist, semi-free healthcare system. But, as history makes clear, capitalism cannot win on economic grounds alone. Capitalism must now win the moral battle.

Of all of the disparate elements of the Right now united against Obamacare, Objectivism stands alone as the only movement with the consistent intellectual firepower to win the moral battle now unfolding. Objectivism alone holds that:

"Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life. Thus Objectivism rejects any form of altruism—the claim that morality consists in living for others or for society."

To defeat Obamacare, as the first step toward the systematic roll-back of the statist-collectivist establishment in America, the Right must be ready to embrace Ayn Rand’s revolutionary new non-predatory, rights-respecting morality of rational self-interest. Without it, the best that can be hoped for is just another in a long line of consolidation periods of the statist trend. As long as the Left is allowed to hold the Right hostage to the altruist trump card, the full adoption of their socialist agenda will be only a matter of time. They will not stop at government-run healthcare. The key to winning the healthcare battle and the war for freedom and capitalism in America is to “take the moral high ground—which is ours by logical right”.

1 comment:

Andrew Clunn said...

Excellent article. This gets to the heart of both what the political right should be doing, and the ethical venue of detail side-stepping that Obama is attempting.