The Catholic Thing
The Closing of the Secular Progressive Mind Print E-mail
By Francis J. Beckwith   
Friday, 17 January 2014

There are many unfortunate consequences of the culture wars. But one in particular, rarely noticed, is how it has insulated secular progressive academics from the habits of mind, ways of life, and types of reasoning that are integral to the worldview of religious conservatives. Consider just these two examples.

On the matter of the sanctity of human life, secular progressives will sometimes accuse religious conservatives of only caring about the unborn child before he is born, but not afterwards. They often go on to argue that if you do not support abortion rights, then you lack compassion for women in crisis pregnancies. Consequently, if you are not willing have your tax dollars fund abortion, contraceptive services, and child welfare programs for those poor women who do not choose abortion, then you are selfish and greedy.

What secular progressives miss is how their position sounds to religious conservatives. For this is what they hear: a pregnant woman has a greater obligation to pay for her neighbor’s abortion, contraception, and children’s welfare than she has to care for the innocent, defenseless child in her own womb.  For the religious conservative, this sounds like the secular progressive is saying that those closest to us and to whom it seems we have a special responsibility – our own family members, those children we sire and beget – demand less of us morally than people we do not even know.

This sounds so strange to religious conservatives that they find it difficult to believe that otherwise intelligent people, who claim to be the champions of empathy, sympathy, compassion, and community, are actually suggesting that charity does not begin at home.

I am, of course, not suggesting that religious conservatives believe that we do not have obligations to those outside our family circle. For to suggest such a thing would be inconsistent with what virtually all religious conservatives believe their faith teaches about the wideness of the human community and the common good.

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on Earth, having had nearly two millennia of experience in creating and sustaining a wide array of institutions in areas as diverse as education, health care, and poverty relief.

What I am saying – and what religious conservatives actually believe – is that without charity first being nurtured in home and hearth, it becomes more difficult for our nation to understand what it means to love the desperate stranger, the lonely neighbor, or the homeless immigrant.

Similarly: On the issue of marriage, secular progressives often depict the view of religious conservatives as arising purely from animus against gay and lesbian citizens. In fact, this depiction has been so successfully advanced in the culture that even the deeply literate Justice Anthony Kennedy has made it the one dogma of his sexual orientation jurisprudence that cannot in principle be disproven.

But for religious conservatives, the distance between this depiction and how they really think of marriage is so great that they do not recognize themselves in it. Yet because the portrayal is so deeply ingrained in the wider culture, any rebuttal of the depiction sounds to the secular progressive as a desperate rewriting of reality in order to rescue a floundering political cause. Nevertheless, let’s give it a try.

For religious conservatives, marriage is a unique institution in which two members of the two halves of the human race – male and female – are united so that they may forge a permanent bond for the primary (though not exclusive) purpose of begetting and raising children.

This bond is more than the sum total of its parts, since the permanent uniting of male and female in matrimony provides to the partners’ progeny as well as the wider community a protected and honored place in which the different needs, desires, and complementary powers of each partner may flourish for the common good. That is, marriage is truly a merging – a wedding, if you will – of the only sorts of humans nature knows, male and female.

Behind the religious conservative’s understanding of marriage is a particular philosophical anthropology that maintains gender complementarity as essential to matrimony. Consequently, on this view, sexual orientation is irrelevant to marriage. That is, gender is the only concrete and objective difference between human beings that bears on the nature of marriage.

For that reason, as long as a marriage is consummated and it includes only one man and one woman, the sexual orientation of the partners is of no relevance to its licitness. This is based on the belief that marriage is a special sort of community in which the discord of the fundamental difference of gender may be truly unified for the common good, the good of its participants, and the children born of that union.

For advocates of this view, what grounds the nature of marriage is similar to, and in some cases overlaps, what grounds a variety of other moral beliefs that ordinary people (and some philosophers) associate with the proper ends of human nature, such as the belief that human beings have intrinsic dignity, are not by nature property, ought not to kill each other without justification, and should eschew ignorance and seek knowledge and wisdom.

Clearly, this philosophical anthropology is essentialist and teleological, which means that it is out of step with the dominant understandings of the philosophy of nature in the academy. Nevertheless, it is an integral aspect of many reasonable worldviews, including the world’s major religions as well as several philosophical schools of thought.

In the largely insular world of the secular academy, there is virtually no attempt to try to understand the beliefs of religious conservatives on their own terms. Although that certainly harms religious conservatives, it harms secular progressives and their students even more. For it denies them the sort of full-orbed appreciation of differences that secular universities incessantly preach, but rarely practice.

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University. 

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Comments (30)Add Comment
written by Avery Tödesuhl, January 17, 2014
Thanks, Dr. Beckwith for a thoughtful post.

Having taught at a institution of higher ed with a mostly Mennonite ideology in the Northeast and now at a state university in the South, I see the distinction between religious conservatives and secular progressives somewhat differently than you picture here. The semi-Mennonite positions were sometimes conservative like you have depicted, and sometimes crazy liberal. Most of the clergy associated with the school were in favor of same-sex marriage, but would've defended the "charity begins at home" doctrine you outlined. Were they "religious conservatives"? They certainly thought of themselves that way!

OTHO, here in a southern state university, I have encountered many thorough-going Roman Catholic conservatives involved at every level of the administration and faculty. It is not a Roman Catholic institution and can be terribly secular (starting with a week long Gay Pride event), but I find it much more open to traditional Roman Catholic values than that presumptively "Christian conservative" schlechter Ort in the Northeast.

Perhaps the root of the secular progress rigidity lies in the crabbed rigidity of these Protestant groups as Brad Gregory has detailed in his book "The Unintended Reformation." From my experience, his thesis has great explanatory power.
written by Rich in MN, January 17, 2014
Dr Beckwith,
I apologize for not grasping the full force of your "charity begins at home" example, but I think the core dichotomy is between a holistic view of human rights/dignity and a "cherry picking" view of human rights/dignity. If someone were to say to me, "If you don't let me kill my child, then you must raise it," I would certainly point them toward "Cradle of Hope" (to which I donate) and other agencies. However, I would be biting my tongue not to ask them, "So if I am not willing and able to support any human, you should have the right to kill them? Would that include the homeless? Would that include toddlers? Would that include the elderly or those with mental illness? Would that include the handicapped? Is that your criterion for judging their right to live?" Other than Peter Singer, I don't know of anyone who might answer "Yes" to all of these questions.
written by George Yancey, January 17, 2014
Very insightful post. I have studied cultural progressives and you are correct in that they do not spend much time considering how issues may look from the perspective of religious conservatives. In fact, they dismiss the concerns of religious conservatives. They conceptualize conservative leaders as corrupt manipulators who are evil and care about themselves more than society. They envision conservative followers as brainwashed, authoritarian followers who are too stupid to think for themselves. They see the conservative movement as irrational and threatening to lead us back to the dark ages. With these sorts of images in mind there is little wonder why they do not take the concerns of religious conservatives very seriously.
If you are interested in this work and in reading how cultural progressive think about issues in their own words then check out my book "What Motivates Cultural Progressives". Thanks and have a blessed day.
written by ken tremendous, January 17, 2014
A little acknowledgement that there is at least some truth in the view that religious conservatives care more about the born than the unborn would have been refreshing.

Religious conservatives frequently gesture towards private charity while opposing most of the ways our society has tried to help families with children. For instance, they generally opposed mandatory unpaid family leave policies as they currently oppose efforts to make such leave paid. Currently nearly every industrialized country in the world has more generous leave time than the US. Here there support for laissez faire Republicanism takes priority.

Religious conservatives have generally opposed efforts to extend health insurance to children of lower income families since to them opposing "big govt." is far more important than ensuring access to health care for kids who were born. The same is true with aid for education and nutritional programs.

At the state level,, religious conservatives are often at the forefront of efforts to cut services for the disabled including those with intellectual disabilities. Similarly efforts to more generously fund high risk insurance pools to treat people with chronic conditions (as a much cheaper alternative to Obamacare) find no support among religious conservatives and even active opposition since 1) these programs that help such people are admittedly expensive and 2) religious conservative do not want to breed "dependency" among vulnerable populations and 3) religious conservatives would much prefer to save room in the budget for tax cuts especially for "job creators".

So while I support the religious conservative opposition to abortion, I think such opposition does at times ring hollow since it is coupled with a strange hostility to any efforts to help vulnerable populations once they are born.

And sorry but I don't think Catholic Charities especially shorn of its state aid (as religious conservatives would prefer) could even come close to doing what the governmental safety net currently does.
written by Tony Esolen, January 17, 2014
To Ken above: I've met that argument before, that private charity could not possibly accomplish what government aid can. The only argument in favor of that proposition is the highly unlikely one, that government is actually more efficient at delivering the aid where it is most needed, as quickly as possible, as effectively as possible, as efficiently as possible, with least loss in transmission, and with least moral hazard to the recipient or to society at large. I think that once the argument is stated in those terms, the absurdity becomes apparent. As for the money itself, the government doesn't have any of its own. It has only our money.

Conservatives that I know are usually quite generous in their giving to charity, and generous in the personal time they spend in charitable efforts. The trouble with the Welfare State is that it makes poverty intergenerational. It supplants the father in the home. It is the means whereby A uses B's money to buy C's vote, while "helping" C to remain exactly where C is.

written by Howard Kainz, January 17, 2014
Ken Tremendous makes a good point. The negative, opposition to abortion, should always be accompanied with the positive support of pregnant women. One of the best positive approaches is support of adoption, through agencies like Cradle of Hope, Heroic Media, and also Catholic Charities.
written by Thomas Aquinas, January 17, 2014

Beckwith didn't mention "Catholic Charities.' He mentioned the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church, which pre-dates the US welfare state by some 1900 years.

written by Augustine Thomas, January 17, 2014
Umm.. Alright.. It can't be disproven that people with sincerely held and demonstrable religious beliefs actually believe in their religion and not blind hatred of people with sexual dysfunction.

You know what else can't be disproven? That Jews are secretly trying to take over this country and need to be sent to death camps! Or that blacks really need lynching.

This is so ridiculous to even suggest that these people have any kind of point whatsoever. Beckwith is supposedly one of our great minds, but like most wimpy contemporary Catholics, he's so concerned about not offending leftists that he never gets around to acting like a martyr.
written by Kurt, January 17, 2014
I think one of the central problems illustrated by the so-called culture wars is the fact that most secular progressives do not read nuanced journals (like this one), which articulate the moral reasoning behind the views of religious conservatives. (The reverse is also true, based on some of the comments posted here, but that's another matter.) What my liberal friends think of when they think of religious conservatives is not a thoughtful person like Prof. Beckwith, but the pompous gasbags who run our shared home of Texas. They see and hear people like Rick Perry, Louie Gohmert, Steve Stockman, Pete Sessions, and others who, while invoking Jesus, do everything the secular progressives decry and then some. When the public face of religious conservatism comprises such people, you should not be surprised when progressives' view of conservative believers is distorted: what they see is what they've got.
written by Paul, January 17, 2014
Best case, the "lefties" or "progressives" can't see the ultimate consequences of their polocies on society. Worse case, they want to destroy society. If Pharoh had ultrasound technology it might have been Miriam at Mt. Sinia not Moses.
written by Cliff Staples, January 17, 2014
As a former secular progressive with too many years in academia, I have to say that Professor Beckwith has it about right. I recall some years ago, in one of those diversity pep rallies, looking around the room and at one point saying "Since we're always asking everyone to pay attention to who is NOT in the room, how many of you are NOT liberals or leftists or atheists?" I think I got two agnostics, so-called, and a lot of uncomfortable shifting around in chairs. It was about then, I think, that I started mentally packing my bags...
written by ken tremendous, January 17, 2014
OK Tony I’m about to knock your socks off. Most normal people outside the literary world define “efficiency” as bang for the buck. But per capita spending on Medicaid is around $6500 vs. $8500 per beneficiary per annum on private insurance. Which sounds more efficient to you? Its even worse when you add in the fact that well under 80% of private insurance premiums even pay for benefits but are rather soaked up by administrative costs.
Granted Medicare (another big “inefficient” program) is a little over $10,000 a year per beneficiary but which is not bad given that old people have a lot more health needs than younger ones. Also Medicare has grown far more slowly over the past two decades than private insurance.
What about social security another dreaded welfare state program. It has administrative costs of less than 1% on a total budget of nearly $800 billion. Show me one private firm in America that has so little administrative overhead.
Food stamps are a little less efficient with administrative costs around 4.5% but that is because the program is means tested and thus more tricky to administer.
You may not like these programs for other ideological reasons, Tony but they are no inefficient, not by any stretch of the imagination. The money goes overwhelmingly to the intended recipients and not to bureaucrats.
Whence the inefficiency in govt? Any time the govt. uses private contractors to do things (think military procurement, building roads, buildings etc.) Once private firms learn how to game the system they jack up the cost of doing anything. But public administration contrary to GOP dogma is not inherently inefficient.
So now that we have disposed of the derp concerning govt. “inefficiency” let’s get to the heart of the issue. Do you really and truly believe Tony that the Catholic Church could administer something like social security, medicare, Medicaid etc. on private contributions? What reason is there to believe even in the fantasy world of literature and GOP talking points in which you reside that even if the Catholic Church could administer these programs that it could do so magically more efficiently than the current public administration who do it now? Are dioceses known for their “efficiency”? The Vatican? Does anyone think Italians have a great track record of public administrative efficiency?
No, for the Church to do what the government currently does, she would have to have real taxation powers plus the same public accountability that we currently demand of government. She’d in other words have to be much less like the Church and much more like the federal government? I understand that we want to preserve private charity in the context of a welfare state. But do we really think we can bring back the Church of the middle ages? Would we want to even if we could?
written by Jack,CT, January 17, 2014
Dr Beckwith,
Socio/Economic issues are hard to summize in a single article.I see "Abortion" issue thrown in for good measure is even harder to dumb down!
I apreciate the "Tone" and respect for what non progressives call "Gay Rights'.

I feel disgusted by the reerences to "Jews and Blacks' in the comment section and it simply distaces us from ever resolving issues between Progressies and Conservatives.
I refuse to read a particular contributor here simply
because of his hate for entire groups of people,he also attacks us who disagree and shows is true self,LOL.

So "what about conservatives who do NOT have children by choice?

federal safety nets and charitys work "together" to help those who need it and why not?

I guess the reality is what it is!

Great Article Dr Beckwith-

written by Aramis, January 17, 2014
Ken, with regard to "bringing back the church".. I guess it depends on if you want to go to heaven.

If your conscience is informed by the spirit of the times and you are more passionate about the political battles of your contemporaries then maybe that line of thought seems ridiculous.
written by Ernest Miller, January 17, 2014
Ken Tremendous, keep your socks on.

Government taxes currently consume 54% of the US annual gross product. Overall, government administrative operations are 24.8% of gross taxation...for any number of reasons, all mean benefits to the public are slightly less than 50% or 49.1% of tax revenues.

Notwithstanding that private business are burdened with non value-added regulatory requirements, including insurance firms.

So, funny that you believe that Medicare administrative has a greater bang for the buck than all government services averaged. Are they savants? No. It just a matter of cooking the books and you should know it. Just one observation: medicare patients are elderly and require more treatment than the general population, therefore, administrative costs are necessarily skewed relative to costs per patient.

Although, I must give you credit for your bravado and unashamed argument, please do not compare the mission of Christ's Church to a secular government. Its a nasty argument without merit.
written by maineman, January 17, 2014
Ken, I checked on your first, implausible argument and found that the increase in Medicaid spending has been 30% greater than private health insurance over the past several decades. So, which sounds more efficient to you?

Obviously, Medicaid spending is less because reimbursement limits for health care procedures by Medicaid are lower than those of private third party payers. Perhaps it will be news to you that the reason for this is that health care providers, of which I am one, bill higher for procedures in hopes that they can be compensated for the reduced reimbursements provided by Medicaid and Medicare, which often, if not usually, are provided at a loss.

What that means is that those with jobs and insurance are being taxed at the doctors to keep whole the health care system that is being depleted by public sector plans. That is, the system is being drained by these large, inefficient public programs, and the private sector is not only paying for itself but keeping the public sector from going under.

No time to go through the rest of your contentions, but I am confident that most or all of them are similarly distorted. Why someone would conclude that government is more efficient than the private sector is, um, hard to fathom.
written by Ireneus, January 18, 2014
Use of labels such as 'conservatives' and 'progressives' will just be like painting ourselves into a we-vs-them corner each time. Our true problem is moral relativism. Proof: many of those who believe in moral relativism unknowingly think that having no morals is relative.
written by ken tremendous, January 18, 2014

If I can take care of a medicaid patient for $6500 per year vs. $8500 for a private insurance patient that's more efficient by any reasonable definition of efficiency. No doctors don't treat such patients "at a loss", they simply make less money than they would like--just like the rest of fallen humanity.

I totally get why you like private insurance better--you make more. But let's drop the BS and see this for what it is--a self interested argument made by a member of a profession which in the US is grossly overpaid.

In other words, you like the inefficiency of private insurance because there is a much greater economic surplus that accrues to you. Nothing like a person cloaking his own self interest by appeals to abstract principles.

The one merit of medicaid and medicare is that they can--being a large customer--drive down payments more than private insurance can.
written by Louise, January 18, 2014
Ken, have you ever run a business? I'm curious because you don't seem to be aware of the cost of running a business. Being a doctor involves running a business, so yes, it is possible to provide medical care at a loss if the cost of doing business is not met. There are costs to running a medical business. Let me list some of those that would relate to a doctor: office rent and tenant improvement costs (or mortgage payments with property taxes and building repairs and tenant improvements and depreciation if you own), utilities, phone charges, liability insurance, storage costs, employee related expenses such as salaries, payroll taxes and health and worker's comp insurance and pension plan payments, medical supplies, medical equipment, lab fees, office supplies and equipment, professional fees such as licenses and tax preparation, continuing education expenses. I'm sure I'm missing something. And no, I am not a doctor nor employed in the medical field but no matter what business you are in there are substantial costs involved.
So it is very possible that Medicare could drive down the cost of medical care and drive doctors out of business by doing so. (Or discourage young people from choosing the field with the substantial costs involved in even becoming a doctor and the sacrifices of time involved in being one.)
written by maineman, January 18, 2014
Thank you, Ken, for enlightening me. I had not yet grasped the fact that I, and most people in the medical field, entered it primarily to get rich and that the welfare of the patient is only of secondary concern, if that.

At least the government cares.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 19, 2014
Ken T:

Self-reporting from the government is not reality, it is just pious fiction (the same as one-off reporting from "news" outlets or university "studies", which are largely led by the same technocrats who migrate in their careers through the revolving doors of these 3 symbiotic entities).

Having worked in the fed govt for >20 years, and then as a consultant for another 15, with mostly fed govt clients, I can tell you that these organizations are unwilling (and unable) to keep track of the money they spend. The unwillingness is disclosed in the retort from one Director of Resources (my boss) when asked by OMB to try to link spending to activities and results in the 1990's under the so-called GPRA (Govt Performance & Results Act): "Money is fungible, and we like it that way."

To give you another example Ken, if CGI (the consulting firm that built the failed ObamaCare web site), run by the First Lady's Princeton classmate, received >$675M for "building" the web site, and IT experts in Congressional testimony are saying that the cost for building an effective site of the kind needed is in the low tens-of-millions ($10M-$20M is stated repeatedly), what do you think the people at CGI did with the other $650M? I mean, these people at CGI may or may not be competent, but for heaven's sake, they went to Princeton, so they know how to get what they want, right?

I suspect that they took the $650M for themselves, and threw $25M at the task. So the main purpose is achieved - there are now a few more multi-millionaires swelling the ranks of the Ivy League "crony-capitalist" machine. What's the alternative we are to believe - that the Princeton-led mgmt at CGI kept spending the $650M, and had 2,000 - 3,000 people working for 3 years on this task, and produced zilch?
written by Diaperman, January 19, 2014
OK Chris, fair enough...there's always going to be some risk of corruption in awarding contracts. So I agree that we should try to root out crony capitalists.

But Chris apply your own logic to health care. The average doctor visit in the US runs $176 vs $38 in Canada. An angioplasty in the US will run around $60K vs, say, 9K in Spain. A bypass surgery in American is over $150K vs. $43K in Australia. A hip replacement is almost $90 K in the US vs. less than $12K in the Netherlands. A c-section is $26K in the US vs. $6500 in France, while a normal delivery is $17K in the US but only $4 in Switzerland. An MRI is around $3000 which is over three times what it costs in South Africa.

So Chris, I'd say doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are the ultimate crony capitalists---they've gamed the private system (but also to some extent the public one also) to jack up their fees far above world wide averages.

And as an American taxpayer and consumer of medical services you by all rights should be 10000 times angrier about this abuse since it is geometrically larger and more costly to our country than Obama and his stupid website.
written by Augustine Thomas, January 20, 2014
This comment board demonstrates perfectly why American Catholicism has failed.

No one can even agree who the enemy is, they'd rather fight each other.

We have too many backstabbers and egotists.. Too many who are in it to glorify themselves and not die for the Truth.

Just imagine if some of these TCT commenters and those on other Catholic theological sites stopped trying to be the smartest guys in the world and actually went out and fought some of these battles in public--together--where they had to actually stick their necks out for once in their cradled lives???
written by cermak_rd, January 20, 2014
What about those of us who view abortion (at least in the first 16 weeks) as being about the woman having the autonomy to decide what to do with her own body? She is not being compensated in any way for the risk and lack of autonomy she experiences while being pregnant and the fetus cannot survive without her body. It would be like rounding up strangers and demanding that they hook themselves up to a person needing something from their body. One can't argue that consent to sex is the same as consent to pregnancy because you can throw a party at your home and if someone stays after the party for days, at some point they become trespassers under the law. Which is how I view the fetus as a trespasser unless s/he is wanted.

As for marriage, I really don't care what religious thoughts motivate a denial of civil marriage to our gay brothers and lesbian sisters. If your action is to deny an equal right to marriage, which I consider to be an act of hate, I don't care if it is because of some religious thought about the Trinity or Eden or any other such philosophizing. An act of animus is an act of animus.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 21, 2014

You have a powerful animus against doctors, married with a strong belief in socialist nations (perhaps you lived in a socialist country before?).

My children's pediatricians, and my own physician, which is my main experience with doctors, are and have always been superb, dedicated and humble people. For example, Dr. Hickey spends 2-3 weeks of his vacation every year working in Haiti, while he struggles to run his practice here in MD under the heel of BIG BROTHER.
You write that a doctor visit in US = $176, and in Canada = $38. According to what source? One all-knowing source who has access to all information, is comparing apples-to-apples, and has validated all data? Does this source "define" a "doctor visit." What happens at each? Does more happen at the US visit? Why might that be? Who is competent to set an equitable price? What does this source tell you about what is actually done at this "average visit" in the US versus Canada? What is the cost of each thing done? Who pays the various costs? Or are you simply saying that in the doctor's visit in Canada, the same things are done as in US, by the same quality physicians, but the patient only foots 22% of the cost, and the rest is charged to the taxpayers in Canada?

My hunch is its the latter, which is not about health care at all. Its about taking income from one group of people, taking money from the care of their children, and support of charities of their choice, and re-distributing it to people who vote for social "justice" - i.e., socialism.

I wait with interest to hear about your sources.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 21, 2014

If all people who believe in abortion simply foot the bill for abortion, I think its obvious that there would be enough money to do abortions. That policy would send the appropriate signals to all directions.

But it is no wonder why this is not done, is it?
written by Diaperman, January 22, 2014
No Chris I have a powerful animus against rip-offs particularly large scale ones whose beneficiaries are politically powerful. You love to obfuscate the issue by asking for my sources and bandying about generalities about "socialism" that have no connection to what I'm saying.

I will tell you that it is really not in debate 1) that US healthcare is far more expensive than it is anywhere else in the developed world and that a big part (not all!) of that difference is due to differences in compensation paid to providers. Analysts across the political spectrum acknowledge this. The basic facts are not in dispute.

For starters, why don't you read a right wing source that you trust. The Weekly Standard!

A little more digging into OECD data, Kaiser Family Foundation among many others will confirm the basic facts. That some doctors donate time to poor patients in Haiti is nice but irrelevant.

My only point pal is if conservatives are serious in their crusade against crony capitalism, then the high price of health care needs to be looked at--hospitals, doctors, drug companies, insurance companies the whole nexus.

Remember Milton Friedman once called the AMA the strongest trade union in America....he didn't mean that as a compliment.

And back to the theme of the piece were are supposed to be commenting on...if conservatives really want to extend their compassion on the unborn to the born as well, a system that helps doctors, drug companies and hospitals at the expense of the greater society is a problem that needs to be taken more seriously.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 22, 2014

I don't read the Weekly Standard, and I am certainly not going to do the work that you won't do - i.e., ground-truth what you believe in.

And my point about the virtue of the doctors I know is not irrelevant, it is central. Those people are getting screwed by ObamaCare - not the AMA, etc.

I join you and Milton Friedman in the professed dislike of the AMA. They support the culture of death.

But the AMA is not doctors, it is the AMA. In the same way that Labor Unions are not laborers, it is a union, run by thugs.

It is Hospital Associations, AARP, foundations like Kaiser, the Insurance "Industry," Labor Unions and political factions who are going to get the "benefits" (pay-offs) under ObamaCare. Doctors, nurses and patients will be/are being hurt.

It seems that the answer to the fundamental questions I posed to you is this - you don't know the answer. You ought to, especially since YOU are marketing this "info."

Since you won't do the work, let me do some here, and stop to consider the claim that "doctor visits" (whatever that means) in Canada cost $38 (versus $176 in the US).

When our family travels to visit relatives, and we stop at McDonald's or Chick-Fila, we are going to buy 6 low cost fast-food lunches, which will cost about $5-$6 each. So we are going to pay approx. $36 dollars, which is what you purport that sources say = the average cost of the doctor visit in Canada.

So you are either claiming (1) that the value of a doctor visit in Canada is equal to that of buying 6 lunches at McDonald's, or (2) the real "price" in Canada is hidden, and the $38 is fiction.

In case #1 - the doctor in Canada is clearly providing low quality service, and has no value to offer beyond that of what I buy at McDonalds when I get 6 "Happy Meals" and 5 minutes of service (from one store manager and 1-2 junior high students). Which is probably (99.9% certainty) not the case.

It is case #2 - the costs are hidden - therefor the "studies" and reports are meaningless. Probably because Kaiser, OECD technocrats, etc are lobbying for ObamaCare and/or socialized medicine.

Finally, as I am doing my taxes, and have extraordinary medical bills, I have the opportunity to count the doctors visits we make and what they cost.

10 trips to our pediatrician averaged $99.40, about 3 times what it cost to buy the 6 Happy Meals. That seems to make sense - the help of a highly trained doctor and the support of his staff costs multiple times the cost of the fast food store manager, his junior high staff, and the 6 meals of junk food.

MY CONCLUSION - the "story" you believe in about care in Canada is junk, or the service in Canada is junk, or both.

All I can tell you with authority is - the service from Dr. Hickey is high quality care for an affordable price - and the food at McDonald's (the standard claimed for medicine in Canada) is junk.
written by diaperman, January 22, 2014
OK Chris...I don't understand what you're looking for...I produce evidence while you produce nothing but assertions.

so I guess your point is that modern health care services are just too darn cheap in the rest of the developed world but appropriately priced in America. So what about all the other costs:

An angioplasty in the US will run around $60K vs, say, 9K in Spain. A bypass surgery in American is over $150K vs. $43K in Australia. A hip replacement is almost $90 K in the US vs. less than $12K in the Netherlands. A c-section is $26K in the US vs. $6500 in France, while a normal delivery is $17K in the US but only $4 in Switzerland. An MRI is around $3000 which is over three times what it costs in South Africa.

You don't seem to be denying these figures. These figures represent the total cost of the foreign system to the health provider, be it government, private insurance or out of pocket expenses or any combination of all three. Not all foreign systems are actually single payer BTW.

So what's your claim here Chris....that the American c- section is just 5-6 times as good as the one you get in France and thus is well worth the extra expense. Or the MRI machines in the US are just three times as well calibrated as those in South Africa..or the hips that Medicare pays for are just 7 times better than the ones Dutch senior citizens get.

When our society spends more and more on health care as we get older the amount of money we have to spend on routine procedures is not a matter of indifference. I'm a taxpayer whose footing the bill for Medicare and an earner whose money is going to pay for health insurance premiums that are too high because they are supporting an overpaid medical establishment. So are you, presumably..

If Americans were a lot healthier than the rest of the world while actually covering all of her citizens then perhaps in aggregate all of the extra spending would be worth it. But were not!

Go figure Chris, I'm the supposed "socialist" who wants people to earn bigger paychecks and lower taxes while you are the supposed "capitalist" who thinks its a good value for America to see a large share of national wealth siphoned away each year to benefit an entrenched politically connected interest group. Ironic don't you think.
written by Chris in Maryland, January 23, 2014

Thank you for your reply.

Yes - my claim is that we have reason to doubt the "reports" that you cited. I gave your one very concrete example of why.

No - I don't believe in the ideology of capitalism. I believe that The CEO of GE, Mr. Immelt, head of Mr. Obama's "business council" or whatever he calls it, believes in capitalism.

I think of "capitalism" the way Abraham Lincoln taught me to think about it - that labor comes before capital, because the accumulation of capital was only possible because of the mass harnessing of labor.

Politically speaking, what I do believe in is free enterprise of individuals, and restraints against large centralized forces in government, industry and labor, which work against the free enterprise of individuals.

And when I see Obama and Immelt giving a presser on stage about the tax money pay-offs given to big industry, big insurance, and big labor unions, under the pretense of "shovel-ready" jobs, and laughing that they guess the jobs "weren't shovel-ready," I realize they are laughing at me, because the joke is on me. And I realize that these are the type of people that run the OECD, the Kaiser Foundations, etc, etc, etc.

They are professional con-artists.

And no matter how many times you recite the study, a visit to the doctor doesn't really cost $38 - anywhere on earth. You know this - the costs are hidden - the truth is hidden -like shovel-ready jobs.

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