Saturday, July 18, 2009

Where Can Virtue be Found?

A while back I found myself in a classroom listening to a self proclaimed “independent” spokesman. He represented the political arm of a religious-affiliated hospital located in an underserved area of a major city. The man was giving a lecture on how he thought medical care should be delivered. He proceeded to present his liberal agenda starting off by laying a philosophical framework which he claimed to be centered, ironically, on the very principle it lacked – virtue.

The man was very well versed in speech, even using ancient philosophers as examples. He stated the framers of the constitution were absolutely wrong because they did not include healthcare as a right (see Rusty Scalpel article - definition of a right - Healthcare is not a right) and that the only way society could be virtuous is if it provided for the healthcare of everyone. He then proceeded to say that one person in society cannot provide all the goods and services for himself (i.e. the farmer has a social responsibility to the doctor and vice-versa.) In the end he claimed the only way to properly take care of the healthcare needs of the society is to have a government mandate.

A government mandate in its simplest form is force. In “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible” Ken Schoolland pointed out that a government mandate or law is like an "Invisible Gun." If an individual resists complying with the government mandate the ultimate punishment is imprisonment or death. It is invisible because few individuals resist and realize the final punishment.

During the lecture I was reminded of an economic concept which is poorly understood - spontaneous order. (See video below) The lecturer believed that the only way people will act “virtuously” is through government coercion. However reality seems to counter this notion. Every day individuals come together, voluntarily, and make decisions for themselves that in turn benefit society. Adam Smith, the father of economics, referred to this phenomenon as the “Invisible Hand” that would lift society to an optimal state.

It should be asked - Where is virtue derived from? Where can virtue be found? To start, it must be understood that virtue can only exist when there is free choice. Thus an individual’s actions can only be virtuous when preformed voluntarily. Forcing one man to “give” to another is not only immoral- it frustrates the very principle of virtue.

It is very popular to blame the free-market capitalism for the state of healthcare. However realizing that healthcare is the most regulated industry, we can see that free-market capitalism is not failing but only the reverse - the long history government interventionalism is failing. To conclude - virtue in society can only exist by promoting, not limiting free choice, thus encouraging the morally superior “Invisible Hand” instead of frustrating virtue by the immoral and all too often impractical consequences of the “Invisible Gun.”


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