Thursday, January 7, 2010

Summum Malum

Poulos' comments in this video about how it is irresponsible for Ezra Klein liberals who accuse people who oppose the health care bill of wanting Americans to die reminds me of this quotation from Yuval Levin:
Avoiding the worst, rather than achieving the best, is the great goal of moderns, even if we have done a very good job of gilding our gloom with all manner of ornament to avoid becoming jaded by a way of life directed most fundamentally to the avoidance of death. We have guilded it, above all, with the language of progress and hope, when in fact no human way of life has ever been more profoundly motivated by fear than our modern science-driven way. Our unique answer to fear, however, is not courage but techne, which is much less demanding.

Levin is discussing science and technology, but I'd argue that the health care bill is a form of legislative or political techne that fulfills in important ways the same need. To some extent it doesn't matter to supporters, when you really get down to it, although they themselves may not be conscious of it, whether the bill will actually save lives or even improve them. What matters is that they are doing something to placate a deep fear.


Anonymous said...


"What matters is that they are doing something to placate a deep fear."

I understand this point and will only add that the biggest surprise in takeover of health care is how unresponsive the Democrats have been.

This began so humbly as a social justice issue for the community organizing Obama -insuring the 46 million uninsured. To do this, he and the Dems decided they had to take over ALL of our nation's health care. Now that they are done -with the exception of reconciliation - 22 million of the previously uninsured will remain uninsured. And the other 24 million uninsured will receive health care in 4 years time. Meanwhile Americans will be taxed for the next 4 years to hope to close the gap on the enormous hole this health initiative will cause to our nation's ledger.

Then there are the sticky little moral issues like forcing Americans whose real Faith opposes abortion to pay for abortions, wiping out conscience clauses for health care workers, and, yes, after all the smoke cleared, "the death panels" are still in the bill.

Obama, so he could earn his A- for his first historic year wanted health care passed before the August recess. After watching what has happened since August, we can only conclude the guy has no true understanding of governing a functioning democracy. He ought to be running a third world country. Though if he keeps on his charted course, he will be.

My eyes are now on the race for Ted Kennedy's seat to happen in 2 weeks time. If the absolutely hunky Republican wins, then this would be the ultimate irony. This is the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Care Bill. If it is the election to fill his seat that puts the final nail into the coffin of this incredible overreach by our president and his congress there can be no greater legacy for Ted Kennedy.

Mrs. P

Withywindle said...

Timor mortis conturbat me. I would actually be a bit more charitable: if the liberal vision does not ascribe meaning to each life, but instead allows each person to ascribe meaning to their own life, then it is reasonable to extend life - and to provide equal access to extended life - so that each individual may use it to build their own meanings, as much as possible. Just because fear is at the root of it - and isn't fear at the root of many philosophies? - doesn't mean it isn't an admirable response to that fear.

Hilarius Bookbinder said...

Levin is close, but wrong: the goal of the moderns was to avoid the summum malum, but that malum was cruelty, not death (see also: Judith Shklar, "The Liberalism of Fear"). And the moderns took that as their aim precisely because the pre-moderns did such a terrible job of avoiding cruelty (see also: Montaigne on cannibalism). But the avoidance of cruelty is also essentially negative, which means one has to go elsewhere looking for a justification of the health care bill.

FLG said...

Hilarius Bookbinder:

I haven't read "The Liberalism of Fear." (And a quick Google search for it wasn't very fruitful.) I'll have to pick that up. but I have to ask: Isn't saying that a person opposing the health care bill wants Americans to die fundamentally an accusation of cruelty?

George Pal said...

"What matters is that they are doing something to placate a deep fear."

I’d opt for: ensure a deep desire. The desire to live free of responsibility: 1. “needs” provided, 2. youth extended, 3. consequences avoided/relieved 4. suffering avoided/relieved, and 5. life prolonged (so long as 1, 2, 3, and 4 remain in effect). Notwithstanding the ostensible high-mindedness fronting it, behind the health care bill is the baseness of human nature.

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