November 11, 2009
Must Catholics witness to Life?
As we prepared to execute the DC Sniper (which is a misnomer, since only one of the murders actually happened within the District), a debate about capital punishment and the Culture of Life. I addressed the issue of the sniper in my essay published Monday in the Examiner, so I will now address the larger question.
The question is this, must one always avoid taking the life of another if that other poses a mortal threat. This question touches on many moral questions, from whether an ectopic pregnancy may be actively aborted, to whether preventative sterilization may be used (either by surgery or chemical birth control) when the pregnancy will lead to either danger to the woman or economic danger for the family, to whether one may execute a criminal who presents a mortal danger to other inmates or to himself, to whether war is ever just, to whether one may shoot an armed assailant who is posing an immediate danger to a schoolyard full of children. Add to this the question of whether one may use deadly force to repel an assassination or attempted coup (especially if doing so could lead to a murderous tyranny) and the similar question of whether people can arm themselves to defend their own lives (or their property) or have armed agents to do so. Even the arming of the Swiss Guard which protects the Pope raises the identical question.
It seems that in most, if not all of these cases, the Pro-Life office in the United States and in the Vatican is consistently coming up with no as an answer, although it has not yet taken the step of disarming the Swiss Guard, which is telling.
How this question is answered depends upon both the ground rules one sets. If you use the witness of scripture and the early Church, clearly it is better not to resist. This does not end the argument, however. Under pure (meaning non-theistic) natural law reasoning, one need not insist on resistance, indeed, in some occasions one must use deadly force to protect innocent life.
One may martyr one’s self as a free and faith filled choice. One does not have the right to make this choice for others, whether one is in a pluralistic society or even an entirely Catholic one. Martyrdom is an individual decision. It cannot morally be imposed upon another. Catholic hospitals treat non-Catholics. The logic of my argument is that, if an abortion or sterilization is necessary to prevent physical harm to the mother, this cannot be imposed. While we can encourage the mother to witness to life, we cannot demand that she do so or rig the game so such witness is her only choice (regardless of whether she is Catholic or not).
We certainly cannot require such witness to be mandated by law. This is the worst type of coercion, yet tragically it seems that some in the Church are seeking just that. Those voices do not speak for me or the vast majority of Catholics. While they may validly encourage individual witness and seek a society where such witness is no longer necessary, they cannot make the enactment of what would be a moral tyranny part of the Church’s political agenda. This is not because of relativism or to become popular in society, but because mandating the witness of another is an inherently evil act. This is why many are comparing some in the Church (and the Evangelical right), quite justly, to the Taliban.
August 25, 2009
My Health Care Debate with Rep. Martin Heinrich
Check it out and let me know what you think:
July 27, 2009
The Uninsured and Health Care Reform
New Mexico State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort had an excellent opinion piece in today's Albuquerque Journal. As Beffort points out, it is useful to note that New Mexico has a whole host of public programs available for the uninsured, that people with pre-existing health conditions are not denied insurance (as reform proponents often claim), and that prescription drugs are actually becoming more affordable for both the elderly and the general public. As Beffort summarizes her argument, Congress should consider maximizing these programs and their effectiveness before completely revising our entire health care system.
In addition to this piece, a reader attacked my recent opinion piece. The author, Leon Logan, writes:
Paul Gessing's column on July 20 is pure propaganda that is a coordinated and intensive effort to maintain the status quo in health care.
Not surprisingly, Logan argues that I want the "status quo." This is patently false and I mention some specific reforms at the end of the piece. I've also made the case for free market reforms elsewhere. And then he goes on to exempt the government from any and all responsibility for the current financial crisis, a very complex situation that resulted from many factors, including government policy.
Lastly, the cartoon below is an excellent summary of the "uninsured" situation in the United States.
April 06, 2009
Swiss Model for Health Care?
In today's Albuquerque Journal, economist Micha Gisser (a senior fellow w/ RGF), discusses a few ways in which our health care system might be reformed with an emphasis on both free markets and "universal" health care. The basic idea of Swiss health care is to generally free Americans of some of the most absurd and silly regulations -- by allowing, for example, individuals to receive the same tax benefits as their employers do and by purchasing care across state lines -- and to demand that each American purchase a very basic plan to cover emergencies.
Gisser makes many good points in his column. Given the choice between the Swiss model and what Obama is proposing, I'd certainly go for the Swiss model. There are a few major questions before we impose the Swiss model here: 1) how do we ensure that everyone has health care and enforce that? After all America is a much bigger, more open society than Switzerland 2) How do we ensure that bureaucrats and politicians don't demand larger and more ambitious "basic" coverage as happened in Massachusetts with its "connector" plan?
August 10, 2008
Government Health Care
"Universal," government-mandated health care is under consideration around the nation (and will be pushed hard in a potential Obama Administration). Check out this video which illustrates in stark detail how health care might work if we put government in charge.
May 26, 2008
Crowding Out the Right Prescription?
Psychiatrists are harming children by giving them adult drugs even when it is not clear that they will develop the adult maladies for which the drugs are designed. Giving children these at a young age often means they end up with a "life sentence" of being drugged out. So argues Peter Breggin at the Huffington Post:
From now on, Max, his family and his doctors will almost certainly have to face an increasingly impossible dilemma common to children who are prescribed multiple psychiatric drugs for a period of years. When trying to withdraw these children from multiple psychiatric medications, they almost certainly go through severe withdrawal problems with extreme emotional instability and the risk of worsening violence and suicidality. In fact, we are told that an attempt to take Max off his medications resulted in his displaying hallucinations and delusions, which Newsweek attributes to his worsening condition and his need for drugs.
Breggin points out that often the problem is that the parents need to learn to be better parents -- the child needs stability to learn behavioral norms. It would appear that there is a crowding out effect as the treatment possibilities are focused on what could be wrong with the child. The longer the child is subjected to harsh medicines, the less able the child is to develop a healthy mind and thus the parents ability to control the child without medications becomes even more diminished. The medicines put the child on a path which can only involve more medication.
July 09, 2007
CATO versus Michael Moore
CATO's Michael Cannon has formed the Anti-Universal Care Club, universal care being the left's new euphemism for socialized medicine.
July 03, 2007
WWE versus the state: round II
One reason for the rush to judgment regrading the role steroids played in the Benoit murder/suicide may be that some government lawyers hope that if they can pin this tragedy on Benoit's use of steroids, they can launch an investigation into whether other World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) stars are using steroids. This may allow the federal government to avenge one of the few high-profile defeats suffered by federal prosecutors in recent times.
In the early nineties, the feds indicated WWE Chairman Vince McMahon on charges of using and distributing steroids. Aswe all know, most businessmen in Mr. McMahon's situation would have accepted the government's plea offer. Instead, Mr. McMahon told the government's lawyers where they could shove their plea offer, went to trial, and was acquitted on all charges. Wonder how many federal Nifongs are gleefully rubbing their hands at the thought of having another shot at the businessman that got away?
June 04, 2007
Brave New World Update
The nicotine Nazis have been busy in Europe. British doctors will now deny surgery to smokers unless they quit. Britain's National Health Service (NHS) claims that this is motivated solely by a deserve to improve the lives of Britain's smokers, the fact this will save the government money never entered their minds. Wonder how long it will be before NHS is refusing treatment to the overweight until they drop a few pounds...and what new restrictions on our freedom to make our own choices regarding smoking, eating, and exercising Hilliary, Obama and John Edwards have in mind as part of their "universal health care" plans?
Meanwhile, the EU is considering extending its' indoor smoking ban to doorways. No doubt the ban will soon be extended to all "public" sidewalks and roads.
March 29, 2007
Brave New World Update
Paralleling the US Government's scheme to subject all children to mental health screening Britain plans to began monitoring children to determine which ones are at risk of becoming criminals. Can a full-fledged Department of "Pre-Crime" be far behind?
February 15, 2007
Good News in the War on Drugs
Good news is a relatively rare commodity these days, so it is with great happiness that I report some good news in the "war on drugs." First and foremost, a new study has found that AIDS patients do indeed benefit from smoking marijuana.
Also, in what could be a boon to additional research on the effect of marijuana on patients having various diseases, a DEA judge -- I didn't know such people existed -- has recommended that the federal government allow researchers to grow the pot they use in their studies. Previously, the feds prohibited other outlets from growing the pot needed for the studies and when scientists asked permission to do so, they were often denied access. Typical government catch-22. Anyway, the battle isn't over yet, DEA Administrator and notorious drug warrior -- you don't get to that position by being "soft on drugs" -- Karen Tandy has the final say. Here's hoping she makes the right call.
December 17, 2006
Invasion of the Body Snatchers?
I have long felt that the ongoing shortage of body organs for transplants is an artificial result of federal regulations that prohibit any financial incentives for those who -- upon death -- donate their bodies to save the lives of others. As is so often the case when government policies fail (the United Kingdom and Canada both have similar "no-compensation" policies), additional regulations are adopted. The UK and Canada are now considering rules that would essentially allow the state to "steal" the organs of the dead. The authors of this article suggest we go the other direction by allowing financial incentives for those who choose organ donation.
This seems to me like "Economics 101," but financial incentives are the only proven way to create desired results while also respecting personal freedom.
March 07, 2006
The Marginal Benefit of Health Care
I went to the doctor last week. I spent $100 and waited an hour for the doctor to see me -- he was late. I patiently read my economics book while in the waiting room, so at least the time wasn't wasted. But, my money, I'm not sure.
He told me that I have a sick nose. Thanks doc, I knew that. That's why I'm here. I wonder if he tells amputees, "you have a sick arm." Or the blind, "you have a vision problem." I was instructed to take allergy pills, wash my nose every three hours, and to keep the temperature down at night as that dries out the nose. "If you don't feel better, come back and see me in 10 days."
I followed the advice. I don't feel any better.
So, the logic goes... if the medical professional gives you incorrect advice, you should return and pay MORE money? In economics we stop consuming where marginal benefit equals marginal cost. My costs have already exceeded my benefits. I have no incentive to go back to the doctor. It would be like buying another lottery ticket in the hope that my bad luck couldn't continue forever. Maybe if I give him another try he'll nail the diagnosis.
What if there is a tumor eating my brain? 10 days of waiting can't help that out. I have four choices: 1.) Do nothing in hopes that time will heal me. 2.) Pay more money to someone who has already failed. 3.) Pay money to another person whose qualifications I'm unable to judge. 4.) Put my faith in alternative medicine, voodoo, or Christian Science.
Cross-posted to my personal blog.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
January 03, 2006
Who's Afraid of Frankenstein?
On their blog, Gary Becker and Richard Posner counter the wrong-headed arguments against allowing cash payments for human organs. From an economic perspective, only allowing charitable giving of organs before or after death acts a price control, reducing the well-being of many market participants.
There is a concern that such a market will cause some individuals to “rob” others of their organs – the victim waking up in the bathtub of ice scenario. Or even murder them and cut them up to be sold to the highest bidder. One fear of genetic engineering is that we might have body part farms, where people are “grown” to be “harvested.” All of these are possible though, with the prohibition in place.
With free exchange of organs, it is less likely these practices will occur, as the availability of legal organs will be greater, so the incentive to engage in truly criminal activity will be less. Getting rid of this prohibition is the best way to improve the lives of many people.
There was a brilliant Law and Order rerun the other day which put flesh and blood onto such “cold” free-market arguments. It depicted a desperate father trying to save his dying son, by illegally buying a kidney on the black market. The father and the doctor are arrested for their willingness to break the law to do good, while the cops seem to recognize that they are enforcing a law that is only hurting people.
This is the sort of thing we should remember when talking about public policy. Every bad law does not just offend our abstract sense of truth, and of right and wrong, but it has real consequences. The prohibition of a human organs market does not just cause a certain number of people to die needlessly. It also punishes those who try to do what is right despite the law. We need to recognize that these “criminals” are not blood-thirsty predators, but people who are just everyday folks, who want to save their loved ones.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
Free-for-all (frfr-ôl) -- n. A disorderly fight, argument, or competition in which everyone present participates.