This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Paying for Doctors and the Unemployed

On America Magazine today, there is a discussion about a Washington Post article from over the weekend about a permanent fix for the payment of primary care physicians. Of late, their has been a group of libertarian dissenters responding to Michael Sean Winters. More than often, I come to MSW's defense. You can see the debate at http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=3023&comment=1&success=1 and see the original story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/18/AR2010061804700.html. I responded to the knee jerk libertarians, who relied on the American concept of rights rather than the positive rights recognized by the Church - and then related the whole thing to the abortion question. I then offerred a solution to the canundrum of the "Doc Fix" as well as the ultimate fix for other problems in both Medicaid and Unemployment Insurance. Here is what I said:

...the right to health care that MSW was referring to was not one found in the constitution but in Catholic doctrine. Not all considerations of what people are entitled to need to be referenced in American ideals of liberty. The Magisterium of the Catholic Church states that there are positive rights that people are entitled to, regardless of what their governments declare, and among these are health care and a fair living wage (meaning that families need to earn enough to survive and larger families deserve greater consideration). To the extent that political or economic libertarianism is inconsistent with this teaching is the extent that Catholics must ignore their politics and support doctrine. This is also true in abortion - however in all cases, it is best left to the Catholic politicans to say how this is best done. Note that the Social Security system was designed in consultation with a Jesuit priest based on Catholic social encyclicals (Fr. Ryan). I would argue that living wage legislation is the best way to solve both our economic obligations and our obligation to protect the lives of the unborn (just as providing low cost or mandatory rehab is a better way to fight alcoholism than prohibition).

On the subject of paying for care - paying for a doctor fix, the medical needs of the baby boomers, the need to provide affordable medical coverage to people on COBRA and the need to provide for extended unemployment insurance all have a ready made answer, although many will find it distateful. These are all from funds that were designed to be self-supporting originally. Expansions of these programs or merely making them cost effective must ultimately be funded by raising their dedicated revenue streams - however we need not do so in advance of need. We can drop the requirement that the Medicare trust fund maintain some type of long term balance that must be pre-funded. It would be better to allow the tax rate to be raised automatically than to mandate budget cuts instead - or perhaps we can mandate a mix of both unless Congress acts.

In the short term, deficit finance is necessary - however in the long term, subsidizing COBRA, funding doctor fees adequately, providing for longer term unemployment and for Medicare Part D is best done with payroll tax hikes. Indeed, in the area of unemployment - a higher tax rate may have employers think again before assuming that laying people off is in their best interests. The whole point of the tax was to add a little bit of pain to the decision to reduce payrolls to save money. Perhaps this is just the time to make that pain increase.

Public Accommodation and Liberty

As I was relaxing at the pool at my condo this past weekend (which has lifeguards who are guest workers and clientele which reflects our multi-ethnic mix of owners and renters), I had a final thought on the whole Rand Paul debacle over the public accommodations provisions in the Civil Rights Act.

The standard libertarian critique over these provisions, which Paul expressed to Rachel Maddow, is that private property holders should be able to refuse service to whomever they please, even if it is based on racism. My usual response is that if a business is open to the public, especially if it is incorporated, it cannot do that. Indeed, private clubs are still free to discriminate - as much as we dislike that. Someone who does business from their private home can certainly not take all clients, but if the public space is used, the freedom to deny service does not exist. Hanging a sign that says "open" rather than "by appointment only" pretty much obligates you to take all comers.Let me now add another piece to the argument - one that shuts down any libertarian objection to public accommodation.

The essential part of the freedom to exclude is what happens when someone comes in and demands service, even though a "White's Only" sign hangs in the door. The police are called, or private security is summoned, and violence is used to remove the person. This fact alone should settle the question for any true libertarian, since the violence involved was most likely governmental violence. Indeed, without direct violence, or a right of private violence, restricting service based on race is impossible, especially when the excluded parties come in anyway. If big L libertarians are really serious about their pledge to do no violence, then public accommodation laws are actually the most libertarian option - much more than a faux respect for private party which really masks a culture of violent racism.

Let's now remove the "right to refuse service" meme from the liberty conversation forever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Me on CNN yesterday

On Cafferty on CNN's Situation Room yesterday, in answer to whether millionaires should voluntarily pay more tax I said, "No. Neither does cutting taxes and expecting millionaires to give their tax savings to charity (rather than buying companies). If volunteerism worked as touted, the coffers of every charity helping the poor would be bursting, given that tax rates are at their lowest in more than half a century."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Catholic Herald: The Right Way to Oppose Birth Control

In today's Arlington Catholic Herald, Mary Beth Bonacci writes about her reflections on 50 years of the birth control without actually writing about the pill itself. Instead, she writes about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whose legacy she definitely does not celebrate. Mrs. Bonacci has good reason not to, since her grandmother was one of the women who was unknowingly sterilized when her last child was born (Mary Beth's father). This was part of Sanger's desire for eugenics, where Italians and African Americans were considered undesirable parts of the human race. At the time, the miners in the area of southern Colorado where the family lived (including her grandfather) were engaged in labor struggles with Sanger backer John Rockefeller over attempts to enforce the rights of workers to organize and receive a just wage. Italian workers demanding their rights were not Sanger or Rockefeller's kind of people. You can read her moving piece at http://www.catholicherald.com/opinions/detail.html?sub_id=13162

This personal story moves the discussion on contraception to where it should be and to where Pope Benedict XVI takes it as well - to its roots in opposing eugenics, especially involuntary eugenics targeted on "inconvenient" populations.

President Obama would be wise to listen to such arguments, since the inclusion of family planning in the developmental budget of his government operates from the same eugenic assumptions and the target for such eugenics are people who look like and are related to him.

Rooting our teaching in social justice is much more productive than basing it on clerical notions of sexuality. Indeed, the prior is affirming of human freedom and dignity, while the other is based on fourth century notions on sexuality that see sexuality as incompatible with spirituality, even within Sacramental marriage (which did not exist then). The first affirms human dignity while the second does not - at least in the opinion of many married Catholics who ignore the Church's teachings on the aforementioned birth control pill.

If we stressed economic justice more, both for the poor in developing nations and for low income workers and families here, there would be much less resistance on this issue. When the American Church both advocates for (and pays) a living wage as defined as a substantial raise whenever a child is born, it can more authoritatively teach on this issue. This is one example where we must follow the command of the Lord to love one another so that all will know that we are His disciples.