Filed under: Culture and Catholicism | Tags: abortion, Catholic, Catholic church, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, health care debate, National Public Radio, religious freedom, SSPX, stock market, The Price of Civilization, traditional mass, Vatican II, Wall Street
As part of the health care debate, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs uncompromisingly indicts capitalism on NPR’s production of the Commonwealth Club on October 26; it is apparently not archived, but similar views may be expected in his book, The Price of Civilization. His conclusion is wrong, insofar as he ultimately recommends, like the Wall Street protestors whom he admires, only that we tax the very rich.
That leaves intact the vicious system that concentrates wealth, and delivers the bill only to the dumb rich who get caught with their pants down outside the various tax loop hole protections they’ve managed to buy and bribe.
But there is truth in the thesis otherwise, when Sachs points out that we simply cannot afford, even if we tax the rich, Obama’s government-mandated, government-platformed (in terms of absent moral values) but completely privatized solution. The profits skimmed by all the various middle-men make it too expensive. Sachs instead casually endorses the only alternative he can imagine, single- payer health care–in other words, government-run health care.
But we all know how that story ends, too: crappy, cranky, niggling care in dimly lit paint-peeling facilities with waiting lists for the good procedures, as it is in those countries which presently fund health care that way. Low standards have been the rule in government-run health facilities even in good times, and how can we now expect more, in our staggering economy? The government, like Greece, is cutting back, not adding expenses as astronomical as those required by our ‘sick’ population. This government running these hospitals in this economy is a recommendation for horrific care on all levels and eventually, of course, euthanasia, still illegal but being practiced to just about the same degree that still-illegal marijuana is being smoked, with the quasi-permission now being obtained on-the-spot in informal confereces with family members or through senior citizens’ centers’ “free” health care power of attorney services. (I have the one being distributed to senior citizens in Chicago’s senior service centers, which gives hospitals the right to pull the plug for everything, including ’expense,’ explicitly stated. Sign here, lady, right here on the dotted line, the pro-bono lawyer crooned–except then he wanted fifty bucks. Icertainly didn’t sign it, but instead searched for and found a pro-life one available on-line, where you tell them they can’t pull the plug when you run out of money and that you do want all care for your condition . They can’t pull the plug –legally–if you don’t give them permission. Google will-to-live power of attorney.)
So neither solution works, not privatized health care, nor government-run health care. And yet Sachs, and myself, and all the rest of us, want health care. So it must be solved. And it can be solved.
The thing is, we can’t get there from here.
If we want humane health care that is also affordable, we must re-set our cultures to a clean point before the virus of modern civilization took hold. We must restore Catholicism, its dominant (and tolerant) Church, and its economics, loosely called distributism, which made as many people owners as possible by regulating things so that nobody got too big to fail.
Even now, in our secular society, we know intuitively that health care and religion go together. Marilyn Gaston, Assistant Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, recommended in 2001 that privatized health care form alliances with religious organizations of various persuasions in order to deliver care to the poor. On the ground, very often religious organizations deliver health care as the provider of last resort, in towns like Bakersfield, California. These efforts will not fill the gap, however, because they lack one essential career path that was present in the Middle Ages, but not now: volunteer health care provider via religious orders. And this path may be the necessary piece of the puzzle, the one that makes health care to the very sick and very poor afforcable.
In the area of health care, the expense was manageable because very large numbers of the health care workers were unmarried, consecrated men and women giving their entire lives to Christ in religious orders and expressing that love in health care for no salary. They worked free (made possible by the absence of children to support, while their orders provided for their personal needs, in case of illness or age, as children would have), and vowed to live poor and obedient and chaste. They didn’t all live up to their vows, but enough did, notably generation after generation of saints. These were the orders that the so-called Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries sought to destroy by any means necessary, starting with seizing and parceling out the ancient properties of the orders. They dismantled and doled out the very foundation stones.
Do you know the first act of ‘reformist’ Henry VIII’s ‘health care plan’? To privatize St. Bartholemew’s, a hospital that had functioned free to all since the fourth century, but especially welcome had been the poor who were served there (in hospital rooms larger than those currently allowed in new hospital construction) in the name of Christ, in the person of Christ, by generations of saints. To privatize it.
They say the poor wandered England looking for a hospital in the days of the new religion, as each in turn was privatized and their nursing nuns turned out from those safe and sacred walls. And each hospital in all the new secular societies in turn has suffered it, the gradual re-writing of the wonderfully persistent dream of the poor that when they are hurt bad, society will help them, like they ‘used to do,’ until we come to now. (England itself had to return to free care, this time government run. You surely have read the same articles as I on the level of care available there.) Even the so-called Catholic hospitals, now, function like little profit machines, just as protestantism and the reformation wanted, and worked for. They are now your stinking tea party. (It is their system, though, and not their rich, which is the enemy. Sachs still doesn’t see it, and I admit it takes a really radical eye–or a mother’s, whose sons have no health care. Either one.)
The government playing the role of the Church and the religious orders and the parent and all the rest, because of course secular government wants all those roles, cannot restore health care without restoring all those other necessary conditions. We have to re-build the bridge we burned, and restore, first, Christ at the center of our laws, our governments, and our lives, and then restore the Church and let the Church, and all churches, and all charities, begin to ‘manage’ health care. Yes, some services, like abortion, will have to go. Because you don’t get loving care unless all humans get loving care, and everyone knows now those tiny little bodies are so fully human. That’s not to mention at all the economic effect of killing them. That’s not to suggest that us having killed fully one-sixth of the American population has anything to do with slumping home sales.
This restore point–forgive me, but the metaphor is so apt–is the same in economics. We have to dial back interest–which was illegal, back in the day–restore guilds as management tools that go across class, unlike labor unions, which forbid participation by management and owners, let guilds handle education (they will know what industries are in growth mode, which not, because their leadership will include members from the whole process, from raw materials to transport of finished products; that is simply how guilds functioned); we have to control monopolization, simply taxing into unprofitability enterprises that grow too big to fail; and so forth.
There are a thousand good techniques, too many to even begin to discuss in one post, but this is true of all of them: they only function in a coherent, not a multi-religious, society, they only function in a society where dishonesty and all the other deadly sins are taught from the beginning, are shamed from the beginning, and, at the personal level, have a heaven and a hell even if society does not punish every transgression. I do not want to reduce the Faith to that, but perhaps some people could see the point who otherwise will not listen to the Voice of the God who created them calling out across time, to live well on earth and then come to live with Him, as in the original plan until sin and death ruined it.
In any case, in our own society, we have lost that personal level; we foolishly expect honesty to begin and end in the board room, rather than in the heart and root of our society, which of course must be in our homes and schools, in our willingness to honor our God, the totally dynamic and awesome Trinity from which our great civilization has sprung. But we do not. We let ourselves be led by a handful of men who wish, themselves, to be god. They like it. (When I think of the beauty of God and the ugliness of their cruel, proud faces, it makes me want to cry.)
So I am arguing that we have to go back, to go forward. There is simply no other possible solution. The ideal that we have, which is health care for all (a wonderful ideal, a necessary ideal for a stable society, an ideal born in Christian civilization) is only possible under some circumstances, circumstances that are both moral and economic, and as it appears to be turning out, we had those circumstances five hundred years ago, but we ‘reformed it.’ The virus of Too Big to Fail began right then, on Henry VIII’s fat paunch, around which men were waiting, had been waiting for some centuries, breaking out of their sleep here and then in medievalism to take a profit, to make a killing, then suppressed by that mean old Catholic Church. They were waiting, and they whispered it in his royal ear: freedom. He meant by it a woman, they meant by it a world open for plunder. And it is their song, still. You’d think we’d learn the words by now and stop whistling it with them.
Restore Catholicism and the ideal and goal of the restoration of the Catholic state. Viva Cristo Rey. Don’t be afraid.
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