With Liberty and Justice for All

Legend tells of the twin sisters Liberty and Justice. These daughters were born out of the family of Truth, Right, Fairness, and Adversity. Liberty was a fierce and demanding child who insisted on the freedom to pursue her desire. At times, in her passion she overran her sister, Justice. Every where she went Liberty carried a torch to shine light on the path to autonomy. She would guide others out of the darkness of oppression. Once while trying to free a man from his accusers, Liberty became enraged and overcame her sister’s demands to weigh his actions fairly. Out of their struggle Justice was blinded. From that time on she carried a sword. She would no longer be overpowered by her well-meaning, but fervent sister. Justice became a welcome and familiar sight in all the land as she carried her scales and sword. The people cherished her wisdom and evenhandedness. As they grew older the sisters grew to depend on each other more and more. They worked in tandem to provide emancipation and fairness to their people. They were inseparable. Each found that with the other near they could rule their land with equality. Their people found that their lives were better now that they had both Liberty and Justice guiding their community.

I share this story as a reminder that liberty without the tempering effect of justice can be a destabilizing force. Unchecked, liberty can be rash and violent. Liberty’s demand of utmost freedom for all can overrun the right to safety and security that justice guarantees. America is a nation that pledges to have liberty and justice for all. We have struggled at times with who the “all” might be.

When we declared independence from Great Britain in 1776 we asserted it was self-evident, that ALL men are created equal. As our nation has developed and matured we have moved beyond dishonorable practices such as slavery and segregation. Our greatness has been discolored by the abuses of Native Americans, Japanese Americans and other minority groups. We do not want to repeat those kinds of mistakes. The Americans are better, more just than these previous actions would suggest. Let us not forget these past mistakes as we discuss the application Miranda Rights, torture, and civilian versus military trials for terrorists. Let’s remember that “When all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he,” Thomas Hobbs, Leviathan.

If we insist on being evangelists of democracy, crusaders for human rights throughout the world, and the world’s police force, how can we deny to other people what we hold as basic, unalienable rights, even if they are our enemies? How can we turn our backs on the hard-learned lessons of our history?

The United States Bill of Rights, guarantees due process of law, the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to have the Assistance of Counsel for defense. In 1866 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional to try civilians with military tribunals in any jurisdiction where civil courts were functioning, Ex Parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866). If we would not deny to our citizens the rights guaranteed by the constitution, how can we honorably deny those rights to a citizen of the world? If the difference is not so considerable how can we deny the justice of a fair trial to any man?

Our Lady Liberty says:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Each American citizen has been granted liberty and justice. We cannot be so self-centered to offer that only to our friends and family. We must be the kind of people who value all nations and races. It is time that we offer to world, even our enemies, the basic rights that we take for granted. If we expect the world to live up to our moral standards, we must continue to uphold those human rights ourselves. We must lead by example to forge a more just world. We cannot let fear and ignorance be an excuse for dishonorable and immoral actions.


The Wealth of Nations

I have been hearing and reading a lot about the healthcare and insurance reform being discussed lately. Frankly I am angered that so many intelligent people are missing an important distinction. That between healthcare and health insurance. Somehow because they both have the word health in them they must be synonymous. Not so.

Healthcare, ie medical treatment, is a right. Health insurance, ie coverage for a future loss, is a privilege. Americans feel that medical care, when you are sick or injured, is a right. And as a Christian I agree with that. No one wants their family or friends to go untreated. No one wants to deny medical care and treatment to anyone. However there are costs associated with that treatment. The real question we have before us is “How do we pay for it?”. An individual asks how do I pay the doctor to see me, or how do I pay for this pill, this test, this surgery.

One solution that we have been using for many years in America is insurance. Insurance is admittedly a gamble, for both sides. But one that we willing and eager to sign up for. It is a gamble where a contract is clearly outlined and agreed to by both parties.

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties that is, many times, an exchange of goods or services. One party pays a price to have the other party offer services or goods under certain circumstances. You form impromptu contracts each time you purchase an item. A retailer agrees to give you a product and you agree to give him currency. Both parties find value in the exchange. It is a more complicated form of bartering and trading – I’ll give you a chicken for your milk and cheese. If you feel an item is overpriced or not a quality item you do not purchase it. Simple as that. If the seller feels your monetary offer does not match the value of his product, he does not sell the product to you. There is choice on both sides. One side chooses to offer a product; the other side chooses to pay for the product. If you cannot pay the price for the goods and services offered it is reasonable that the seller does not give them to you. It is also reasonable that if the cost to create the product goes up, the price of the product goes up. We call this business.

Business is different than charity. Charity says, I will give you something that you have not paid for out of the goodness of my heart. Business is when we make an exchange under mutually agreeable terms. It is each party’s responsibility to look out for their own side. It you agree to and pay for a contract that does not benefit you, that is your stupidity. Ultimately not the time for an emotional appeal. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages" - Adam Smith. Welcome to capitalism.

Insurance is a business. Insurance also is one way to pay for medical care. You pay an agreed upon price in advance for the promise that the insurance company will pay for your medical care in the future. Or, in the case of car insurance, the insurance company will pay for your car repairs should your car become damaged. The payment is under certain circumstances that were outlined and agreed upon when you signed up for your policy and began paying premiums. If someone feels that he is not getting a product that he paid for when he signed up for that insurance, he should not continue to pay for the insurance. If you do not read your policy and know what you are signing up for you cannot complain when a product is not delivered as you expect, but rather as it is outlined in the policy/contract.

If it must be asked, the questions our government should be asking is not “how do we get insurance coverage for everyone,” but “how do we pay for everyone’s medical care.” That is the real issue here.

Answers to the question “how do we pay for everyone’s medical care?” include addressing the cost of that medical care. As in any other business we need to ask “Is the cost of this procedure, test, treatment etc worth the price?” If things are overpriced, that is an issue that should be taken up with the medical care providers and pharmaceutical companies, not the insurance companies.

Discuss. . .


The Lorax

A wise man once penned, “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees. I speak for the birds. I speak for the bees.” I don’t assert that I am as wise, but I do speak. I speak for the poor, the tired, the huddled masses, those yearning to breathe free. I speak for women and men. I speak for the minority, the quiet remnant. I speak for those who do not speak, but act to protect freedom and liberty. I speak for me.

Here you will find a collection of ideas that value the power, resiliency and ingenuity of the individual. You will find a promotion of critical thinking and individual courage. Let us reason together to overcome our prejudices and preconceived ideas to step passionately and enthusiastically into the good life we were designed to experience.