Compassion in Politics

If I were to ask you the following question, how would you answer?

“Hey (your name here), if you had to choose between programs being run by the government or by private agencies, which would you choose and why?”

I found my methodology a while back. I was walking through Davis-Kidd in Nashville a few years ago and stumbled across a book by Michael Gerson called “Heroic Conservatism.”I don’t know what drew me to the book, but I picked it up, sat down and read the first 2 chapters inside the store. When I realized I hadn’t moved in some time, I stood up, bought the book, and went home and finished it.

The idea behind Gerson’s book is as follows: Americans can be Conservative and still help others in such way that, not only is the Government uninvolved, but intentionally uninvolved. It’s known nationally as Compassionate Conservatism. This is an idea espoused by Governor George W. Bush during his campaign for President in 2000. A major focus of his campaign was the notion that Republicans weren’t just greedy, big-business loving, tax-cut seeking Americans; they were a compassionate people. However, they didn’t want their compassion to be mandated by government. It took me a long time to figure out where I stood among conservatives. After I read this book, it was clear to me. I honestly believe that people will never leave the mire of government run programs/systems until they shut down.

I want to help people, but I don’t want it done in the name of the US Federal Government.

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9 responses to “Compassion in Politics”

  1. Brian Schroeder says :

    You asked a question…..

    As your question is stated, my answer is, unabashedly, the government — our government, which is a democratic republic.

    Do I believe the government will always do what is best for the longterm, act most efficiently, or make the smartest decisions everytime? No. It would be impossible. Do I believe that the government in its present form is overburdened, riddled with bureaucracy, and not really adhering to its members’ promises to the American public? Yes, I’m very aware of that.

    The term “private agencies” bothers me. Private enterprises are businesses. As a business owner, I know that a business’s goals are to make profit–producing items, selling that product, and making profit. There is NOTHING wrong here. Here is the problem: What is often added is a new step two: producing items, CREATING DEMAND FOR THEIR PRODUCT, selling that product, and making profit. The need for profit increases as the budget for creating a demand increases. Of course, the best thing could be to create such a large demand that the profits are high enough that there would be no need for creating a demand–get to a point where it’s just expected that everyone gets their product–but that takes a LOT of budget put into making demand. And what if competitors make SIMILAR products? You have to add another step: producing items, creating demand for their product, COMMUNICATING THAT YOUR VERSION OF THE PRODUCT IS BETTER THAN OTHERS’, selling that product, getting profit. So that budget needs to be factored from the profits to get more profits. And, still, you need to continue creating a demand lest people forget that they need your product. “Oh, wow, almost forgot, Coke DOES open happiness. Look at me drinking water….” or “Man, I’m not loving it right now, I would like a double cheeseburger, so that I could say “I’m Loving It.” And to do that, you have to put even more money into creating a demand, into proving you’re better, and making sure folks don’t forget you. That’s alot of money. And so the need for money grows and grows….and grows….and grows…

    And of course, let’s not forget that systems develop. Enterprises intermingle. As they get larger, the central enterprise can’t even actually produce its product anymore and has to outsource to other enterprises. The customer has no idea about their other enterprises, or what they are about, their quality, they only have the main enterprise’s label. Eventually, the enterprise becomes a profit shell that serves as a label for a label group of interconnected enterprises that are completely disconnected from the ultimate consumer.

    This cycle, while annoying and sometimes ridiculous, is not a major concern for me when it comes to sodas or burgers. A burger joint is a burger joint is a burger joint, and I can always go vegetarian is I want, I can always buy the store brand soda instead, or go on a rice-and-water diet, whatever.

    It has a larger impact, though. This type of system has become a part of EVERY MAJOR PRIVATE ENTERPRISE IN AMERICA if it really wants to turn a profit. Outsource, outsource, outsource. And when the system is made up of thousands of different enterprises, many of which are barely KNOWN by the people their “products” are ultimately in the hands of, barely even traceable by those customers, all perpetuating this cycle on their own, the system will inevitably spin out of control. And since the enterprises don’t actually know their customers, really, who cares? They are statistics, demographics, numbers, and as long as their profits are increasing, isn’t that the big deal? It’s all products, right? That’s business.

    I have a direct say in the American government, if I so choose. I can demand to know the truth behind the systems. I can directly affect the decision makers. While my desires may not make it to the final outcome, I have a say in what happens. I can vote to elect the people I believe want to serve the constituents the best. The American government’s decision making can be directly affected by me. WE THE PEOPLE means me and you, not just the people in Washington, because I choose who goes to Washington.

    Will things ever be perfect? No. But, in matters of grave importance to the well-being and welfare of me and other souls, I want to have a say. I don’t think anyone is fighting for our military to be privatized. And there are reasons for that. Because private enterprises get out of control with power. The government can too — but the government is ultimately run by you and me. And putting people’s lives in the hands of “private agencies” sounds like a death panel if I ever heard of it, and it has proved to serve as such.

    The government is not my favorite answer to this question when it is posed open-ended. But between government and “private agencies”, I vote government, because I have a say.

    If you are wondering, my favorite answer would be PEOPLE. People who I can know, who I can trust, who I can talk to. People do what is right by the people they are working with. In my business, I deal directly with clients, face-to-face, both to be good at customer service and to keep myself ACCOUNTABLE. If I were something connected only by a fine thread, I would care less about quality, I would not care about their goals, I would just be doing the stinkin’ job, another day, another dollar. Actually engaging with people, I know better what they need, what I can do to help them, and how to best serve them through the operations I have control over.

    This would be my favorite. If people would step up and help people. But they aren’t. Christian people, making up churches, aren’t. I wish I felt secure that people, especially Christians, are actually willing to sacrifice to help people, and that this effort was widespread enough that people aren’t dying left and right from hunger, cold, disease — but they are right now. Until then, I am willing utilize the government that I have inherited to do what it can, because I do have a say in it.

    Mazeltov.

  2. Jesse Baker says :

    I agree with you here.

    The hold-up I have is with the issue of quantity of people helped.

    I can’t honestly say the healthcare bill will be a good or bad thing… I actually just assume it will be plenty of both… but I know it has potential to help an enormous number of people that will not otherwise be helped.

    I also believe it would be nice if the Church took care of the poor, but, unfortunately, we all know the Church by-in-large fails to meet that need.

    So when a potential solution is proposed to care for the poor, although by governmental action, why would we not choose to refine it and make it help the largest number of people instead of root against it?

    I suppose part of what I’m saying is, if I’m going to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, then I would sure hope that Caesar plans to give that money to the poor. Which also brings to mind the fact that 50% of what I give to Caesar goes to making war which I don’t get to opt out of either.

    Let’s face it. Many Christians, or otherwise “compassionate conservatives” will not give a portion of their income to pay for someone else’s healthcare bills/health insurance, so in order to provide health coverage for the underprivileged why not use the government to collect and distribute that money?

    This is an problem I see in a couple different areas of political thought: the desire to campaign for causes, but the neglect to find solutions for the alternative.
    For example, if you are ready to campaign against abortion, then are you also prepared to adopt the children who would otherwise be aborted?
    Or… If you are ready to campaign against war as a means to an end, then are you also ready to invest in the systems and actions necessary to mediate conflict and avoid combat so that eventually we don’t just return to our engrained response to go to war when provoked?

    Therefore, if you are ready to campaign against government-run healthcare then are you also prepared to provide healthcare for someone who doesn’t have it on your own?
    (not a perfect analogy, I know, but you get the point)

    Obviously, there are motives in passing that bill that are not so pure and simple, but maybe, just maybe, it’s a step in a redeeming direction for the poor in America.
    I hope and pray that it is.

    Like I said, I don’t necessarily know that it will work out that well, and I won’t be so brash to claim to understand what all it will entail. But from what I understand it might very well do good things.

    So I appreciate the “compassionate conservative” model, but only if it is actually played out in a way that really gets to helping people in huge numbers.
    And if we were in that system and really ‘cheerfully giving,’ then hopefully we would be giving away even more than the government is going to be taxing us for healthcare reform.

    All that said, I willingly admit I don’t know all the answers.
    This bill may be just what Fox News seems to think it is: the death of America as we know it, and if that comes to pass, then I would challenge American Christians to learn to say, “So be it if it is God’s will.”
    Many “great” nations have fallen at the hands of their own injustice, and I’m not attempting to prophesy that God is dooming America, but only acknowledging that God has never pledged allegiance to our flag and His story is far bigger and more important than the percentage on my paycheck that America takes.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for what I believe God desires, but I think we worry a little too much money that never really belonged to us anyway.

    Sorry about that ramble, and that’s way more than two cents… but there it is anyway.

  3. weshartline says :

    I guess it is obvious that I disagree with the opinion presented above. If it isn’t obvious, well then I don’t know…

    I will forever stand by the following statement: Our government does two things well, and those two things only. 1. Taxing the American Citizen. 2. Fighting Wars.

    It hasn’t done anything to convince me in any form or fashion that it have the slightest idea how to effectively operate any program without driving it into bankruptcy. It hasn’t been able to prove itself effective at understand the full extent of decisions it administrations make, regardless of affiliation.

    Brian, I do agree that the People of America should be shouldering the load. What’s fun about it is that we DO shoulder the load. We pay taxes that pay for all of these things; War, HealthCare, Education, etc. No one is exempt, nor should they be exempt. One glaring issue I have is that not everyone pays. If you want the benefits, you should have to do something to earn them.

    Private organizations, including non-profits, are far more capable of managing the programs our Federal Government has decided we couldn’t live without.

  4. Jesse Baker says :

    Well, yes… obviously you disagree.

    But in light of my previous statements, then what is your solution?

    I know you’re saying private organizations and non-profits should be responsible for providing healthcare, but that has been an option for them for years now and they have not succeeding in providing care for a large portion of the underprivileged.

    So would you rather see that continue, or the government at least attempt to try something different?

    Is the inconvenience of an extra few dollars a month off your paycheck worth the suffering, whether financial or physical, of those left uninsured?

    Once again, I know it won’t work that purely, but certainly, there will be several people helped who would not otherwise be helped.
    I would find it baffling if you don’t seem to see any good could possibly come out of it whatsoever.

  5. weshartline says :

    The government has already tried to provide healthcare for Americans, and each program is bankrupt. There really aren’t any two ways about it. 20% of total expenditures by the government last year were for Medicare, and that hardly provides the care those people need. Why would we assume that if the government can’t provide adequate care for those 20% that they could provide care for more people? It defies logic. Adding people to the system cannot improve it. Ever.

    I would like to see the government own up to their mismanagement of things we cannot stop right now (Medicare, Social Security, etc.) and let the private sector work on them. Why is the government involved in Education? They don’t have the slightest clue what Nashville schools need versus Memphis school. Why not let TN run our own programs?

    The reason is simple. Brian gave it earlier. Power. Power. Power. If the federal government runs the programs and sets the standards, then those schools have to do what they say or risk losing federal funding (which comes from the states anyway, a totally different conversation). Let’s keep in mind that the Public School system in America is a disaster (for the most part – some schools do well, but those are the exception).

    I would submit that moving the management from Government to private would result in HUGE benefits. That’s an opinion, but I think it’s true. Imagine if the best healthcare company in the country approached the federal government and told them that they would work to fix the problems made by bureaucracy and mismanagement? I would vote yes on that. They’ve PROVEN themselves to be effective at running the operation.

    We are on a path of insanity. We cannot expect things to improve by doing them the same way we have all along.

  6. Aaron says :

    Brian,
    You discredited the best argument for reigning in businesses. Stop buying their product…or …take your business elsewhere. But you are right, it is not the same as voting. Wal-Mart cannot magically make a shirt disappear off their rack and have money magically appear in their registers. Therefore YOU have to buy from them in order for them to receive YOUR money. Voting on the other hand is much easier to manipulate (make votes appear), and if you vote the wrong people in place, they can make it harder for the opposition to win by redistricting…and that’s tough to undo. There are other things that can be done to tip the scale in one direction or another, like buying votes (whether it be with money or ‘lunch and a ride to the voting booth’), or allowing dead people to vote. This (among many other things not pertaining to this discussion)makes the government a dangerous entity that needs to be kept on a leash.
    The Federal Government has 2 jobs to do, and that is to make sure that the states play fair with one another in interstate commerce and protect us (do not confuse with take care of us). The rest needs to be left to the state and local governments.
    I find that the problem lies in the intermingling of the private sector and the government. Companies should not have the right to send lobbyists to DC to persuade those who directly vote on legislation. And federal employees should not be allowed to discuss policy with corporations or unions. If a company believes in something, they need to persuade THE PEOPLE from the “private podium”.

  7. Brian Schroeder says :

    Aaron, I prefer the words “protect us” more than “take care of us” too, but I think “protect us” does cover more than military power. The government should help sustain the life of its citizens, against forces, whether man or nature, that would end life quicker.

    I also agree with you on the intermingling of the private sector and the government being a major problem. Which is what worries me about the proposal mentioned by Wes above to hand currently badly run programs over to private companies, or for the government to force us to buy a product from a private company or to itself rely on products from private companies.

    Wes, I am struck that you have such a high view of and trust in the Constitution but are so convinced that the government that that Constitution establishes can never be trusted. The Constitution did not fall from heaven on golden tablets, it was constructed by men just as laws and ideas today are. I hold both the Constitution and our government together, albeit at arms’ lengths in terms of my “trust” in them; I can not separate them.

    In addition, I wonder about your notion that we should have to buy into the benefits of being an American citizen. If we take that to its extreme, let’s just take our homeless and mentally handicapped and hand them over to America’s enemies, since they have not bought into the defense budget. A sweeping philosophy like this is just as dangerous, if not more so, than what you are against.

    • weshartline says :

      B –

      The constitution cannot malign itself. People malign it. The government is not inherently bad, just like money isn’t inherently bad. It’s the desire for power that makes government bad.

      I am not saying that people who don’t pay in shouldn’t be able to help make decisions. I am saying that when people don’t pay in, they don’t respect the system that provides things, or they care less about taking care of those things. The other day Phil Valentine said that if people don’t pay taxes, they shouldn’t get to vote. I am not that extreme. However, it’s a good point. If you don’t pay in, even a tiny bit, you don’t value the end result as much.

      You know me well enough to know I support helping those in need. I just don’t support the government doing it.

      • Brian Schroeder says :

        People are also the only ones who can redeem the Constitution.

        And, I know very much that you support helping those in need, which is why I call into question the basic philosophy you are purporting.

        I am not saying that all the systems we have in place right now are working well. I am saying that it does not mean we just stop everything, take it all away. There are econominally and bureaucratically minimalist approaches that one can take to these systems.

        Conservatives are who we need to make sure these approaches are minimalist — liberals, on the whole, will add to a system to correct it, which is a bad approach, and spends more, and the bad parts of the system are still there.

        But, when the conservatives say “No” instead of “Let’s restructure this to make this work better”, fiscal conservativism will never be introduced into those programs.

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