The Ethics of Today’s Policy Dilemmas

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Using logic to resolve today’s policy dilemmas

Libertarians are known for their staunch support of inalienable, negative rights, which prohibit others from interfering with an individual’s choices. Under this framework, nearly everything the US government does today is immoral. While the echo chambers of the internet, often cast away to the peripheries of society, may hold this as undeniable truth, it is a sentiment not shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

It is easy to dismiss democracy as fallible. But democracy and expansive government are the reality in which we live, and thus it is our responsibility, for the sake of humanity itself, to make libertarian arguments that reach across all aisles and appeal to the majority of Americans. The following is a rational evaluation of today’s top policy dilemmas.

Tax Reform

Sure, you can yell “taxation is theft” till the cows come home. Unfortunately, there is not an inhabitable acre on this planet without government, and thus there is nowhere to escape the plight of taxation. As an aspiring physician, I can safely say we are more likely to elude death in the near future than taxes.

The question of our day is whether the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is more ethical than the status quo.

Democrats argue that it is a greater tax cut for corporations and wealthy individuals than it is for people of the lower-middle class, and thus, in a zero-sum game, would constitute taking from the poor and giving to the rich — a deceitful claim on two accounts.

First, there is no set ceiling to value. If the bill allows the wealthy to spend and invest more, the economy grows, value is created, and all benefit. I am not claiming all of the tax cuts will “trickle down” — rather, charging a certain individual less in taxes does not inherently constitute depriving another of tax cuts or benefits.

Secondly, why is it ethically troublesome to offer a discount to the rich? Yes, many corporations and moguls are worth billions while billions of people survive on mere cents a day, a reality many may decry as unjust (the top 1% in the US does, in fact, contribute more in taxes proportionally than in any other developed country). But ethics, at least in the objectivist sense, are not born of feelings — they are rationally derived, unwavering facts of life. Giving a corporation more money may make you “feel bad,” and giving a poor man more money may make you “feel good,” but that does not constitute a coherent ethical belief system.

Ethics are rational; their purpose is the betterment of mankind. The United States is, relative to all other superpowers, a free country. It is not only in our nation’s best interest, but also in humanity’s best interest, for the US to remain a legitimate economic player and a free country.

Corporations are mobile; should operating costs increase in one country, they can pick up their operations and take them elsewhere, carrying along jobs, revenue, and economic investment. Allowing major corporations to move their money, and influence, from the US to repressive, communist China constitutes an ethical threat to all of humanity.

Since corporations are more mobile than individuals, it is in our nation’s (and our species’) best interest to lower their tax rate and retain their economic presence. This does not mean they are more “deserving” of the tax break — rather, they are in a stronger position to command one. This conclusion is not universal — if the economic benefit of retaining a specific corporation pales in comparison to the cost to our human liberty (perhaps due to that corporation’s lobbying or cronyism, or because it would necessitate a significant tax increase for others), that corporation is no longer worth the trouble. While the conclusions on a case-by-case basis may vary, the principle remains constant: policy decisions must be based on facts, not feelings.

While Republican tax plans would contribute to the national debt, it would at least do so in order to preserve the economic competitiveness of the United States, hopefully making future generations more able to afford the incurred debt. Democrats, meanwhile, if elected to power, would instead likely squander the same money on handouts that would provide momentary relief at the expense of long-term growth.

Thus, Republican plans to reform taxes are economically and ethically sound.

Healthcare Reform

I have written many pieces on why healthcare is not a fundamental right — and thus an infringement when provided by the government. But humans are fickle and sleep easier knowing that some entity will step in to protect us when we grow sick. This entity need not be government — entrepreneurs, decades ago, realized people are risk averse and thus created health insurance, a safety net better than any government could provide. There are many for whom, however, the cost of health insurance exceeds how much they can, or are willing to pay, and our government has taken upon itself to disregard economic principles and fill in these gaps.

The argument today is not whether it is immoral for government to provide healthcare, but rather, if downscaling government’s role better protects the vast majority of individuals, and humanity itself.

Many make the mindless assumption that extending lifespans is the end of healthcare, and even, of civilization. Thus, it caused alarm when in 2015, for the first time in decades, US life expectancies dropped. But similarly to how feelings do not equate with morals, life expectancy should not be equivocated with freedom and progress. Does a caged Gorilla, even one that lives three times longer than its wild counterpart, really preserve the essence of what a gorilla is?

Humans need freedom to innovate, to thrive in perpetuity, to be human. Freedom is valuable not only for its own sake, but also as a powerful adaptation of humanity. Evolutionarily speaking, if the Earth is inhabited by many societies of diverse forms and principles, humanity has a greater chance of survival. But freedom comes without life expectancy guarantees. One may have the right to consistently drink his liver into dysfunction, but he cannot expect society to consistently resuscitate him.

Certainly, healthcare does provide humans with freedom from illness, but the gained freedom must always be rationally weighed against the freedom and value sacrificed. Our medical system today, spiraling from Obamacare’s added burdens, consumes trillions of dollars from hundreds of millions of already over-taxed citizens in order to provide exuberantly priced service to a measly few (over 50% of spending goes to 5% of the population), which often extend their lives by paltry months. Questioning this arrangement, nevertheless, makes one “heartless.” It seems the backwards decision-making and discourse in healthcare reform, as in tax reform, has in fact been all heart and no brain — giving new meaning to the statistic that failure of the heart is the number one killer in our country.

Republican proposals like the American Health Care Act were struck down as “cruel” because they would restrict healthcare access to those with pre-existing conditions. Yet, bear in mind, that, on average, it is these very individuals who largely run up the tab in this country for everyone by failing to practice preventative medicine (the greatest determinant of health, after all, is behavior, and 50% of diseases are preventable). Disincentivizing poor lifestyle habits through financial penalties makes people responsible for their own choices, thereby preserving the human freedom necessary for our survival, while also decreasing the cost burden on everyone else. Even Jimmy Kimmel’s crocodile tears could not alter the rational morality of Republicans’ proposed healthcare reform.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, those in politics who exploit emotional appeals, target individuals instead of ideas, and fail to practice rational thought, jeopardize not merely our nation, but the future of humanity. One does not need to be a libertarian to practice rational thought — everyone can and should. However, once one spends enough time analyzing politics rationally, he or she is likely to turn to libertarianism.

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Adam Barsouk

Adam Barsouk is a student of medicine and health policy at Jefferson Medical College and a cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. His family’s escape from the Soviet Union, and his experiences in the lab and the clinic, have inspired him to restore liberty to healthcare and the other depraved sectors of American life.

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent points and an opinion I share almost entirely. One thing that is always missing, however, is the discussion of more conservative government SPENDING in any discussion of deficits and debt. We simply MUST reign in spending. PERIOD. IF that happens, this entire idea of increasing our national debt will be altered also.

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