Common Defence

published

In his post American Priorities, John Goerzen compares the number of deaths that resulted from the terrorist attacks of 2001 to the number of deaths from a variety of other factors in years past. He further compares defense spending in 2007 to the budgets of those areas likely to reduce the amount of deaths from the non-terrorist causes previously listed.

The introductory paragraph to the Constitution of the United States reads

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Granted, insuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defence are high on the pecking order in that list, but “promote the general welfare” isn’t far behind. I don’t think that providing defense should come at the expense of the general welfare. Indeed, I think a strong argument could be made that providing “for the common defence” could include considerably more than just military security.

I’m also left wondering why so many people are so opposed to the notion of government-funded health care. Sure, the word socialism is a big scary word with lots of negative connotations, but in what way is public health care actually a bad thing, especially when the Constitution of the United States specifically calls for the promotion of the general welfare? Should not the resources of the government (ie: our tax dollars) be spent on things that make us all healthier, not just safer from terrorists?

A fellow I eat lunch with quipped “You want your health care managed by the same folks that run the BMV?!” A funny joke, but inherently flawed as it is an ad hominem attack: there is no a priori evidence that state-run health care would be like the BMV.

The strongest argument I’ve heard against single-payor prescription medication (the closest we’re likely to get to public health care any time soon) is that for price negotiations to succeed, the negotiating party needs to be willing and able to walk away from the table – to reject the offering, and to seek out other options. The government is not in a position to walk away from the table when vying for lower prices on prescription medications, so pursuing a single-payor environment is a bad idea. But that’s assuming that the government would be participating in the free market of prescription drugs along with any other purchaser, which might not be the case if it were indeed truly government-run.

I don’t have any answers, unfortunately. I’m not an economist, so I’m poorly equipped to engage in meaningful debate about the sociopolitical ramifications of public health care. But to my layman’s eyes, it seems that over elected leaders are doing a fairly poor job promoting for the general welfare.


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