Mulhall column: Unholy ground of socialism still soiled
In 2009, a former vice presidential candidate who did a brief stint as Alaska governor and bears a striking resemblance to Tina Fey leveled a criticism on Facebook against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
She said our elderly and disabled “will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.”
It was a stern criticism, so harsh in fact that political pundits and health care experts on both sides of the political aisle did their utmost to neutralize it.
Within hours, PolitiFact rated her claim “Pants on Fire,” and in weeks following, opinions came out of woodwork to say she went way too far. Even Gail Wilensky, a health economist and former adviser to President George H.W. Bush, called her assertion untrue and upsetting.
Yet, just last year, a British court overrode Christopher Gard and Constance Yates’ decision to seek treatment for their son, Charlie, who suffered from mitochondrial depletion syndrome. The new parents fought for their son in court after court to no avail. The British government stood its ground, and the child died.
Last month, a British court ruled Tom Evans and Kate James could not take their son, Alfie, to Italy for treatment of a degenerative neurological condition, even after Italy, with Pope Francis’ support, granted the British infant Italian citizenship. The British government stood its ground, and the child died.
It must be embarrassing for a country as steeped in the tannins of the Magna Carta and English Common Law as Great Britain to prove Sarah Palin right.
A friend put it this way: “Be careful Britain, you are well on your way to becoming the same government that the USA helped you defeat in WWII.”
He makes a valid point.
Were it not for the fact that the ACA apes Britain’s National Health Service, life in the good old USA might bring solace. Even with the ACA, surely such a travesty would never happen here. We are, after all, so much more “nuanced” in such matters, aren’t we?
What ought to give us pause but doesn’t is that any government with authority to convey, or deny, medical care is, for one, a nearly imperceptible step away from reincarnating Germany’s Lebensunwertes Leben, or “Life unworthy of life,” a classification for a wide variety of physical and developmental conditions used by a former German government to obviate an individual’s right to life.
In a c. 1938 poster published and circulated during Germany’s Nationalsozialismus, or National Socialist period, a benevolent looking young doctor dressed in surgical whites rests his hand on the shoulder of a seated adult male whose legs and right fist curl in palsy. Translated, the poster reads, “60,000 Reichsmark is what this person suffering from a hereditary defect costs the People’s community during his lifetime. Fellow citizen, that is your money too.”
Perhaps Weimar Republic hyperinflation gave this poster more traction than it should have.
Perhaps the onerous reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles created the cultural conditions in Germany necessary to replace traditional morals with the fairness ethics of an economic theorist.
Or, perhaps the Marxist slogan and socialist gospel, „von jedem nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen,” or “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” simply unravels when you stop looking at “least among us” as individuals and begin seeing them instead through the prism of the collective good.
Whatever the reason, the German people of the 1930s dutifully stood by while their government applied Lebensunwertes Leben to a wide variety of disabled people, and a program that began with forced sterilization culminated in outright extermination.
What wasn’t a defensible position then isn’t a defensible position now.
Socialism masquerading as a “government-run” or “single-payer” health care reduces the human condition to a bureaucratic algorithm that must be defended. To the extent such a charade addresses health-care-related inequities, it does so by invoking an old, tried form of inhumanity.
In defense of its own ground, a government is anything but merciful.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime valley resident. His column appears on the second Friday of each month.
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