Brother, You Ain’t My Keeper!

October 28th, 2010

By Brianna Aubin

Last week, Pres. Obama gave a speech in Portland where he declared, yet again, that he is his “brother’s keeper.”

…we believe in a country that rewards hard work and responsibility. We believe in a country that prizes innovation and entrepreneurship. But we also believe in a country where we look after one another; where we say, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. That’s the America I know. That’s the choice in this election.

Yes, that is the choice in this election.  Which is why I’m going to vote a straight Republican ticket next week.  Not because I particularly like the Republicans mind you; in some ways they’re even worse than the Democrats.  But because it is crucial that in this election cycle, we send the message to Pres. Obama et al. that whatever else the government is to us, it is not our keeper!

The entire agenda of the Left is bound up in the idea that most human beings aren’t able to fend for themselves, that they need some sort of Platonic philosopher-king to handle the big stuff and take care of them.  It’s not necessarily a malevolent idea; after all, when a human acquires a dog or a cat as a pet, it’s not a malevolent thing.  We feed the pet.  We take care of its needs.  We take it to the vet when it is sick.  And when it is too old to live comfortably any more, or when a treatment is perhaps more expensive than we are willing to shell out for, we put it down as painlessly as possible, mourn it, and get a new one.  Nothing malevolent in that — when you’re dealing with a dog or a cat.  But it starts becoming a little less benign once you apply that model to a human being.

I don’t know if there are any members of the Left reading this.  But if there are, think really hard about what I just described.  Even assuming that your arguments are correct, even assuming that you could attain the perfect society you dream about…do you want to be that dog or cat?  Do you want to live in a dystopic “utopia” reminiscent of Aldous Huxley or Lois Lowry?

I’d rather starve and die.

Now I have nothing against voluntary personal charity, mind you.  Your money, your choice; that’s what freedom is all about, and I have no desire to take your freedom from you.  But when you start extending charity into the realm of government, it’s not charity anymore.  It’s theft.  It’s one thing to say that you’re willing to take a pay cut so the poor can have food or a roof over their heads.  You can take that pay cut at any time — by donating your money to charity.  Therefore, when you call for the government to do that job for you, what you’re actually doing is calling for the government to take that money from your neighbor because if it was only your paycheck you were worried about, you could give your own money away any time you pleased.

So let’s do away with the false idea that Obama’s calling for a nation where he is his brother’s keeper.  What he’s really calling for is a nation where he has the power to force me to be my brother’s keeper, whether I want to be or not.  And I for one am sick and tired of pretending that that particular idea is moral.

Robert Tracinski claims that this election is a referendum, not on what the limits of the federal government are, but on whether the federal government has any limits whatsoever.  I quite agree.  But in a world where the federal government is our keeper, there can be no limits on the federal government.  Not in commerce, not in education, not in energy, not in the environment, not in health care, not even in the realm of ideas.  After all, how do we know that commercial wasn’t paid for by special interests or foreign money?  All that information can be distractingNet neutrality and the DISCLOSE Act are just meant to protect you.  Really.  And if you believe that, I’ve got this freedom-loving, Constitution-adhering, Democratic politician you should vote for.

Mr. President, you aren’t my keeper.  And I intend to tell you so on Nov. 2nd.


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18 Responses to “Brother, You Ain’t My Keeper!”



  1. Tom Carter |

    Brianna, I tend to agree with you on the level of principles, but you draw a contrast that’s too extreme. You seem to see the liberal position as socialism gone well beyond the normal conception (to include beyond European-style democratic socialism). I don’t think Obama is an extremist at that level. You see the conservative/libertarian position as an extreme also, with virtually nothing that should be done for other people beyond voluntary charity. I don’t think most conservatives, or even most libertarians, take it that far.

    Societies see a legitimate role for government in protecting and providing at least minimal support for people who have legitimate needs. That means taxes have to pay for it. (The U.S. isn’t at the top of the list in terms of how much this is done by Western governments.) Still, I would agree that some necessary programs go too far and actually discourage people from taking care of themselves (e.g., 99 weeks of unemployment). Beyond that, some government regulation and related actions undoubtedly do go too far, but that doesn’t mean that such activities are completely unnecessary and inappropriate.

    Regardless of who is in power, government exists to protect people and provide essential services. That requires taxes and citizen involvement and support. The legitimate discussion is how much and what kind, not whether at all. So, yes, the government is legitimately your “keeper” if that term is properly definied as protection, support, and necessary services.

    By the way, the caring for pets analogy is well-put, but it’s obviously intended to refer to the recent health care legislation. It’s wrong in the sense that there’s no withholding of medical care for the elderly or less deserving, not to mention euthansia, in the legislation. That’s a right-wing canard of the glennbeckian variety.


  2. Brian |

    By the way, the caring for pets analogy is well-put, but it’s obviously intended to refer to the recent health care legislation. It’s wrong in the sense that there’s no withholding of medical care for the elderly or less deserving, not to mention euthansia, in the legislation. That’s a right-wing canard of the glennbeckian variety.

    Perhaps not euthenasia, but hospice rules have changed. The new legislation extends hospice from a 6-month terminal diagnosis to an 18-month terminal diagnosis. It sounds great until you realize that stage 3 and stage 4 cancers, without treatment, are all terminal within 18 months.

    How long before this rule is interpreted to include the elderly who must be dialyzed several times a week? Or babies born with a variety of conditions that, left untreated, will be terminal within 18 months?

    I’d be interested to know how being my brother’s keeper cannot be construed as a religious, Judeo-Christian ideal and therefore violates the notion of separation of Church and state. The first biblical reference to being “my brother’s keeper” is in Genesis, after all.

    I’d also like to know how the notion of general welfare transformed with the progressive movement. How did this country exist for 140 years with the understanding that the federal government is absolutely not to be in the business of charity. Are we to believe that the author of the constitution and a majority of federalist papers didn’t know what he was talking about when he wrote

    I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

    Has the constitution been amended as directed by Article V in order to make Madison wrong now? If it hasn’t been, then welfare as understood today is a usurpation. It is not reasonable to argue that we should be able to cherry-pick the portions of the constitution that should be hewn to and others should be ignored merely because “times have changed.” To argue that “we must do thus and so” in spite of the absence of constitutional authority to do thus and so is to argue for a government of no limits.

    I find it amusing that some federal judges have discovered new meaning in the constitution by umbras and penumbras and emanations. It’s a pity that such judges haven’t been impeached, or funding for the operation of their courts not withheld by the chief executive.


  3. Tom Carter |

    Brian, I’m not sure what your point is about hospice care for 18 months. I assume you’re talking about Medicare. I didn’t know that ObamaCare extended the eligibility to 18 months — or was it extended in some other way? In any case, why is that bad? People aren’t required to use hospice care, and many choose not to. And in most cases, Medicare costs would probably be about the same either way.

    No sense in going around and around on the same old issue about the Constitution — what is versus what should be. The fact is, Madison’s opinion is of no practical significance in this context. The Constitution had already begun to evolve in his lifetime, and if you could resurrect him today you’d have to take about a decade to teach him about the world today and constitutional history since his death to find out what his opinion would be now. For all you know, he might agree with where we’ve taken his great ideas since he kicked the bucket.


  4. Dan Miller |

    President Obama is definitely not a keeper.*

    *slinks off stage door right, realizing that puns are the lowest form of humor.


  5. Brianna |

    “Brian, I’m not sure what your point is about hospice care for 18 months.”

    What he’s saying is that according to the new rules, bureaucrats could put patients in hospice care to die rather than give them treatment that could save their lives, because it would be cheaper. Not because they’re malevolent or because they don’t want to help people. But because when you’re dishing out medical care according to what’s good for “society” as opposed to what’s good for the individual, an individual’s life becomes disposable, interchangeable.

    “By the way, the caring for pets analogy is well-put, but it’s obviously intended to refer to the recent health care legislation.”

    Actually, no. It was intended to refer to the way the Left looks at society. There are the anointed (to borrow Sowell’s phraseology) who take care of the benighted, and then there are us benighted rubes who don’t know what’s good for us. Doesn’t make the Left malevolent in intent, and that’s what the pet analogy was trying to convey. You don’t take care of a cat or a dog because you hate it and want it to die. Quite the opposite. But it’s not the way human beings are meant to live. And I don’t think it takes things too far at all. After all, look at Europe. Millions just marched in the street in France, and all over the idea of raising the pension age from 60 to 62! Guaranteed food, guaranteed shelter, guaranteed health care, guaranteed income, 35 hour work week, retirement at 60, and taxes of over half your income. You work (when you do work), most of it goes to soemone else, and what you have left is basically allowance money, since the essentials are paid for. How is that not analogus to the situation of a pet, or a child?

    And as for health care… well, when you give a panel of bureaucrats control over how potentially fatal diseases should be treated, then one can indeed legitimately call them death panels. Not because of fear-mongering or because the panels will not be genuinely trying to do the best job they can, but because you have genuinely handed them the ability to determine whether an individual will live or die. And it truly boggles my mind that people who wail and gnash their teeth about things like the patriot act have no problem with THAT concept.

    “Societies see a legitimate role for government in protecting and providing at least minimal support for people who have legitimate needs”

    Why?


  6. Mike 2 |

    Seeing the liberal position as socialism gone wild, is well beyond the normal conception (to include beyond European-style democratic socialism), seems to be what today’s ruling class Democrat is all for. And Obama is an extremist at that level, as I have seen & heard him saying it, on more than one occasion. The conservative position is not extreme in this discussion, as they do not believe that virtually nothing should be done for other people beyond voluntary charity. Every Conservative I have ever talked to about this, says we should always take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Libertarians do take it further, as they believe in virtually no govt, which cannot work. The reason conservatives are not extreme here, is because they believe in staying with the original intent of the US Constitution. They are being called extreme for this, when in reality, wanting to move away from the limits of the Constitution is the extreme view in this Country. Govt here, has grown & grown larger, grown social programs larger, and manipulated our laws, in order for politicians to remain in, and have more power. While people may have thought our original social programs were charitable, and helpful, it has allowed the politicians to take more & more leeway, which brings us to our Country’s current financial situation. Ruling class, so called Conservatives, have also been completely involved in the unbridled growth of our Country’s spending machine. So the point is; we have to get back to our basic fundamentals of small & manageable govt. This Country was designed to allow it’s Citizens to be responsible for them selves, individually. And they certainly have the right to help others as they can, or to band with others to accomplish that goal on a much larger scale.
    The people are tired of the waste, the corruption, and the erosion of freedom, that comes with each new law and program.


  7. Tom Carter |

    Brianna, bureaucrats don’t “put patients in hospice care to die.” Entering a hospice program (home or institutional care) is a decision made by patients (and families), with advice from doctors. I’m not aware of any change in that regard.

    “…when you give a panel of bureaucrats control over how potentially fatal diseases should be treated, then one can indeed legitimately call them death panels.” Where do you get this? Treatment decisions remain with doctors and patients (and families). Private insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid make (and have always made) decisions on covered and eligible treatment. There’s plenty to oppose in ObamaCare that doesn’t require throwing around terms like “death panels.”

    Mike, it’s true that mainstream conservatives believe that “we should always take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.” There is, however, an extremist conservative/libertarian view that government should have no involvement and everything should be done through private charity. That isn’t practical, workable, or even civilized.

    The appropriate debate, and the only debate that deals in realistic solutions to real problems, is the one that takes place in the middle, involving Democrats, Republicans, and independents who can manage to work together to get things done. There are still enough of those people in the country, but the political system itself has become so toxic that it badly needs to be flushed. Tuesday can be the beginning of that process, but it needs to continue.


  8. George |

    I work in the ‘home’ health care field, and I can definitely state, without any reservation, that believing that people have a ‘CHOICE’ when it comes to hospice is misleading yourself. Technically, they call it a choice, but once hospice is ‘recommended’, Medicare pushes the patient to accept by hinting that other services will no longer be covered if it is not accepted. Furthermore, the hospice companies put on the full court press, with virtually no one regulating how they go about their business, AGAIN subtly hinting that future services will be withheld. Trust me, I’ve been in this field for a long time and this has gotten worse every year. Since Pres Obama took the oath of office, it has become like the movie ‘Logan’s Run’. I am servicing people who are going through a lot, but are LIVING!! Then they are forcefully coerced into accepting hospice and within weeks I am reading their obit!


  9. Brianna |

    Brianna, bureaucrats don’t “put patients in hospice care to die.”

    Well, strictly speaking everybody puts patients in hospice care to die. That’s the definition of “hospice.” But more seriously, you asked what Brian’s problem with that particular rule was. So I explained to you what Brian’s problem with the rule was.

    “…when you give a panel of bureaucrats control over how potentially fatal diseases should be treated, then one can indeed legitimately call them death panels.” Where do you get this?

    Because when you put treatment decisions of potentially lethal diseases under the jurisdiction of a government panel, you’re giving them control over whether people live or die. Essentially, you’re trusting your future to the benevolence of bureaucrats, a concept which makes me feel particularly warm and fuzzy every time I actually deal with a bureaucrat. Do you honestly think that in a system where the government is the one in charge of the funds, that the government won’t eventually be the one dictating the treatment? Really?

    “There is, however, an extremist conservative/libertarian view that government should have no involvement and everything should be done through private charity. That isn’t practical, workable, or even civilized.”

    And I ask you again, why?


  10. Tom Carter |

    George, I can’t argue with your personal experience and perceptions. However, that’s anecdotal evidence at best and it’s contrary to the facts. According to what I find, only about 20 percent of patients who could avail themselves of hospice care actually make that choice; the highest percentage I found in other sources was 23 percent. Perhaps some Medicare people somewhere have “hinted” improperly and incorrectly that coverage of other services wouldn’t be available otherwise, but it’s obvious that many people are sufficiently informed not to believe it.

    Do companies that provide hospice services advertise and lobby on behalf of their businesses? Of course, just like Ford aggressively markets its cars — but you’re no more forced to buy a Ford than you are to enter hospice care.

    And this: “Since Pres Obama took the oath of office, it has become like the movie ‘Logan’s Run’.” Obama did that in just 20 months? Amazing that even a master of evil like the Obama who inhabits your nightmares couldn’t pull that off in such a short time.


  11. Tom Carter |

    Brianna, you say “Because when you put treatment decisions of potentially lethal diseases under the jurisdiction of a government panel, you’re giving them control over whether people live or die.” What the heck are you talking about? ObamaCare? That’s not in it. Medicare and private insurance companies making decisions on what is and isn’t covered? If so, you’re stretching the facts so far as to be unrecognizable. Insurers (including Medicare and Medicaid) must decide what they do and don’t cover, and they always have. You have to go pretty far out into la-la land to find evil in that normal and necessary business practice.

    You really have to ask why no government involvement and total reliance on voluntary charity isn’t practical, workable, or civilized? No modern Western society would be willing to kill all government programs that help people — publicly-funded schools and universities, government-guaranteed student loans, medical support to keep sick people from dying in the streets, unemployment insurance to keep families and young children from living in their clunker cars and starving when jobs are lost — the list is quite long. If your response is that all of this can be provided through private and corporate charity in John Galt’s world, you should take note of the fact that Galt is fictional, as is the concept that people can and will take care of themselves and others through voluntary charity in the absence of any government involvement.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to you to actually experience what happens in societies where governments don’t effectively participate in taking care of people who need help and voluntary charity doesn’t do enough. I’ve lived in a number of these kinds of places, and I’ve seen polio victims crawling along the streets and roads begging for a little food, seriously ill people who die because of no medical treatment, illiterate populations who have no educational opportunities, pregnant women who receive no medical care and give birth in filth and squalor…. I’ve looked into the eyes of little children in a village deep in the interior of Angola with bellies distended from hunger and watched them placidly pick vermin from each other’s hair, with no clothing other than worn and torn rags. That’s what you get when no one cares or does anything. It might never get quite that bad for everyone under your concept of voluntary charity replacing government support in more advanced societies, but it would get that bad for some, especially those least attractive, lovable, and socially acceptable. As for the morality of it, check Matthew 25:41-46 if you’re so inclined.

    Social and political theories based on academic, literary, and reality-free navel-gazing — communism, anarchism, objectivism, glennbeckianism for example — do not work. They generally can’t even be implemented because they aren’t practical in common sense terms; they aren’t workable because, well, they haven’t worked when tried; and they aren’t civilized because of the outcomes.

    As I’ve said before, the legitimate debate in civilized Western societies is centered on how much government should do and how it should be done, not whether government should do anything at all. That’s a result of being civilized.


  12. larry ennis |

    Brianna
    Your points are well taken.
    You are not alone in the opinion you put forth.
    No matter how many words are expended to defend the liberal view many of us find it flawed.
    A lot is made of the “glennbeckian” influence in the current failure of the liberals to maintain control. Not much mention is made of how bad this liberal administration has performed or its elitist behavior.


  13. Brian |

    Tom, that’s a gross mischaracterization of that passage. I don’t recall anywhere in the NT where the use of force was advocated to achieve what that passage says should be done. We are all free to do what Matt 25:41-46 says to do. We are not free to FORCE our neighbors to do that. As a society, we may have the power to do it, but that’s a far cry from having the right to do it, or from being ethical in doing it. It’s a logical absurdity to assert that we must do an unethical thing (instigate force or coercion) in order to do an ethical thing. That is the textbook definition of “ends justifying the means.” That’s a common tactic for every calumny in human history.


  14. Brianna |

    Tom, you’re assuming that what you saw was the result of a lack of government charity. Would you have seen those things in America in 1928, when America had no forms of government welfare whatever? Nobody can point to masses of people starving and dying as a result of inadequate government charity, because nobody was starving and dying as a result of inadequate government charity, but that’s a fact we tend to gloss over every time we scream that the world would come to an end without medicare and social security.

    There’s a saying that “charity starts with a full stomach,” because welfare depends on first having enough for yourself and then having something to distribute. All the poverty you described isn’t some bizarre abberation. Poverty has been the normal condition of man for millenia, and no amount of charity has ever fixed poverty. Only capitalism has ever done it, and capitalism depends on a person having an inalienable right to the fruits of one’s labor.

    Go to the economic freedom index, and look where the countries you describe fall on it. Angola, for example, is 154/179. Coincidence? I’ll bet all those other countries you described that made your heart twist with pity have similarly low rankings. But to quote that evil purist Rand, “when we’ll see men dying of starvation around us, your heart won’t be of any earthly use to save them. And I’m heartless enough to say that when you’ll scream, ‘But I didn’t know it!’ you will not be forgiven.”

    Far from not having a prayer of helping the poor, capitalism is the ONLY thing that has ever helped the poor, because it is the only thing which has ever created the wealth necessary to end the condition of poverty which is a human being’s natural state.

    “They generally can’t even be implemented because they aren’t practical in common sense terms; they aren’t workable because, well, they haven’t worked when tried; and they aren’t civilized because of the outcomes.”

    When has pure capitalism been tried? Ever? Point to one country that tried pure capitalism and maybe we can start to debate the issue of whether pure capitalism would work. As for those countries who tried partial capitalism, do you think SKorea would rather be NKorea? That Hong Kong would rather be China? That West Germany would rather have been East Germany? The latter countries’ every policy might have nominally been for the sake of the workers or the poor, but who actually did more for the workers or the poor? Freedom? Or coercion hiding under the slogan that we are our brothers’ keepers?


  15. Tom Carter |

    Brian, I didn’t mischaracterize the passage. It addresses a group of people and holds them responsible for their actions — as a group or as individuals. Parse it any way you want, but you can’t escape your obligation as a member of society to participate in the organized charity efforts of all. That means government, which is nothing more than all of us working together, especially for the benefit of even “the least of these.” And it’s sophistry to claim that taxation is forceful coercion and theft in a democracy.

    Brianna, I’m capable of thinking deeply enough to understand that the extremes I described were not the result of nothing more than a lack of government charity. They are, however, the result of ineffective societies that aren’t organized and capable enough to perform the basic functions of government in a civil society. And yes, during the Great Depression, including the dust bowl tragedy, there was widespread suffering and deprivation, none of which would happen in today’s society. No “pure” theoretical system, such as capitalism, has existed because none are realistic and functional enough to be implemented — they’re neither practical nor workable.

    The ironic thing is, I agree with both of you on many points, but I can’t get to your levels of extremism (or, if you wish, theoretical purity). I agree that capitalism and free markets produce the strongest and best economies; I believe that government benefits should be provided efficiently and within reasonable limits, leaving plenty of room for private charity; I want taxes to be at the minimum necessary levels; I strongly disapprove of wasteful and inefficient government spending and such things as earmarks and political payoffs; I want government to perform all of it’s funtions efficiently to the benefit of everyone; and I won’t settle for a society in which the least capable and most disadvantaged must live in dire poverty and misery. If those views make me a raging left-winger in your eyes, I won’t lose any sleep over it.


  16. Brianna Aubin |

    “They are, however, the result of ineffective societies that aren’t organized and capable enough to perform the basic functions of government in a civil society”

    Well we agree on that. Where we disagree is on what the basic functions of government are. I think government’s main function is to protect people’s rights to life, liberty and property. That means the enforcement of objective law, the upholding of voluntary contractual agreements, and protection against the violation of your rights by force or fraud. You agree with this, but think government also has some duty to provide for people’s basic needs. I don’t think government can do the latter without breaking its obligation to do the former, because once you’ve declared that someone has a right to a good or service, then you’ve also declared that someone else has a duty to provide that good or service. And I fail to see what’s so extremist about that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TSiJ2Gp058

    “And yes, during the Great Depression, including the dust bowl tragedy, there was widespread suffering and deprivation, none of which would happen in today’s society. ”

    Yes, during the great depression. The great depression whose root cause was government manipulation of the money supply. The great depression which went on and on, despite the concerted efforts of government to try and kill it with spending and stimulus. Gee thank you government, for your benevolent assistance in failing to help people solve the problems that you created in the first place.

    http://fee.org/nff/three-myths-of-the-great-depression/

    “No “pure” theoretical system, such as capitalism, has existed because none are realistic and functional enough to be implemented — they’re neither practical nor workable.”

    No, but those systems that have come closest to “pure” capitalism are also the ones which have done the best, whereas the ones which have departed furthest from capitalism are the ones that have done the worst. I posit that the reason is that the benefits of freedom work on a linear progression, not a bell curve.

    “If those views make me a raging left-winger in your eyes, I won’t lose any sleep over it.”

    No, just inconsistent.


  17. Mike |

    The ironic thing is, I agree with both of you on many points, but I can’t get to your levels of extremism (or, if you wish, theoretical purity).

    Its called being consistent. Extremism is nothing short of a smear, not unlike the term ideologue. You sound like a pragmatist. On one hand you want the government to protect the rights of people and at the same time want the government to violate those same rights i.e. providing for the needs of the less fortunate, less capable or what have you which is not possible unless you violate the rights of others as well. Government aid can’t be properly accomplished without coercion. Thats why “Right” or “Wrong” supersede “need”.

    and I won’t settle for a society in which the least capable and most disadvantaged must live in dire poverty and misery

    judging from your previous posts on government, taxation and people needs this statement implies 2 things. First that government should provide for such people thus violating the rights of others as I indicated above. Second that private charities cannot provide for those people. This is not based in fact. Americans contribute more than $300 billion a year to organized private charities and volunteer more than 8 billion hours a year to charitable activities, which can be valued at about $158 billion.

    I don’t see the justification for government aid. Its immoral initially and secondly private charity does a far better job.


  18. Brian |

    Tom, the fact is, though, that income taxation IS theft because it is taken by force or coercion. It doesn’t matter if everybody else thinks it’s ok simply because they all agree to it, it is still force or coercion, and that alone makes it theft.

    If an individual has no right to force or coerce me into giving him money, there is no way that a group of individuals can have the right, either. To assume that a group has the right to do so when the individual doesn’t is to engage in magical thinking. Nobody on earth has the right to initiate force against his neighbor for any reason at all. To argue otherwise is sophistry.

    And while you’re arguing the merits of Matt 25:41-46 and that that standard should be imposed by the government, you’re also violating the “separation of Church and state” issue.


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