Thursday, January 7, 2010

Conservative AND Progressive???

A friend of mine a few days back posted a comment on my Facebook account that “accused” me of being conservative and progressive at the same time. I say “accused” because, on the surface, that could sound like an accusation of being a bit ambivalent. I’ve not asked him to explain what he meant by his comment, but given the heels of the discussion on which it came, I believe he was referring to the conservative stance I take on social and political matters versus my sometimes seemingly-progressive position when it comes to health care.

This comment came from a friend who I respect, so I’ve actually been giving this quite a bit of thought. The mental energy I’ve invested in this seemingly innocuous comment is a direct result of my belief in the principle described by Ayn Rand that the level of destruction or chaos in your life will be a direct result of the level of contradictions in your life. If that’s true, then the path to peace and contentment is a life of consistency between one’s actions and one’s beliefs.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a “student” of Ayn Rand or her Objectivist philosophy, I do find myself leaning toward the foundation of this belief system. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to this. The rights of the individual are ultimate and sacred, and anything that impedes the free exercise of those rights should be eliminated. The expression of these rights however is a two-sided coin. Meaning that for each free exercise of rights, we have a responsibility on an individual level for the impact that our actions can and often do have on our fellow individuals as well as corporately. In short, we are each responsible for ourselves and our actions, and therefore, the consequences of those actions.

I believe the federal government of our land has long overstepped its bounds of Constitutional empowerment of providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. In my reading of our Constitution, these are the only two rights/responsibilities given to the federal government. Anything that goes beyond this in providing a benefit for someone based on some qualification that differentiates them from another citizen of our country clearly does not promote the general welfare, but rather promotes the welfare of that individual or class of individuals. From a political and social perspective, this is the basis of my opposition to much of the course I see our federal government pursuing.

As a health care provider, it sickens me to see the extent to which we as a nation have transferred the responsibility for our health to others. To a large extent we have given the authority to make decisions on our behalf to many different entities that have no vested interest in our well-being. This applies to the federal government (should nationalized health care become reality), the health insurance providers (“I can’t receive X health care procedure because my insurance won’t pay for it.”), the media (just look at how many news stories we see with conflicting interpretations on the same health care intervention), and to a certain extent our physicians (My doctor told me I had to take Y pill for Z condition.) I believe that we, as individuals, need to actively take back the responsibility for our own health. Are there conditions that need ‘medical’ intervention? Yes. Do doctors save lives? Yes. Are the vast majority of people with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other lifestyle conditions suffering with them because of their own choices? YES! And, if that is true, then can’t a change in lifestyle give the body the opportunity to reverse the effects of those choices? ABSOLUTELY, YES!

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