Continuing with my last post.
Clearly, combining consequetialism with deontology can have very harmful results (housing crisis of 2008 and Obamacare). But what about virtue ethics. Virtue ethics would suggest that our leaders utilize the cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice, as well as the love of neighbor, when considering moral decisions.
The virtue ethicists were either absent from the moral decisions regarding housing and health care, or drowned-out be the opposition. You would think that they would rely on the virtues of justice and love of neighbor to at least understand the benefits to American citizens of affordable housing and health care. But, you would also think that they would have the wisdom to understand the risks of such programs and the humility to suggest that such policies may not work and might have very harmful unintended consequences. And, you would hope that in the face of severe opposition, that they would still have the courage of their convictions to stand up and be heard.
The courage aspect has been lacking in our leaders. They may follow this third moral philosophy of virtue ethics, which I consider the toughest of the three to follow, but, without the virtue of courage, the philosophy loses its effectiveness. And without an effective third philosophy, the remaining two moral philosophies, much easier to follow, expand to take its place.
The financial crisis of 2008 was driven by a similar moral philosophy to that of Obamacare, but with a few differences.
First, there was no big lie regarding this crisis – there was no new federal program to enact. But what did happen at the White House was a disregard for the lending policies that had been in place for decades. These policies involved the down payment for a home, income verification, and the standard mortgage amount based on the down payment. Mortgage brokers and banks were free to offer a mortgage to just about anyone.
The reason given for this behavior was based on consequentialism. Since it was considered in the public’s best interest to have everyone be able to purchase their own home, the sky was the limit and no policy was going to stand in the way. The “ends” of homeownership for everyone justified the “means” of not enforcing the lending policies.
Just about everyone in Congress went along with this philosophy – after all, home prices had always gone up as protection to the banks providing the mortgages. Those in Congress that were deontologists were simply doing their duty by not blocking any legislation that might hinder Americans from the American dream of homeownership. Their duty was to support those White House policies that were publicized as good for all Americans. It was not their duty to examine the potential consequences of these policies.
More to come.
There are two large political events that have consumed our country for the past several years: 1) recently, Obamacare, and 2) the great recession and housing collapse of 2008.
These two government-driven events, one under a Democratic president and the other under a Republican president, are both based by a moral imperative. As such, they should be analyzed using the tools of moral philosophy rather than the tools of political science or economics. In fact, I find it much easier to get my hands around the critical elements of the two debates using philosophy rather than the traditional conservative versus liberal or Republican versus Democrat labels.
Let’s begin with Obamacare. President Obama believed that the American public gave him the mandate to pursue the ideal of affordable healthcare for all citizens. He drafted a bill, with the help of Congress, that was narrowly enacted. As part of the marketing for the passage of the bill, he promised: 1) if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, 2) if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, and 3) the average insurance premium will go down $2500 per year. The Democrats in Congress, most of whom did not read the details of the bill, accepted the President’s three points regarding the bill. Several members of the Republican party did read the bill and they did not believe the three marketing points were correct: they tried repeatedly to draw attention to the bill, but with no luck.
I have first-hand experience with the bill. I am one of those with an individual plan that has recently been cancelled by my insurance company. I must now go through the Obamacare exchange to get my health insurance. Having spent many hours on the exchange website, I can say that I have two choices: 1) lose my plan, lose my doctor, and pay the same as what I was paying before, or 2) keep my plan, keep my doctor, or pay twice what I was paying before. Neither of these alternatives meet the promises by the President. By the way, I must admit that the marketing of keep your plan, keep your doctor, and save $2500 per year in premium cost seemed like a great deal to me. I didn’t read the bill to know that the marketing was not true – not even close to being true. I relied on our elected officials to do the right thing and say the right thing regarding this new mandate.
More to come on analyzing the moral dilemma of this bill.