This essay is about healthcare reform, but before I get into that I would like to share two axioms I have learned over the years that seem to prove their veracity time and time again.
The first is from an old friend and mentor, Dr. David McKenna, who in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, served successively as president of Spring Arbor College (my alma mater), Seattle Pacific University and, finally, Asbury Theological Seminary. In 1980, Dr. McKenna was also one of two individuals on the short list for Secretary of Education under the newly elected president of the United States: Ronald Reagan.
David McKenna is perhaps one of the most gifted orators I have ever known. His mastery of the podium rivals that of the Great Communicator who nearly chose him as a member of his cabinet. He is intelligent, insightful, and inspiring and he is one of those rare leaders who have clearly been blessed by God with both the Midas touch and a golden tongue. Those whom he leads almost always prevail and those to whom he speaks are almost always inspired.
Here is a tidbit of Dr. McKenna's wisdom that I will never forget: "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."
That's it. Pretty simple and pretty straight forward isn't it? Not a lot of fluff or verbosity. In a short sentence of nine words McKenna reminds us to consider the obvious -- If you want to know what is going to happen in the future it is best to look backward to the behavior of the people in question. What they did in the past is likely to be exactly what they will do in the future.
The second truism is from a man I never knew, but whose words have endured the tests of time and common sense. These words are from Richard Weaver who is the author of the seminal work of 1948, Ideas Have Consequences. In the simplicity of the title alone we find the sufficiency of the author's argument: Ideas have consequences. They lead somewhere. No ideology, epistemology, ontology, or theology lies fallow. Every idea, every agenda, every philosophy whether it be absolutism, nihilism, nominalism, atheism or theism will bear predictable fruit. Beliefs always lead to behaviors.
So - as we all get sick (pun intended) of the current debate over healthcare, I would like to suggest that we remember the words of McKenna and Weaver. First, what government has done in the past is the best predictor of what government will do in the future. And second, all ideas lead to a predictable end. Ideas that led to freedom in the past will likely lead to freedom in the future. Ideas that resulted in the loss of liberty yesterday will likely result in the loss of the same tomorrow.
Now with these two axioms serving as lenses for our glasses, if you will, let's look at the past and ask ourselves a couple questions regarding "public options", i.e., government run programs.
Let's look at the "public option" of State run education for example.
The good news is that access has increased and essentially anyone who wants to go to school or college can. The bad news is that the schools and colleges these people now attend are terrible.
The idea of public funded/government controlled schools is in many ways a complete and unmitigated failure. Look around at the consequences of this idea and the havoc it has wreaked on our health and fortune and our happiness and freedom for the past 50 or 60 years. Many students can't read or write or perform the most elementary of mathematical tasks and they graduate anyway. Many teachers can't teach and they receive tenure anyway. Standardized tests have been "recalibrated" (i.e. dumbed down) because of decades of declining scores. Grade inflation makes a student's GPA essentially meaningless in assessing his/her potential for collegiate success. Because of ACLU threats, the good teachers that do try to minister within this mess are required to perpetuate a "morally neutral" curriculum and then watch helplessly as our kids go about the grizzly business of killing each other. Columbine and Virginia Tech at times seem to be more the norm on the nightly news than an aberration.
At the behest of government run education, we have taught teenagers that the concept of sin is judgmental and stupid and then we wonder why our sixteen year old girls show up for their sophomore year pregnant and proud. We've handed out condoms at colleges from coast to coast and told our next generations of leaders to be "healthy" while it never seemed to dawn on us that we should share with these young people the HHS data warning of an epidemic of STDs running rampant in the dorms in which they will live.
Public education has touted the merits of the "liberal" arts -- a robust and open exchange of ideas as the ideal -- while our elected public servants boldly burn the flag of academic freedom declaring that they "won't tolerate the intolerant."
So, I have a question: If ideas have consequences and if the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior why would we think that government run hospitals would be any different than government run education? If the State supported classroom is a screwed up mess lacking any sense of moral clarity and if the same classroom refuses to accommodate our unalienable rights of religious liberty and freedom of speech then why would we think that anything different would prevail in a government funded hospital room?
Or let me put it this way: If you can't speak of God at the curbside of your local courthouse or schoolhouse then why would you think that you will be able to sing a hymn to God at the bedside of your dying grandmother in the public house-of-healthcare? Why would a doctor be permitted to talk about Christ's forgiveness with dying patients in the local hospital when that same doctor is prohibited from talking about Christ's birth with healthy students in the local high school? If it's run by the State then it has to be totally secular - Right??
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior… If we want to know where government funded healthcare will lead then all we have to do is to look down the path trod by government funded education.
Ideas have consequences and the ideas being debated right now are not new. They have been in play for years and we, therefore, have a clear predictor of what lies ahead. Unfortunately the medicine we are about to take has not made us well in the past but to the contrary it seems to have made us sick - perhaps even sick unto death.