Sunday, March 08, 2009

The pitter patter III

Of rats' feet over broken glass.


Welcome back, Spotty!

Thank you grasshopper, although Spot has to say that he drove though a hair-raising (or should that be hackle-raising?) snowstorm in Wisconsin on the way home. Not much of a post tonight, other than to respond to a couple of comments to The pitter patter II, a series which, in just two episodes so far, has proven a gold mine for discussion.

One commenter asks where does it say in the Constitution that “Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency – starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education?”

Well, it says it in Articles 25 and 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Granted, conservatives, this is a declaration by the dumbass General Assembly of the dumbass United Nations, but nevertheless, the United States is a member of the UN — a local boy, Harold Stassen, helped negotiate and draft the original charter of the UN, and he signed it on behalf of the US. Spot says that by virtue of Article VI, paragraph 2, the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution (which provides that Treaties are the law of the land), although not self executing, the pronouncement of an international institution that we have voluntarily joined is at least entitled to some consideration by domestic law makers.

Frankly, the idea that the answer to every public policy question is found in the Constitution, is well, puerile. There are some questions that come up that just aren’t answerable by an examination of the entrails of the Founders. Or if they are, the answers are found in the broad grants of power in the General Welfare Clause, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and so on.

If we democratically decide that as a half-way-enlightened country that everyone ought to have health care, that’s the end of it, the spittle-flecked rantings of the Captains Fishsticks notwithstanding.

Another commenter says that private parties are just much more efficient at distributing aid, relief, whatever. A word that the commenter may be searching for is subsidiarity, a word rejected by even Spot’s spell checker:

Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralised competent authority.

Subsidiarity lays aside the whole question of whether the smaller unit will get off its arse and do what is required, which, as history has often shown us, it won’t. This is true perhaps especially in the realm of charity. Maybe the key word is “competent,” or perhaps willing.

And on the issue of health care in particular, the idea flies in the face of the fact that Medicare and the VA are orders of magnitude more efficient than the private market in delivering services to end users, that is patients.

More later.

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