One redeeming aspect of Christianity may lie in its teaching that we are, indeed, our brother's keeper. I would only submit that there is nothing uniquely Christian about aspiring to this ideal. A certain secular version of this maxim is unquestionably embedded into the fabric of our humanity. Some have even suggested that our DNA, along with our Darwinian legacy, offer explanations for the very origins of altruism altogether. Suffice it to say, as social beings we are all called to one another for the purpose of attaining - and sustaining - our good health and well-being.
Despite this principle, the politically popular idea of "taking personal responsibility" seems to be clouding our understanding, as well as affecting our interpretation, of the well-intentioned "brother's keeper" doctrine. There is, of course, the belief among many that a particular economic model provides greater opportunities for people to accept their responsibilities meaning more of our brothers can tend to themselves. But these models don't provide opportunities for everyone and leave unattended the needs of many. Invariably, a number of people are left on the outside looking in despite the impressive wealth-producing effects some of these economic models have on society.
An important question raised by these problems relates to the proper role of government in providing their solutions. Certain conservative schools believe the role of government to be that of cultivating a business environment which would incentivize an even more comprehensive brand of capitalism thereby providing self-lifting opportunities for an even greater number of people. Former Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is on record as suggesting a newer "creative capitalism" which would identify emerging micromarkets in many of the world's impoverished regions in the hopes of raising the standard of living for millions while at the same time earning profits for shareholders.
Does this theory suggest that some form of capitalism is the best hope for those left behind? Teaching people how to fish rather than just handing them fish makes perfect sense - at least insofar as it applies to those who have the capacity to learn. For the sick and disabled, a slice of this proverbial pie is not within reach. Who tends to them?
Here again, purists say government is not the solution, suggesting even health care is more properly managed by profit-seeking entities. Only the facts appear to say otherwise. A sustainable, profit-driven model has yet to emerge as a viable option for providing comprehensive health care to an entire society, and this is likely due to the fact that including everyone would eviscerate the bottom line of any profit-driven scheme.
Which brings us back to the question of how to best serve as our brother's keeper. Given that the needs of so many are immediate, the imperative would seem to lie in committing the resources - yes, public resources - necessary to provide a safety net for those who are neglected by our present health care infrastructure.
When circumstances demand it, the assets of government can be essential tools for dealing with the problems private innovation has yet to solve.
3 years ago