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Public Reason and the Health Care Bill

November 14, 2010

To be an autonomous thinker, according to Kant, requires courage and willingness to act.  Unfortunately however, the majority of society tends to shy away from thinking autonomously because people are lazy and it easier to accept the ideas of someone else.  Also, it can be somewhat scary to rely on one’s own ideas rather than accept society’s opinion.  It requires confidence.  For the minority that do engage in autonomous thinking, they enter a sphere called private reason, where individuals discuss issues and use logic to support their opinions.

The relationship between the public and the government is important, and both parties have to listen to the other.  The government has to listen to the public because they are representing he will of the people and should be influenced by their ideas.  Meanwhile, the public can continue to think autonomously, but must also obey the government’s laws even if they disagree with what an individual believes.

This relationship made me consider how our government handled the Health Care plan that passed through Congress.  Was the government actually listening to the public’s opinion?  In the Poll I found it showed that 48% of the population was opposed to the proposed health care plan and 42% were in favor of the plan as of the fall 2010. It made me wonder why the government did not listen to the public and change its course of action.  There was expressed opposition readily available to the government but still no changes were made in the plan. Kant says that the public should respect the laws even if there is a disagreement with what the public thinks is correct and what the government chooses to do.  Americans will have to respect this new bill.  However, I would hope that the government respect the public’s reason and consider what it wants, rather than what those in power want.

If the government continues to not listen to the public’s opinion, it will lose legitimacy, which is exactly what happened during the Congressional elections. Republicans won 64 seats in the House and 8 more seats in the Senate.

4 Comments
  1. joshuacy permalink
    November 14, 2010 6:41 PM

    I would say that there are two reasons for the results of this poll.
    A majority of those polled likely have a skewed idea of the contents of the Bill. People are picking and choosing who they want to think for them. They don’t want politicians making their decisions, but they let the talking heads on TV pre-process the news.
    So, let’s say that for each response (approve and disapprove) many of the polled have no idea what they are being polled on – this is the first category.
    Of those who approve of the health care bill are also people who agree with the president and their congressmen – patriotic people. Also, composing a small proportion, are those who know everything there is to know about the bill and approve of it.
    Of those who disapprove of the bill are (in addition to News slaves) those who disagree with the President (and Congressmen), and believe him to be Socialist – many of these people also comprise the next category. Also disapproving of the healthcare bill are the individualists, who believe that every man should have to work for his dollar. These men are rich and poor alike. A small percentage of these men, like the small percentage of those who approve, actually know the truth of Obamacare.
    Sadly, Liberals are becoming disenchanted with Obama and their “bipartisan” leaders. Democrats keep reaching across the aisle, and they’re reaching too far. The Dems need to stop compromising, that’s what every liberal I know says.

    So, yes, the public is unenlightened, by Kant’s reasoning. But it isn’t our politicians keeping us from the Truth, it’s the Media. Our leaders aren’t “losing their legitimacy,” they’re losing their offices to politicians with bass-ackwards views. Maybe we can find enlightenment, but not if we keep our eyes closed.

  2. crorey permalink
    November 15, 2010 4:35 PM

    A possible explanation for why more people were opposed to the health care bill than in support for it is because they weren’t thinking for themselves. Maybe people just wanted to follow the old and traditional because it is old and traditional instead of thinking for themselves and deciding what the right thing is to do. As Kant would say, it’s a lot easier to make hasty generalizations and follow others instead of truly analyzing the situation and using your intelligence. Americans are so busy that maybe just jumping on the anti-Obama bandwagon is easier than taking the time to look in depth into the situation. As Professor at Indiana University and PhD Angela Barron McBride said, which Kant would agree with, “Full maturity … is achieved by realizing that you have choices to make.”

  3. November 15, 2010 7:43 PM

    I know what you are saying and I agree, I think the government should respect the wishes of the people. However, if we look back at history there have been countless times when minority racial groups have been targetted by the laws and the government made unpopular decisions. Additionally, in today’s world many people are against gay marriage, but I would guess that in less than twenty years, people would look back at this time and think how crazy it was that it was prohibited, just like people do now about certain racist laws. Ultimately, I think the reason why the democrats lost so many seats is much more complicated than passing the health reform, and who knows in a few years maybe it will be an extremely popular decision.

  4. neilrab permalink
    November 15, 2010 9:56 PM

    The problem with your argument is that there are always going to be people who oppose the government. When Bush was in office everyone rallied behind Obama’s campaign for change because they were dissatisfied with what the Republicans had done in office. Now that Obama’s promises are taking longer than expected people are beginning to oppose him and support the Republicans again.

    This seems to be a constant trend in our nation, but what we need to take into consideration is that many of these plans take time. None of these policies will transform our nation from one day to the other, but people nowadays are impatient.

    I do agree, however, that the government and the people need to be on the same page. After all, it is the people who elected the people in power, so they should be listening to the public and their needs when making decisions. Nevertheless, there will always be a minority, or sometimes a majority, who disagree with the government’s actions.

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