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Answering Bernie Sanders' Question
By Mark Shepard

November 4, 2018

In an October 27 debate for the U.S. Senate seat in Vermont, current Senator Bernie Sanders, an unapologetic self-avowed socialist, asked his Republican opponent (here at about minute 23:45) to essentially explain how it is that so many conservatives that advocate for limited government so often oppose laws protecting abortion at any time. Sanders’ question went unanswered during the debate; yet the limited-government case against legalizing abortion is solid.

What greater power can we give government than to make it the determiner of what lives deserve the protection of government and what lives do not deserve that protection. That Sanders’ focus was the "hidden" unborn is of no relevance. The fact is, we have given our government the greatest power possible – to set the scale that determines the relative value of human life. So indeed ensuring government does not have the right to choose who is and who is not expendable is very much a limited government position. It is keeping the ultimate power over life and death out of the hands of government.

Our aim should be that our government equally protects all people in keeping with our national creed that, "… that all men [people] are created equal, ...". Let this be the goal we strive for, rather than Sanders’ view that some people are created more deserving of "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness [truth]" than other people, as determined by those wielding the power of government.

Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana have already moved that line to where government now gives certain people the “okay” to, with certain conditions and the help of a doctor, take their own life. Government again put itself in the seat to set the bar of what lives had such little value that they could be ended with the blessing of government. There is nothing holding this line in place, for it moved from government never blessing doctor-proscribed death to blessing that in certain state-qualified cases. It is all arbitrary.

Next comes Sanders’ government-controlled healthcare, where raising enough taxes to cover unlimited access to healthcare that has been sold as a “human right” will be neither politically nor economically viable. How long will it take to travel the path from blessing suicide to forcibly ending the lives of the “worthless” for the sake of the “worthmore”. Sanders will discount such talk as preposterous, but he surely knows that this has been the case in in the Netherlands for well over a decade.

What keeps this line from moving from the "terminally" ill to the disabled? What defines disabled? There are all sorts of definitions for disabled. Could disabled apply to those who “don’t think politically correct"? Degrading comments in the past year toward people skeptical of some of the climate alarmism surely pushed in that direction.

Once we give government the awesome power to set value to human life, all other rights start crumbling. There is no rational right to bear arms against a government that we willingly empowered to arbitrarily (no charge, no trial and no conviction) decide who lives and who does not.

Giving government such an awesome power presupposes that government can do no wrong. That view of government is very much behind Sanders’ call for government to carry out his “healthcare is a human right” mantra.

Yet the result in America will be no better than the failures elsewhere as government ensuring “healthcare is a right” becomes a reality. Those who have worked many long hard years to learn about the human body, mind and spirit will be, by the force of government, obligated to provide the service to ensure all have this new right. Being obligated, they no longer control their half of the economic and moral equations. They are obligated to provide a government right. Never mind if the compensation is lower than makes sense to go through years of schooling and training and be on call at any time of day or night, etc. Never mind if the service is morally reprehensible to the provider, like say abortion or helping someone, that government deems their life has little value, to end their life. Stripping their right to guide their career naturally results in shortages of health care professionals. While health care might be a right, that right does not matter when there is a lack of providers and when the most talented have moved on to other professions.

Prior to the civil war, America had millions of people who were obligated to provide services for others and government did ensure that happened to the point of allowing their lives to be destroyed. Going back to a forced labor model is not progress, no matter what the “Progressives”/Socialists like Sanders may say.

While the limited-government case against legalized abortion is solid, getting to that point from where we are is no small task, as it requires a fundamental cultural shift toward valuing the individual person regardless of his or her station in life. While government can force behavior to a large extent with its use of force, it cannot move hearts and a cultural shift is truly a heart shift. A heart shift comes from the free market place of ideas.

Political campaigns can be a great place to spark thinking. In my campaigns for Vermont State Senate and U.S. Congress, I won some elections and lost some, but I never lost a campaign because my campaign goal was first to challenge the thinking, and second to win the election. Most of the time, most of us are not running for elected office. Yet we all are always in a place to challenge the thinking in our culture wherever we are. Look for opportunities to move another heart toward embracing life. Every changed heart makes a difference.

© Mark Shepard

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