Mens Rea is the term folks in the criminal law use when talking about the intention behind a criminal act. In other words, the act alone does not make a person guilty; he must also have a “guilty mind.” So, for example, if Vice President Cheney had accidentally killed his friend in a hunting accident (rather than merely wounding him), we certainly wouldn’t say he is a murderer. We would have to show that Cheney had some motive, or possess some evidence that he was acting with malice.
Can something similar be said about a good act? That is, an act of kindness, benevolence, or charity? Is someone doing a moral good if there is no intent to do good behind the act—a “good mind”? Most reasonable people would say no. If a five-dollar bill falls out of my pocket into the hands of a beggar as I dig for my transit card, I haven’t done anything good. If someone points a gun at me, takes the five, and gives it to the beggar, I still haven’t satisfied any moral obligation I may have to the poor (much less the middle class). And that’s precisely why we should be suspicious of any claim that “we” or “society” has a moral obligation to provide healthcare for the middle class.
Not only is the government not society, but society is merely an agglomeration of individuals. Societies cannot have moral obligations any more than they can tell the truth. Only individuals can. Indeed, if a majority in Congress were to have expanded SCHIP (Children’s Medicaid) to families making from $60,000 to $80,000 per year, the state would simply be stripping certain people in society of resources and redistributing said resources to others—most of whom don’t need them by definition (read: they aren’t poor).
It’s not merely that the government would be stripping people of resources, but of the very moral impetus from which ‘being good’ arises. By expanding any entitlement, the government is not somehow helping people carry out their moral duties. One’s internal sense of goodness is the sense upon which the very notion of moral responsibility to others rests. By expanding Medicaid, the government would be removing part of that moral sense. Perhaps worse, the government would be absolving people who have means of their responsibility to provide for their own children, while foisting that duty upon those who never asked for it. And there is nothing moral whatsoever in that. In fact, sprinkling the words ‘children’ and ‘poor’ liberally in one’s arguments will not change the fundamental backwardness and immorality of what amounts to a naked attempt to socialized medicine piecemeal through the plodding machinery of Congressional legislation.
It is time opponents of collectivism started talking in such stark terms again. The left is attempting not only to co-opt the language of morality, but to do so with the up-is-down postmodern rhetoric that would make middle class people the “working poor” and call coercive redistribution through taxation a ‘moral duty’. Enough is enough. It is time someone stood up and pointed at the left’s mens rea in using children to highjack Medicaid for the purposes of incremental socialism, and using lies to win power at all costs. They are treating us like that frog in the water who won’t jump if the heat goes up but a degree at a time. Never before has there been a party in America for whom the ends so easily justify the means. Never before has there been a party so devoid of principle. Never before has Congress been so patient in their efforts to see over longer time horizons in order to dupe the American people by making them feel the pain of expensive health insurance to the point that they cry uncle and beg Congress to create the single payer system.
But what should stick most in our craw is the elitism behind the notion that a powerful few wish not only speak for you in what counts as moral responsibility towards others, but that they’re willing to continue using state coercion to get us there (compulsory compassion).The righteous indignation of these elites gets shrill, despite the fundamental weakness of their arguments and the moral vacuity of their positions. It’s time, folks. Call them out. Call them on their b.s. This crusade to extend healthcare benefits to the middle class is a cover for socialism. And it’s evil. Let’s call it that.