In recent political debates, especially over healthcare, it has become clear to me that not only are people divided, but they often do not understand how the other side could possibly have arrived at the conclusions they did.
It seems there are 4 relevant divides that relate to the issue of healthcare:
- Is it more important to ensure people's freedom to pursue their goals, or to protect them from interference in the pursuit of their goals? (Positive vs. negative freedom)
- For those who believe in "freedom to," or positive freedom, it seems natural that healthcare is a human right as it enables people to pursue their goals. For those who are primarily concerned with "freedom from" oppression, or negative freedom, the taxes required to ensure access to healthcare for all seem like an unimaginable burden.
- Should a person's sphere of moral concern extend to all humanity, or only their immediate community?
- Should I be required to contribute to the health of people I've never met, or just my own family and church/community?
- More broadly, this question is a big differentiator between globalist liberals and communitarian conservatives.
- What value, if any, should be given to a thing because it's tradition?
- Traditionally (at least in our collective imagination), churches and private charity were enough to provide a decent safety net for the sick. Shouldn't we keep that virtuous tradition alive?
- Is poverty a personal moral failing, or a systemic issue related to factors outside the individual's control?
- This question, more than the others, has a verifiable answer. However, both alternatives carry a judgment (society/those people are bad) that can make it hard to update our beliefs with new statistics we learn.
- The Washington Post reports that the rural/urban divide mirrors the divide in beliefs about the root causes of poverty.
When talking about new policy ideas, people often tend to ignore that some people do not share their underlying moral commitments and presuppositions. When people are flabbergasted that anyone could think X is morally okay, there's a good chance they didn't notice that they only believe X because they also believe Y, and a decent, reasonable person might not believe Y. When the foundation is different, it makes sense that the list of what's reasonable to build on top might be different, too. Different people have different moral foundations.
Our own moral foundations are like our moral "givens" - though they might spring from religious convictions, they're not positions we reasoned our way into. And above all, they're not up for debate.
This makes it hard to talk to other people about what we think is best for society. If we make a point to talk about root moral convictions as well as differing opinions on policy, we might get farther in reaching understanding instead of anger.