Ethics ACA Essay
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The ACA does not by any means fully resolve this, but it makes strides towards addressing this critical issue of morality. The individual mandate is similar -- where the profit of one individual leads to the suffering of another, the suffering takes precedence -- the money is not as important. Not doing harm to others is the more important imperative, so the sacrifice for the greater good in this case would be the moral course of action according to Kant.
Locke's moral philosophy comprises two parts. The first is natural law, in that there are divine laws, they are obligatory and humans can understand these. The second is more hedonistic, that pleasures and pains serve to "provide morality with its normative force" (Sheridan, 2011). That these two views seem to contrast is well-established and indeed they lead to different interpretations of the key tenets of the Affordable Care Act. The natural law would hold that one should ensure, if possible, that all people have access to health care. As far a divine law is specified, you are supposed to love thy neighbor, and in wealthy nations it is entirely possible to provide this without undue hardship -- and the individual mandate might certainly reduce the wealth of some but it is unlikely to induce genuine hardship. Thus, the ACA is ethical within the bounds of natural law.
Locke's hedonistic side is more reflective of his views on the individual, as a unit possessing free will, and the importance of preserving individual liberty. All individuals without health care coverage surely have their own free will, and have arrived at this condition of being uninsured in part as the result of decisions that they have made along the way in their lives. Thus, if they must suffer, Locke would argue that to
be a natural cost for their actions. Furthermore, it would be immoral under this part of Locke's hedonistic moral philosophy to infringe upon the free will of those who are now forced to pay for insurance -- and pay for more than they probably need. That side of the ACA bargain was always on questionable ethical ground where individual rights are concerned. As a practical matter, governments infringe upon individual freedoms all of the time -- the most clear corollary is forcing property owners without children to pay property taxes that go to fund schools, but prisons, income tax and speeding tickets are all further examples of government infringement upon individual liberty. So the question is not whether the government can make this imposition -- it can -- but rather whether the imposition is moral.
In that Locke is ultimately conflicted. His views do not align, though it is worth noting that divine law is not the law of the U.S. -- there is supposed to be separation of religion and state. If there is some divine law that commands you to help others, Locke would argue that would still have the individual right to not help, or at least to set the terms of your helping. If you want to behave immorally, it is your choice to do so, even if here are consequences to that -- such as a fine for not signing up for Obamacare. The ACA oversteps on either of these, and Locke would likely argue that its infringement of individual freedom is morally suspect at best, if not outright immoral.
HHS.gov (2014). About the law. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/rights/
Johnson, R. (2008). Kant's moral philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/#GooWilMorWorDut
Sheridan, P. (2011). Locke's moral philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved May 10, 2014 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-moral/
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