Virute Conservatism, Health Care Policy and The Working-Class

Peter Lawler gives initial response to conversation at the recent President’s Council on Bioethics meeting.

The present system, where most people get the insurance from their employer, is collapsing. It’s incompatible with a dynamic economy and unaffordable over the long term. And when key “intermediary” groups can no longer do a job, it’s inevitable that some responsibilities devolve to individuals, and others to the government.

It lifted my heart to think that conservatives might join the conversation in a meaningful way, focusing on responsibility, subsidiarity, and market mechanism, while agreeing that constant motion in our society is making it hard to get by.

Lawler includes a note about a group I have yet to hear much about:

That leads us to the “Sam’s Club Republicans,” who have to be cultivated for the GOP to have a future. For them, the SOCIAL ISSUES concerning the disintegration of the family and elite contempt for ordinary virtue remain more real than ever. But so too are the issues flowing from their economic anxiety–like health care. They don’t experience their lives as on the road to some “soft despotism.” For them, the individual–surrounded by collapsing “safety nets”–seems more on his or her own than ever. Sam’s Club Republicans don’t want “socialized medicine,” but they also don’t want to constantly worry about access to affordable health care for themselves and their children.

David Brooks gives a shout out to the young representatives of Sam’s Club Conservatives here, noting:

Several years ago, Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, said the Republicans should be the party of Sam’s Club, not the country club. This line is the animating spirit of “Grand New Party.” Douthat and Salam argue that the Republicans rode to the majority because of support from the Reagan Democrats, and if the party has a future, it will be because it understands the dreams and tribulations of working-class Americans.

Update: see Grand New Party by Douthat and Salam. Role for government to increase opportunity? Sounds very Teddy Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. I can’t see many GOP sectors going for it, but it may be a decent governing principle.



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