It is not a total surprise that the mainstream media has picked up on the Ebola story or the (for the moment) more worrisome enterovirus D68. Of course, it is not unheard of for them to fabricate a crisis ex nihilo, or ignore a crisis that doesn’t jibe with their ideology, but they still have to make a buck. They still have to keep tabs on the pulse of America, and right now America’s heart is beating furiously. What is surprising to me is that the American public does not seem to be comforted one iota by the assurances spilling out of the Federal government, and the CDC in particular. I find that surprising, because there has been plenty of reason to be leery long before now.
I should clarify: I am talking about people who normally are on the side of ‘big government’ interventions. I detected the collective gasp when CDC chief Thomas Frieden stated that taking measures to keep Ebola out of the country would actually make matters worse. He has since doubled-down on this, and to his credit the argument now at least has the appearance of being rational, but the damage is done. The cat is out of the bag, the core doctrine stated so succinctly and directly that only the deliberately obtuse can ignore. People aren’t willing to be obtuse this time, even for the ’cause,’ because, well, they perceive that life, maybe their life, conceivably hangs in the balance. It’s all well and good… until someone dies… and that person is you.
Don’t get me wrong. The roots of this discontent go back. It isn’t an ebola-only issue, which is kind of my point. More than one ‘average’ Democrat voter I am acquainted with found our efforts to ‘rescue’ Bowe Bergdahl bizarre, but the real head-scratching occurs when they are also aware of the case of marine Andrew Tahmooressi, who was at the time, and remains even now, languishing in a Mexican prison. Apparently our government will move heaven and earth, even negotiating with terrorists, in order to liberate a man who is almost certainly a deserter, and most likely anti-American, but will lift nary a finger to liberate a man who served his country who is behind held on a ridiculous charge by, ostensibly, an ally.
Many things become clear when we understand that the White House is currently occupied by the Utilitarian in Chief and the CDC likewise has at its head a utilitarian.
Utilitarianism operates on just two basic principles: “The most good for the most people” and “Eliminate as much suffering as you can.” The latter stems directly from the failure of philosophical naturalists to come up with any way of defining ‘good’ in a non-transcendental manner. All they are left with is the shaky invocation of ‘happiness’ which they would also much rather leave undefined (lest they are forced to defend the pedophile’s happiness, the rapist’s happiness, etc, etc). This in turn forces them to define ‘suffering’ in very broad terms, such that it does not only include physical pain, but also mental pain. And from there, you are one short hop, skip, and a jump away from endorsing assisted suicide for the terminally ill to endorsing it for those suffering from treatable mental illnesses, like depression. The slippery slope of utilitarianism turns out to offer no friction whatsoever.
On the face of it, the utilitarian principle makes good sense for the public health, but it is not hard to spot the weak point in the sentence, the word ‘most.’ ‘Most’ necessitates that there will be some people who will not experience ‘good.’ Worse, some people may actually have to suffer, in order to enact the program of the ‘most people for the most good.’
This is the kind of calculation that men of war have to make when forced by dire circumstances to send some men to their certain death in order to (hopefully) save others or achieve a higher objective. In other words, it is a moral stance of last resort. When it comes to public health, however, it is the standard operating procedure. It takes a special kind of person to knowingly enact programs where it is known with certainty some people will suffer as a result in pursuit of a ‘higher aim.’ Dr. Frieden is such a man.
But that’s not meant necessarily as a pejorative. Here is what I think is happening: people who normally could accept the utilitarian method at least assumed that the government agencies ostensibly dedicated to preserving the health and ‘happiness’ of Americans would ensure, at minimum, that if anyone were going to suffer, it wouldn’t be Americans!
In the refusal to take definitive steps to keep Ebola outside of America, the argument was made that in the long run, it would be worse for us. This by itself stretched credulity. Worse is what it implied: our government was willing to abide a certain number of American deaths in the short term in order to obtain a long term victory. Even if Americans aren’t privy to the exact calculations made, they sensed that a decision had been made to see some of them–and it really could be any of us–as expendable.
But even that isn’t the really noxious part.
Probably, most Americans would be willing to accede to such cold calculating if by ‘victory’ it meant the eradication and elimination of the pestilence. While they wouldn’t be too pleased if it was announced that 100 must die in order to save 1,000,000 and certainly would chafe if they learned they were among the 100, they could still accept that it was a ‘war’ worth waging because in principle, at least, the goal was to protect the interests of the American people. Lurking in the backs of everyone’s minds, though, is that this is not the ‘victory’ that is in view. If it was, then other simple steps, such as the blisteringly obvious one of closing down the southern border, would naturally follow. Not only has this not happened, but Frieden’s statements against sealing our borders from the African countries where ebola is endemic seem to be designed to fend off arguments for sealing our own border.
In sum, the ‘victory’ that some Americans may die for might in the final analysis be the survival of Obama’s efforts to enact amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. People may have been willing to fork over money to Obama’s immigration efforts, or pay more in taxes, but they were not prepared to pay with their lives for a political position. The situation is compounded by the “children’s crusade” that the Obama administration has facilitated, importing tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and teenagers and depositing them surreptitiously around the country. Rumors abound that there is a correlation between these deposits and enterovirus D68. Amnesty seemed a great idea until public health bombs were deliberately placed in countless American cities, poised to explode with such intensity that even pro-amnesty folks might get sick and die. That is a bridge too far.
It is hard to imagine that the health and well-being of Americans are being put at risk in order to further the political agenda of the commander-in-chief, but my sense is that more and more Americans fear that is precisely what is happening. It doesn’t matter what the government says. What it does speaks louder. Everything the government has done over the last few years seems calibrated to undermine America’s security and buttress the fortunes of just one man:
Obama is also a utilitarian, but his utilitarianism belongs to a sub-category called hedonistic utilitarianism. We could summarize this brand of utilitarianism as, “The most good for me, as defined as the most happiness and least amount of suffering for me.” We are of course always happy when a hedonistic utilitarian takes pleasure in giving other people and could almost tolerate such a viewpoint. The impending ebola outbreak seems to suggest that Obama is perfectly willing to sacrifice some Americans in order to preserve his political future. To be fair, I’m sure Obama hopes to sacrifice as few Americans as possible.
I find it shocking how many people I know, have met, have overheard, who used to be pro-Obama, or at least neutral, in the name of ‘patriotism,’ who have completely soured. I do think that we have collectively adduced that Obama views the American presidency as a tedious ‘hoop’ he had to go through, a stepping stone on his way to something greater, perhaps in the United Nations. It isn’t because of anything he has said. No one cares what he says anymore. They only care about what he is doing.. or not doing… while golfing. “Obama golfed, people died”?
Ultimately, though, we need to look hard at the utilitarian mindset and ask ourselves if that’s the framework we want to base our country’s important decisions on. This might be the first glaring example where Americans themselves seemed to be among those excluded from the ‘most’ category, but really, one can never actually know how often or extensively that exercise has been performed. Between the utilitarian ethics and the Federal government’s insistence on secrecy in every matter, the truth is we’ll never know in what ways Americans have had to sacrifice for which ‘victories.’
Hence, more and more Americans have realized they are effectively “on their own.” They cannot count on their own government to look to their interests. Their government has gone off the rails, and every sign and symptom suggests that the government itself, as an entity, has adopted a hedonistic utilitarian outlook, that is: “The most good for the government, with the least amount of suffering for the government.”
I for one cannot imagine anything more corrosive to a healthy republic than that.