On the Importance of Respectful Debate

Dear Carrie and other Conservatives:

In my last letter, I posted on my blog I began to do what I felt was part of an essential process to build understanding between people who at some level share the same underlying morals and yet arrive at different conclusions for how society ought to act to reflect that morality and justice. It is this letter that hopes to continue that effort.

It is very easy to feel an attack on one’s character, morals or even one’s beliefs when we jump to conclusions or make assumptions. Much great pain and harm has come to relationships and is currently creating a division in our nation that we are becoming more like enemy combatants than people who at the core are united as “Americans.” An antidote to that it is a logical debate. The use of debate, as it was meant to be used, has at its core logic. Anyone hoping to persuade cannot do so without mutual respect existing in the debate.

There are entire courses available on skills in debating that begin from the premise that it is in no way related to insults or attack. One must define one’s terms. The debate involves drawing a conclusion from a set of premises. It is important to recognize logical fallacies. These are known failures in reasoning or efforts to deviate from logic. An example of the latter is the red-herring fallacy. The idea arises from the use of bloodhounds to track a scent. A red herring would be used to through them off the scent and get everyone lost.

Therefore, the use of logical fallacies undermines the entire process. Why should one engage in debate? The alternative is that when I have an idea about what is right, and I fail to give the other person a chance to explain how they support the opposite opinion. It feels wrong to tell myself others are hypocrites and to question a person’s morals based on the reality that I just don’t know the reasoning they used in forming their position.
Speaking of morals, I was reading a short document by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops and noticed something striking. They made it clear they were not saying for whom one should vote or what party is right. However, in stating things that are moral evils, they grouped together numerous things that had created that confusion for me as a pro-life liberal and for whom I should vote. It doesn’t matter what religion one follows; the fact was that there are seldom candidates that are complete saints that oppose all these evils.

Grouped together with various equally evil policies or ideas are racism, abortion, lack of access for everyone to food and safe drinking water, genocide, social supports, equal access to health care. I must assume that an opposition to abortion is motivated by a belief in the value of human life. So, what should I say to my Senator who seems to value human life but then he/she endorses a position that is contradictory?

That is what I was thinking when I wrote about how health insurance is a completely legitimate industry that came to be forced to take on a role that was completely absurd. One could not defend the notion that a doctor should make life and death decisions, or any human health-based decision based on first checking with the for-profit insurance company. Of course, the insurance company has a right to decide what they will and won’t reimburse. However, the problem that developed is that we do not live in an ideal world, where the solution to the problem is not forced upon insurance companies. Somehow there must be funds to cover those things that are not going to be paid by the insurance company.

The standard arguments about “who will pay for this?” do not apply. No one truly opposes all taxation. We have a military defense that is necessary. This exists based on federal taxation. It would be ludicrous to say that we will ask for donations to fund our military, instead of any taxes. We don’t even question how much the military needs.

I am completely unaware of any moral sound argument that could justify an infant born to a billionaire should have better access to treatment than an infant born to a poor person with no insurance at all. The statement “government cannot solve all problems,” is very vague. It doesn’t seem to have any relevance to my argument (I should have pointed out that argument can be used in a similar sense as debate).

Here is how it could go on the issue of the military.
1) We need a strong military to protect our nation from violent threats from other countries.
2) Federal taxation is the only method to ensure that the government collects the funds required to fund the military.
3) Therefore, federal taxation is necessary.
Item 3 is the conclusion.
Now on the issue of a government source of funds for health care.
1) Human life is intrinsically valuable, and our conscience must compel us to support the equal protection and value of all human lives from conception.
2) Indifference or support for protecting and valuing all lives equally is assumed by a position of opposition to abortion if one is opposed to abortion because human life is valuable.
3) Let us assume opposition to abortion is based on a value for human life and not some arbitrary position.
4) Let us assume that the abortion of an unborn child is opposed and that protecting an unborn child is not an arbitrary decision being made as to which abortion will be wrong and which is ok, e.g. the social status of the mother is not a factor in whether the abortion is right or wrong.
5) Profit cannot be a motivation for our value placed on human life.
6) There is no monetary value placed on human life, i.e. decisions about protecting human life cannot be made on a monetary basis.
7) Private insurance companies cannot meet these needs.
8) Federal taxation cannot be eliminated.
9) Health care access should be equally accessible to all.
10) Therefore, the government must provide the same power of taxation to ensure the value of all life from the unborn to the aged.

See how this avoids any moral attacks, insults, anger or character attacks. It also avoids divisive terms like liberal or conservative – those terms aren’t necessarily bad but sometimes out of frustration people jump from liberal to socialist or Marxist. Ironically, socialist or Marxist are terms that are often made without any definition or argument that states why they are good or bad. They just seem to force me to accept their negative meaning.