The Father William Most Collection
Medical Rationing; Forms of Government
[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]
First, we distinguish liberty from right. A right is a claim, ultimately coming from or given by God, to have, to do, or to call for something (there are 3 things). Liberty is legal ability to try for something. I have the liberty to have a Porsche , but not a right to it. If I had a right, someone else would have the obligation to furnish it. A woman is, unfortunately, legally at liberty to have an abortion. This does not mean she has a right to it, so others could be forced by taxes to pay for it. (A privilege is a special grant to which one has no right. Politicians like to name things privileges: then the state can take things away without needing any reason).
The state exists to provide things that are necessary which individuals acting alone could not provide. We notice two stages: 1) provide things necessary; 2) provide things for the good life. There is a natural law obligation to form a state for the first purpose, but not an obligation to go into the second. In practice the danger of big brotherism is very great.
The state does have an obligation to provide for necessities for those who could not on their own resources obtain them. So this holds for basic medical care. However, people should pay if they can. There is no obligation upon the state or anyone to offer care which is extraordinary/ disproportionate (in sense indicated by Doctrinal Congregation). Individuals have a legal liberty to try for it IF they can pay for it. We must not say: it is wrong that one should have what another does not have. We should think of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. As long as each one is given what he has a real right to have, there is no injustice if another is given more than that. Americans have a hard time grasping that fact.
As to the forms of government: Aristotle rightly shows there are three good, and three bad forms:
1) Monarchy-- if the king rules for common good it is good-- if he rules for his own interests it degenerates into tyranny.
2) Aristocracy--the rule is by the best. This is good if they rule for the common good. If they turn to selfish interests, it degenerates into oligarchy.
3) Constitutional government (politeia in Greek) where all have power. This is good if they use it for the common good - if not, it degenerates into democracy. Aristotle thought democracy was the least bad of the bad forms.
Nations show a historical tendency to think their own form is the only permissible one. But that is not true. Nature (or God) is satisfied with any form that does what a state should do, as indicated above. All three have serious defects. Democracy is very hard to work. It requires, among other things: 1) those who have a vote should use it, but 2) only if they are well informed. To vote without being informed is sinful. So to merely try to get out the vote is silly. 3) They must vote for the common good, not for the interests of their own group.
St. Paul in Romans 13 makes clear that once an authority has been properly chosen (he does not specify in which way) that authority has power to rule from God - not from the consent of the governed.