Civisism

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Marvin Brown:

"Civicism believes that all citizens have certain obligations to each other based on such civic norms as solidarity, moral equality, and reciprocity.

Solidarity may seem rather irritating for libertarians, because they tend to ignore the very essence of citizenship: civic membership. A bit of reflection, however, should make clear that without membership in a political community, no one could enjoy property rights. It is a “we” that makes it possible for any “I” to enjoy the benefits of ownership. [but cf. the December 2010 issue of http://www.cato-unbound.org/ !] At the same time, membership does not negate ownership; it simply places it in the context of civic relationships. Health care also belongs to these civic relations.

Civic moral equality may be an even greater challenge for libertarians than solidarity, because libertarians tend to divide the world into the haves and the have-nots. If the government tells them what to do with what they have, they see it as a form of tyranny. For them, morality is a kind of property management—the management of their personal and private property. Some would say that socialism is also about property management. They just want the government to manage it.

The civic view of moral equality, however, begins with the notion of persons as moral actors. Moral equality means that most of the time, most of us do what we think is right considering the world we think we live in. Most conflicts, in other words, are conflicts between right vs. right rather than conflicts between right vs. wrong. This understanding of moral equality serves as the foundation for civic deliberations about controversial policy issues. All citizens have the right to participate in public conversations about our life together. This means that everyone’s voice deserves equal representation and equal attention in the conversations about health care.

Reciprocity refers to the foundation for making exchanges, for giving and taking, and for mutual insurance against the risks we all face. One finds it in almost all cultures. And yet, in our society, it has been mostly replaced by the notion of market price. Today, many calculate whether to participate in health care insurance programs in terms of whether the costs outweigh the benefits. “Is health insurance a good investment for me? If not, why bother?”

After 250 years of living in an economic legacy that pictures exchanges as based on self-interest, this seems quite normal. In fact, in terms of human history, it is an aberration. Human communities, for the most part, have assumed that what one gives will someday be returned. It is not so much a calculation as an expectation towards oneself and toward others. Obviously, it rubs against the individualism of the libertarian. Still, even they can see (if they want to) that we all live today in complex systems and get most of what we have through these systems. Even a drink of water comes from an elaborate water system. That is also true of health care. The fact is that we do depend on one another. Reciprocity transforms that dependence into one of moral value. It honors our capacity to provide for and to protect one another.

In the United States, we do have a tradition of civil rights and civic virtue. It is based on the recognition of the dignity of the individual as a member of the civic community: as a citizen." (http://www.civilizingtheeconomy.com/2010/12/health-care-not-socialism-nor-libertarianism-but-civicism/)