Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Aristotelian Empiricism and Obamacare

Conservatism's roots in Aristotelian empiricism and realism (see previous post from December 16th, 2011) have a number of interesting implications.

Empiricism means simply that we should utilise the evidence of our senses to gather information  Open your eyes and ears!  Keep you ears to the ground.  You might just learn something.

Because any one individuals's ability to gather empirical data is, by necessity, limited, conservatism implies a more humble epistemology than Platonic Idealism.  Our individual knowledge, subject to the finitude of time and space, is a grain of sand surrounded by a vast sea of our own personal ignorance.  The collective sum of human knowledge throughout history is but a pebble in that same ocean.

If our knowledge is limited, then it follows that government power and authority must be limited as well.  Conservative principles favour devolution of power wherever possible.  In the US, therefore, states and municipalities share power with the federal government. Let local authorities who are in position to know best address local needs.

In terms of politics, this means that those most directly affected by legislation are likely to have more insight into its value than its creators.  Thus, for example, if you want to evaluate health care reform in the USA ask doctors, nurses and patients?  What do they think of Obamacare (not much by most accounts)?  They will have better data points than the Solons who helped to write the legislation and and have taken care that they will not be exempt from it personally.

Aristotle would also counsel that we start by examining Health care as it actually exists in the USA.  Observe it, categorize it, establish a taxonomy. There is no Tabula Rasa, so to speak.  The point is to try to improve things rather than to obliterate the existing system in hopes of implementing an Utopian concept.

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