Shared Responsibility and Public Policy

The public argument over whether and how to change the rules of health coverage and care raises just about all of the contentious issues that divide us across domestic policy.  And no surprise. 

In countless ways, we argue about limits to the role of government, limits to shared responsibility, what shapes fair tax policy, how taxation and other policies impact economic growth, how those policies should be reconciled with demands of equity and shared power. Is it government’s role to redistribute wealth and power? In any given economic policy, who wins and who loses across age and economic status? What factors make growth sustainable? Should we curb the power of Pharma, hospitals, medical providers and the insurance industry, and if so, how? And, of course always, should public policy respond to people’s life style choices or beliefs that some Americans have about personal morality?

Across those questions is ample room for honest differences.  But what if we were to lay alongside those debates about size of government, individual responsibility, corporate America, growth, equity and all the rest the perspective that we have in the Earth Charter which is that it is imperative that we declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations? What if our debates were to start with and honor that first value?

Here are underlying premises that help me sort out what I believe about public policy, including health care reform.  We share responsibility for each other; no one is an island. Government is the framework through which we manage shared responsibilities, and taxes are how we pay for it.  We rightly debate the extent of shared responsibility and efficiency of government vs. private sector. But may we start with foundational faith in interdependence, respect for our diversity and commitment to each other’s well-being.

- Jerry King

Earth Charter