Letter: Parallel motivation

Nov. 02, 2013 @ 10:19 PM

To the editor:

Let’s back away from the Affordable Care Act hysteria for a moment, and see if, by examining a parallel issue, we can gain a calmer slant on the crux of the struggle.

My thoughts were triggered by The Dispatch story of the Pope Foundation’s charitable contributions to three Vance County organizations.

Charity, for all its good intentions, tends by its nature to be selective, sectarian and fragmented. It frequently depends on whim when the urge to do “good” arises or an issue becomes personal.

An example might be a religious group practicing exclusivity, the message: “We will care for our own only, as we can.” Even when the charity practices inclusion, it can still be inconstant in reliability, depending upon available funds or the “charity” of its donors.

Social welfare, conversely, depends on legislated policy for its more inclusive goals. By its nature, it is predicated upon the need to do good for all, its message: “We will try to care for all in need.”

On an individual basis (but often, organizationally as well), charity is activated when someone feels “charitable” or feels they can afford to be charitable. What happens when they do not or cannot? Social policy is there for the inevitable unevenness of life. It bridges gaps occasioned by economic downturn or a downturn in charitable mood.

Charities remain important in that they fill needy niches, but they are not a systematic replacement for human policy. Currently, state governance is retreating from policies created to help our less fortunate citizens — to me, an uncharitable position.

Charity is where “I” stand today. Social policy is where “we” as North Carolinians stand yesterday, today and (hopefully) tomorrow. To me this parallel lies at the core motivation of the Affordable Care Act.

Bob McCarthy