Thursday, January 12, 2012

Santorum's Calvinism

This (Santorum To Mother Of Cancer Survivor: Sick To Blame For Pre-Existing Conditions, Should Be Charged More) is pretty amazing coming from a man hoping to be elected president. I wonder how many Americans with pre-existing conditions would be happy to accept individual moral responsibility for their ailments?

Apart from the apparently suicidal electoral politics here, it speaks eloquently of the difficulties of the market-based approach to health. Santorum freely admits that the insurance market has to charge higher risk patients more if it is to work properly, and that means that a cancer survivor will pay more, even if the cancer struck them as a child. At least he's up front about that unattractive conclusion.

This is doubly interesting as an expression of the brutal individualism of Puritan religious thought analyzed by Weber in The Protestant Ethic. Weber highlights the purely individual nature of salvation, and cites the exhortations of Puritan literature to shun the help of others, and embrace an ascetic programme of moral self-control (for example in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress). In Calvinist thought, God has chosen the saved and the damned, and that choice cannot be altered by man. Santorum's acceptance of the harsh consequences for someone of suffering a serious illness seems to reflect this view of the world.

As it happens, Santorum is a Catholic, but the Weberian account fits his words neatly.