Seeing & Hearing

Intensive Care Units or Health Clubs?

“Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)) to overcome Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-And-Divide (DDDDDs). We need BOTH intensive care units AND health clubs.

Many political disagreements can be compared to choosing between intensive care units or health clubs.

Some politicians talk as if everybody needs intensive care.  As if we need to use intense government intervention to solve every problem.

Other politicians talk as if all anybody needs is a health club. As if we only need to use the market-driven systems of the private sector to solve every problem.

Take the problem of heart disease.

Some politicians focus on people with the economic equivalent of “heart disease”—people who need a stent, bypass, new valve, or even an entirely new heart.

Some of these people with economic “heart disease” struggle to make ends meet, living from paycheck to paycheck. They need the economic equivalent of a stent—government programs that reduce the cost of education and training, health care, and retirement so that these hardworking people and their families can afford education and training, health care, and retirement.

Some of these people with economic “heart disease” can no longer make ends meet. Their income is too restricted—like a clogged heart artery—due to loss of their job or loss of their health.  They need the economic equivalent of a bypass—government programs that enable these unfortunate people and their families to obtain education and training, health care, and retirement.

Some of these people with economic “heart disease” are so hopelessly trapped in debt that they cannot start over again without the economic equivalent of a new heart valve—loan forgiveness or even bankruptcy.

Some of these people with economic “heart disease” are hopelessly trapped in poverty that has persisted in their families for generation after generation. These people (and their families) need the economic equivalent of a heart transplant. They need intense government intervention to overcome prejudice and poverty such as affirmative action, vigorous enforcement of all laws against racial and gender discrimination, free child care, and free education and training.

Other politicians focus on fortunate people in good economic health.  These people already stay healthy, wealthy and wise by following the economic equivalents of healthy eating and regular exercise.  They also have good luck!

Politicians who cater to such healthy, wealthy, wise, and lucky people preach the virtues of joining a good health club. In their view, the government that intervenes least helps best—meaning few regulations, few government programs, and few taxes.

In the eyes of these politicians who cater to healthy, wealthy, wise, and lucky people, the people who want government intervention only have themselves to blame. They suffer from what my uncle jokingly diagnosed as “Dropsy and Heart Disease”—“they keep droppin’ on their butts and they ain’t got the heart to get up!”.

These politicians stress that using government intervention to help people only encourages them to keep droppin’ on their butts. Soon, the person ain’t got the heart to get up off their butt and get to work!

These politicians see that government intervention to help people economically in the short run may only hurt them economically in the long run!

These politicians see all these safety nets of subsidized education and training, health care, and retirement as the equivalent of encouraging people to be couch potatoes who drink beer and munch potato chips, while getting no exercise!

In reality, both groups of politicians are suffering from DDDDD Disease. What is DDDDD Disease?

DDDDD is my acronym for “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To Deceive-And-Divide.” I’m referring to those drawings that look like a hag to some people and a beautiful woman to other people.

A key thing to remember about a DDDDD is that both perspectives are true. The drawing really does show a hag. And the drawing really does show a beautiful woman.

Neither person’s initial belief is wrong. But each person’s initial belief is too limited. By hearing other viewpoints and perspectives, each person sees the drawing better.

To revert to my illustration from heart disease, it is definitely best to prevent it by eating well and exercising regularly.  Nevertheless, there are times when anyone may need intense intervention by doctors—even someone who eats healthy food and exercises regularly.

Similarly, it is best to prevent and treat economic problems using market-driven solutions.  Use both carrots and sticks.

Carrots for working hard. Carrots for starting businesses. Carrots for expanding businesses, especially businesses that employee many people. Carrots for supporting, founding and expanding charities that build a civilization that is good—that is very good.

What are the sticks in a market-driven solution? Some people will have less money than others. Sometimes this result is fair. The result of the person’s sloth and foolishness. But other times, this result is due to causes outside the control of the person such as disease, prejudice, a lack of opportunities, or simply bad luck.

At what point should the government intervene to reduce the size of the sticks? At what point should the size of the carrots-for-success be reduced by taxes so that the government has the money needed to reduce the size of the sticks-for-failure?

When it comes to the size of the carrots and sticks, size really does matter!

There is not one, unchanging, answer to this question. The tension between carrots-for-success and sticks-for-failure can be seen 2,000 years ago in the writings of the Apostle Paul.

Paul urges charity for those who cannot work. But Paul forbids charity for those who will not work!

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote that he would “continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Galatians 2:10).

When Paul said farewell to the leaders of the church of Ephesus, he reminded them that “by hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35).

Nevertheless, Paul could also apply “tough love.”

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul condemned those who are idle (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13).  He reminded the Thessalonians: “[W]hen we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’”.

Paul did not impose this rule to be mean-spirited towards people who are poor. He acted out of love for those who were idle so that they would stop being idle and, instead, would “earn the food they eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:12).

Therefore, we need to stop talking and acting as if the DDDDD only shows a hag or only shows a beautiful woman—as if economic “heart disease” should only be prevented and treated with intense government intervention OR should only be prevented and treated with the carrots and sticks of market-driven systems.

Indeed, the best mix of government intervention, carrots-for-success, and sticks-for-failure becomes even more complex as we consider the long range consequences of government interventions and market-driven systems.

One opioid pain pill is a great blessing after knee replacement surgery. But opioid pain pills become a great curse if the patient becomes addicted to opioids.

There’s a popular proverb. Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

Giving a fish to a starving person is a great blessing. But the expectation of free fish becomes a great curse if the starving person becomes a lazy person who refuses to learn to fish.

To solve such complex problems, we need to stop arguing and start listening. We need to see both drawings in the DDDDD.

We need to follow advice from the Prophet Isaiah.

President Lyndon Johnson loved to quote this Bible verse from Isaiah when he was hammering out a deal among politicians.

“Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)).


For my thoughts about how to achieve the best mix of government, carrots-for-success, and sticks-for-failure, please read my blog “Jezebel and Ahab: Greed, Lies and Violence” and pages 221-226 of my book Healing the Promised Land.

For more of my thoughts about DDDDDs, please read my blog “Deceptive-Drawings-Designed-To-Deceive-And-Divide”.

For examples of how a President needs to be a wise physician, changing his treatments for America as circumstances change, please read the story of how America overcame the Great Depression, overcame the Nazis, overcame Racism, and overcame Communism on pages 126 to 151 of my book, Visions of America (published with my book, Visions of the Church).