Welcome to The Path of Water

This site is dedicated to exploring the Tao and Philosophical Taoism; and how it relates to everyday modern life in the 21st Century. It also includes posts relating to how I feel Taoism can provide insights for dealing with the problems of everyday living.

The process of writing out my thoughts helps me to explore what I believe and why, so these posts will probably develop over time. I hope that you'll find this site interesting and, for those of you new to the Tao and Taoism, I hope that it can provide you with a first step on the path to a rich spiritual life. If you want to post comments relating to a post or the site as a whole I'd be grateful as all feedback is helpful.

Enjoy your visit - In Tao - Woody

Who would follow the Way must go beyond words.
Who would know the world must go beyond names. *

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. **

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Taoism and Universal Healthcare

I'm interested in what Taoism can tell us about living in the real world and the decisions we make. In recent times the issue of some form of universal healthcare system has been proposed for the United States. As a beneficiary of and contributor to the UK National Health Service (NHS) I think it's interesting to look at the debate and see if there's anything in Taoist teachings that can inform the decision.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of this issue I think I should first declare my personal viewpoint which obviously may colour my response. Like many Europeans I've grown up with state run universal healthcare and the idea that any country would not have such a scheme seems something medieval. I also believe that capitalism can be a crude but effective system for resource management but that in many areas it must be controlled and restricted to meet the greater needs of society as a whole.

To understand what Taoism has to say it is important to first understand the underlying issue. Normally the debate regarding the provision of universal healthcare starts with why should it be done? In this post however I'd like to look at the reasons why not to do it because they relate directly to what Taoism has to say on this issue. The biggest arguments against seem to be either directly or indirectly economic or political. There is the cost of provision, resistance to paying more taxes, suspicion that a state organisation will waste money or that costs will be inflated, and resentment about "subsidising" those who are poorer or perceived as less hard working or worthy. It is important to realise that regardless of the validity of any of these arguments or your personal political outlook, these are issues that relate to the impact that implementing such a scheme has upon you. For those that do not support universal healthcare I am not saying this as a criticism but because it relates to Taoism's teachings.

So what can Taoism tell us about the debate? I would argue that for a Taoist the answer is simple. In chapter 67 of the Tao Te Ching we are told of the Three Jewels or Three Treasures, namely Compassion, Simplicity, and Humility. Obviously introducing a universal healthcare provision is an act of compassion and putting the needs of others before your own involves humility, so I believe that for Taoists supporting such a scheme is consistent with the journey.

It is important however to understand why a Taoist would support such a scheme. I intend to discuss the Three Jewels in more detail in a later post but I feel some clarification at this point is important. The Tao Te Ching says....

When the great Way is forgotten,
the doctrines of humanity and morality arise

TTC Ch.18 (5)

...so compassion and humility are "jewels" of virtue for a Taoist but not for reasons of humanity and morality? Precisely so. Compassion, simplicity, and humility are "jewels" because by practising them it becomes easier to reach harmony with the Tao. A Taoist would not support such a scheme because it is "good" or "just" or "humane" but because it requires you to relinquish a bit of the personal, the "me," the ego - and that takes you a small step closer to harmony.