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Executing Democracy
Why Not Socialism?
My Journey at the Nuclear Brink
The Militia and the Right to Arms, or, How the Second Amendment Fell Silent
Bring Back the Bureaucrats
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Persuasion and Power
Afghanistan Declassified
Experience and Education
Working in the Wings
Pivotal Tuesdays

Health Care as a Social GoodHealth Care as a Social Good

Religious Values and American Democracy

David M. Craig

Narrated by Josh Anderson

Available from Audible

Book published by Georgetown University Press

David M. Craig traveled across the United States to assess health care access, delivery and finance in this country. He interviewed religious hospital administrators and interfaith activists, learning how they balance the values of economic efficiency and community accountability. He met with conservatives, liberals, and moderates, reviewing their ideas for market reform or support for the Affordable Care Act. He discovered that health care in the US is not a private good or a public good. Decades of public policy and philanthropic service have made health care a shared social good.

Health Care as a Social Good: Religious Values and the American Democracy argues that as escalating health costs absorb more and more of family income and government budgets, we need to take stock of the full range of health care values to create a different and more affordable community-based health care system. Transformation of that system is a national priority but Americans have failed to find a way to work together that bypasses our differences. Craig insists that community engagement around the common religious conviction that healing is a shared responsibility can help us achieve this transformation—one that will not only help us realize a new and better system, but one that reflects the ideals of American democracy and the common good.

David M. Craig is associate professor of religious studies and the Thomas H. Lake Scholar in Religion and Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He is the author of John Ruskin and the Ethics of Consumption.


“Taking a novel and helpful approach to health care policy debates, David M. Craig explores how religious language and values shape political visions about how to provide health care to citizens.... The book is thoroughly researched and approachably written.... One great strength of the book is that it outlines in accessible detail how truly complex our current system is and what a patchwork of values are embedded in it.... Paired with insightful ethical and religious analysis, this tour of our current health care system offers readers an unusual opportunity to rethink how and why we organize health care delivery as we do.”

Political Science Quarterly

“Does a truly remarkable job with a detailed and comprehensible analysis of the competing moral languages of the U.S. health care as a private benefit/choice, as a public benefit, and as a social good.”

America Magazine

“A rare, and needed, perspective ... [which] serves as a valuable resource for those seeking to learn about the interconnections between religion, ethics, and economic theory in the highly politicized medical marketplace in the United States.”

Religious Studies Review

“Could become as significant for discussions of American life as Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, both by Robert N. Bellah et al., were for the late 20th century.”


“In a political atmosphere about health care policy that is marked more by hysteria than reasonable discussion, this book provides a welcome oasis.... The author is respectful towards the various arguments and attempts to create a tentative solution using the best of the various positions that he discusses.”

Catholic Library World

“A brilliant book that carefully analyzes the ethical foundation of conservative arguments for market reform and liberal arguments for individual rights in health care.”

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

“A great strength of Health Care as a Social Good is its careful, clear explication of fundamental ideas and values undergirding competing moral and political philosophies in the US, and also of religiously-based political activism and its effects (and potential effects) on social discourse regarding health care reform. Craig's own summary thesis, that 'Health care works only if everyone is in it together,' provides a base for his thoughtful critiques and defenses of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This book is a valuable resource for all persons struggling to understand and respond to contemporary American battles over justice and health care access.”

—Jim Tubbs, professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Detroit Mercy

“Craig writes under the aegis of the common good, the hallmark of Catholic social ethics. But what is truly remarkable and unique about this book is its expert, detailed, and comprehensible rendering of the economic and policy intricacies of US health care and the reform debate. This is the kind of invaluable resource to which theologians and social ethicists rarely have access. Health Care as a Social Good supplies a superb model for religious engagement with the ethical and practical challenges of health care in this country.”

—Lisa Sowle Cahill, Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

“Craig offers a brilliant, non-partisan and non-sectarian analysis of current debates as background for his crucial argument that, beyond talk of rights or markets, the well-being of our society requires healthcare to be fairly and effectually available to all. Anyone with interest in US health policies and practices, from any perspective, will be educated, refreshed, and convinced by this book.”

—Dr. Margaret Mohrmann, professor of pediatrics and medical education, University of Virginia

“David Craig's Health Care as a Social Good offers a unique and important perspective on the health care debate in the United States, focusing on the contributions of religious actors and religious perspectives. Conceptualizing the issues raised as a debate about the kind of society Americans want, the book examines the leading arguments in the health care reform debate, identifying their visions of justice and their core values. The book differs from other studies of health care reform by drawing on the stories of health care experienced by patients and it helpfully avoids ideological labeling. The concluding chapter imagines how conversations around religious values, such as the Catholic model of the common good, might shape the organization of US health care moving forward. I recommend the book to all those who want to understand the fundamental values at stake in the healthcare reform debate.”

—Audrey R. Chapman, Joseph M. Healey, Jr. chair, Medical Humanities and Bioethics, University of Connecticut Health Center

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