A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lions and tigers and "socialized medicine," oh my!

I was having that rarest of all things the other day--a reasoned, polite political conversation.

I know! Never happens, right?

But yes, there I was, just having this conversation, when along came someone not involved in the original conversation, which is cool, sure--until they start trying to be irrational and have no intention of doing anything except trying to plant words in your own mouth and make ad hominem attacks and, in the very last resort, resort to doublethink in an attempt to short-circuit true thinking about the issues at hand. One person actually claimed that foreigners were coming to the US in droves to escape the perils of universal health care. Really? Where are these scads and scads of people???

We were talking about fixing our broken health care system--it is, of course, an oxymoron to combine "health care" and "system" in the same phrase, but whatever floats your boat. But soon along came dis guy, as my Jersey friends might say, and started claiming all kinds of weird stuff I never said. Then someone else chimed in with how we should never be in favor of "socialized medicine" in our country.

So okay, I asked, just to be clear, what exactly do you mean by "socialized medicine?" I received no answer.

It's often that way. People trot out sound-bites of the minutest size when they don't have anything else to say. I mean, seriously, let's agree to disagree, and share ideas so that maybe we will find a palatable solution somewhere in the middle, but don't just bring out the flamethrower when you don't really want to examine what the flames mean.

So I have to wonder, what exactly does "socialized medicine" mean? If by socialism you mean the sharing of burdens among a group of people, I just want to ask this: what do you think insurance is, anyway? Remember, we don't have a health care system. We have health insurance in this country, provided by one's employer, in most cases, for better or worse. And this is by no stretch of the imagination a "system." Insurance is legalized gambling through the use of actuarial tables. Insurance tries to get the most people to pay for something that they will not use. And in case the odds are not stacked enough in the house's favor, the house also reserves the right not to pay out if they lose too much to any gambler-- not that one could be considered a "winner" if one ends up needing a lot of expensive medical care. What a system! It's almost as corrupt as... Communism was.

Here is the problem, as I see it: the insurance and pharmaceutical industries have thus far completely controlled the debate about health care reform. Congress is in the pockets of their billion dollar lobbying campaign, and we voters don't hold our elected representative accountable for selling out the interests of their constituents (definition: US!). Thus there has been precious little reform, and all of this has been directed by government employees who are provided free, lifetime, government- sponsored health care by that same government that they declare too corrupt and inefficient to provide for us. We cannot reform these industries because they block any regulation of their industry as "un-American."

We already pay for other people's health care. Having once been charged eight bucks for a solitary Tylenol extra strength while in the hospital, I can assure you of that.

But, hey, rather than think about what is really wrong with our current method, let's trot out thought-stifling words like "socialized medicine" and "death panels" if someone ever actually suggests that the system is broken for a large portion of Americans.



At 9/16/10, 2:50 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

I have totally given up talking to most people about this. Setting aside the fact that I'm perfectly okay sharing the burden of the costs of health care with my fellow citizens, I'm sick unto death (pun intended) of people spouting off about things of which they know nothing - they only parrot back what they've heard angry pundits or talk show hosts yell into their TVs and radios. I'm already down on my countrymen; I'm not eager to find more reason for despair.

At 9/16/10, 7:01 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

And yet, we need to talk back now more than ever, instead of ceding the conversation to the parrots who unknowingly spout the insurance and pharmacy companies' line.

Oh and I just got someone directing me to wikipedia's definition of socialized medicine. Aside from the unreliability of wikis, it was obvious they hadn't even read the article, since it actually pointed out that it's a politically loaded term that is considered pejorative. Proves my point.

At 9/18/10, 11:43 PM, Anonymous Brian Rude said...

I certainly hope you helped pay for other people's health care with the eight dollar Tylenol, but I think it's more likely you just paid mostly for waste, with maybe a little fraud and abuse thrown in.

Reasoned polite political conversation is pretty rare in my world is too. The conversational techniques used by the intruder in your conversation certainly are more the rule. I know such techniques can be frustrating, but they also have the possibility, sometimes, of being informative, if you know what to look for, and are willing to use a little imagination. If you can use what people say as a clue, and only a clue, of a legitimate point, and use a little free thinking in search of that point, you might, just might, find an idea that is worth serious consideration.

Or you might not. I'm not making any promises here.

For example, the idea that people come to America to escape the perils of universal health care, could there be a grain of truth in that? Well certainly. America has lots of immigrants. They come for many reasons. Some of those reasons can be interpreted as relatively greater opportunity here than where they came from. Every country tries to give opportunity to its citizens (okay, every somewhat advanced country), but they also try to give services and security to their citizens. Giving services and security can lead to regimentation, at least in the eyes of some. (For example, social security is not voluntary.) Therefore (surprise, surprise), trade offs are made. To a certain extent security and opportunity are in conflict. Any society tries to find the optimum balance between the two, at least when the conflict is real and a balance really must be made. The balances arrived at don't satisfy everyone. So when you find an immigrant who came to america because he prefers the balance point considerably closer to the opportunity side than in the country he left, and you can claim that person came to escape universal health care. Okay, I'm not sure you find those people in "droves", but it's something to think about.

What is socialized medicine? What do opponents of socialized medicine mean by that term? Since most of those people are not economists, nor philosophers, nor orators, nor logicians, nor geniuses, they probably don't know themselves. I know I don't. But that doesn't mean they are not reacting to something very real. So with a little imagination we might try to devine what motivates them. Here's my guess.

At 9/18/10, 11:45 PM, Anonymous Brian Rude said...

. The death toll of the "isms" related to socialism in the twentieth century runs, apparently, into the hundreds of millions. Communism claimed some ideals of socialism. Naziism started out with claims of socialism. The very term, The "People's Republic" of China, or San Francisco, or whatever, implies claims that we associate with socialism. With such a horrendous record associated with the word, it is not surprising that it has some negative connotations.

Of course some people would claim that we don't know if Communism works or not, it's never been tried. There's some truth to that of course, but it seems like mincing words for rhetorical points. To say tht we don't want socialized medicine may be primarily a way of saying that we have very good reason to avoid the mistakes that other societies have made. That death toll, after all, is very real.

Of course we've had socialized education for a couple of centuries in America, and socialized police protection, so maybe socialism is not all bad.

I would agree that current system of having most health care paid for by insurance can be called "socialistic" if not "socialized medicine". It is a way of sharing the risk, after all. And I'll be the first to say it's not a very satisfactory system. Indeed I would say it stinks. But is the cure to move to a more socialized system or less? I could go either way.

The really important thing, in my humble opinion, is to move to a better system. That could be totally socialized government run system. Or it could be a totally non-government system. Or we could have the best of both worlds, though I'm not sure how. Or we could have the worst of both worlds, but again I don't know how.

Oops! Yes I do know how. We passed it into law earlier this year. It's got to be the worst of both worlds because it cements into law everything that has brought us to our present revolting predicament. At least that's my humble opinion. However I do not advocate repeal of our new health care law, as many of my political orientation do. I prefer the train wreck.

I have explained the train wreck, and why I'm for it, at http://www.brianrude.com/blogspa.htm.

And years ago I put together some thoughts on the trouble with insurance, which I think is very relevant here. That's at http://www.brianrude.com/tr-ins.htm


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