Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Health-care debate v.2: The Maw of Charybdis

We're seeing steady letters on this issue and even a Chris Bergman column over on the pseudo-blog page, but trust me: you won't see anything intelligent about public health care in the Daily Courier. The darksiders have had 15 years to prep and sharpen their misinformation since the Clinton-era health-care debacle, and that will be the bulk of what you hear -- fear-mongering, statistical lies, economic lies, false equivalencies, and finger-shadows that look like big nasty teeth. Try to avoid buying in.

There are a lot of people who truly understand what the right to health means and how a public health-care system actually works. The vast majority of them live outside this country, in countries that are mostly almost as rich as ours -- in fact, the entire developed world plus. And while every group of people on the planet has its 15% share of malcontents and complainers, in all of postwar history not one of those countries has reversed a commitment to the health of all its citizens. The vast majority of the world's rich people -- everyone but us -- pay their taxes and enjoy real health security at low cost. Try to let that soak in. Most of us can't even imagine what it feels like, we're so accustomed to the crazy system we've built.

The darksiders would have you believe that every other rich country in the world is committing economic suicide and marching its hapless populations into Stalinist concentration camps for some dark purpose they won't try to describe. It's just not so. These systems, while as imperfect as any other human endeavor, really do work, and work far better than ours does. Truly. I lived in one of them for seven years.

So if you really want to continue feeding the vampires of the drug and insurance industries, open another vein and be my guest. But if you care about quality of life and security for your children, your parents and even yourself, please take this issue seriously, become informed and help move us all into the 21st century. We can't afford another 15 years till this opportunity comes around again.


BearWhizBeer said...

Glad to see you back, Master Gadfly! We missed you ...

Here's a little rant that's been percolating for a while:

Every society owns things in common. Land, natural resources, a military apparatus, etc. etc. etc.

The question is how these common assets will be managed. Private management of public assets tends to be efficient and responsive to market forces, but also opens the henhouse door wide to the foxes. Government management of public assets tends to be wasteful, slow to respond, and subject to occasional corruption.

In my view, the debate about bigger vs. smaller government can be obviated by deciding to let government do what government will do better than anyone else, even if it does it badly. I contend that the health of its citizens is one of the things that government will manage better than anyone else. You have only to contemplate the motivations of the various players in the current system to see why government will do better. In the current system, nobody has a significant motivation to provide better health care. The insurance companies are only motivated to provide cheaper health care or (best of all!) no health care at all. The doctors are motivated to provide faster and better ass-covered health care. The trial lawyers hope for sloppier and less effective health care.

The government at least has a shot at unraveling this unholy mess, which you cannot say about anyone else.

televixen said...

Well said! Glad to see the blog is back :)

Steven Ayres said...

Thanks! I hope you'll both be back frequently.

BearWhizBeer, I agree completely that the profit motive is counterproductive when it comes to essential services. Health care, water, clean air, law enforcement and education are all examples of the many areas where for-profit organizations lead inevitably to degradation of services and inequity. What amazes me is that so many Americans buy into the idea that the profit motive can always make anything better. It's insane.