Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Venting Heals The Spirit


First, a little housekeeping...

I don't believe government can always do things better than private citizens. Also I have no trouble understanding what happens when private citizens cede to government the authority to control important aspects of their lives. I've already said that although much of the anti-reform movement is characterized by distortions and outright lies, at the heart of it is a genuine fear that government is going to use health care as a way of gaining power at the expense of personal liberties.

I could spend this entire post dwelling on the whacked out paranoia coming from the far right. But I would rather ignore this kind of stupid, unhelpful rhetoric and concentrate on this actual nugget of truth. But consider:

A grocery store is a virtual testament to much of what government does right. We trust that the meats we buy there are fresh and free of disease. We hardly think to ask if a 16 ounce box of cereal actually has 16 ounces of cereal in it. We shop the pharmacy section and never wonder if it is filled with useless and ineffective "patent remedies". We don't have to worry if the fruits and vegetables are covered up with banned, carcinogenic insecticides. In a larger sense, all of these great things happen because somewhere along the line, private citizens ceded to government the authority to safeguard our food and drugs. And it worked.

But, does the success of the USDA indicate we should cede to government the authority to regulate health care? Well, frankly, we already have. About half of all direct spending on health care per capita in this country is accounted for by government. I daresay that most, if not all of those currently protesting against "socialized medicine" would not have health care at all if it weren't for the U.S. Government. Government also subsidizes and regulates health care in a thousand other diverse ways from education to practice. So perhaps the question we ought to be addressing is not how much government should participate in health care, but how we can make government a more effective partner.

The Jerry Pournelle piece does expose some sobering truths. Like it or not, we live in a country where certain social inequities are not only inevitable, but comprise much of the driving force behind our ultimate prosperity. That said, I'm a little irritated by his suave presumption that the current health care reform bills in Congress are somehow defective because they were, according to his judgement, hastily prepared and riddled with unnecessary attachments: a presumption for which he apparently considers himself above the tedious unpleasantry of supporting with facts. Doggonit Steve, Mr. Pournelle himself points out that health care reform has been an issue since HillaryCare, which raised its head a full sixteen years ago. Isn't that enough time for our elected representatives to have mulled this over and arrived at some kind of workable solutions? And if it hasn't been enough time, what sage will determine for us how much longer we will have to wait. Mr. Pournelle?

Well I'm pretty much done with the venting for now. I really don't want to combine points #6 and 7, since, concerning diagnostics, I intended to go way beyond mere record keeping. Let's keep them separate for now. This leaves us with a full 17 points and me way behind in commenting on each. I'll start working on that right away and have something in a day or two. We're probably both going to get nicked up on this but it will be fascinating to see if we can arrive at a workable compromise.

Oh by the way, it is probable we have differences on the issue of abortion. As a matter of fact, I was three quarters done with a post on that very subject before you rounded me up to participate in this Higher Calling. In any case, I hope this doesn't sound cavalier, but regardless of one's morality or religion, in almost all cases abortion is elective surgery - different in scale perhaps but no different in principle from any other optional procedure. The waters get a lot murkier in cases of rape or incest. Yet if it transpired that government would pay the cost of abortion in these cases, I hardly think the victim should have to undergo enforced sterilization on top of it. For these reasons I don't see abortion as something we should concern ourselves with in the context of health care reform in any case. More, later...


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