Cultural Psychology

Archive for October 2013

On What’s Wrong with “What’s Wrong with Healthcare for Everyone?”

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The other day I noticed in a local newspaper an articled titled “What’s Wrong with Healthcare for Everyone?”  The author affected amazement that people could be so dense or evil as to oppose the laudable and lofty goal of universal healthcare.

Now I am myself not in favor of any of the recently proposed plans for national healthcare reform, including and perhaps especially ‘Obamacare.’  I have, I believe, many valid reasons for opposing these plans – reasons technical in nature, and based on my 30 years’ experience as a health and policy scientist.

Many people give massive financial infeasibility as the main reason for opposing ‘Obamacare’.  I agree that ‘Obamacare’ would utterly ruin the US economy (and so does every impartial expert who has examined the plan in detail.)  Nevertheless that is only my second-greatest objection.

My strongest reason for opposing ‘Obamacare’ and similar plans is that they would entrench as a permanent fixture in our society a system of healthcare that is radically wrong.  Today in America we practice industrial medicine.  The incentives that drive the system are corporate profits.  The consequence is that we spend far too much money one invasive, expensive, and dangerous treatments, and nowhere near enough on preventing illness.  By giving the federal government a much larger presence in healthcare, ‘Obamacare’ would give even more power to the same corporations that are causing the present problems. These corporations lobby Congress and control policy; you and I do not.

If we spent 1/10 as much on preventing disease as we now spend on treating it, the health of this country would improve 50% or more.  However the present system is so designed that prevention is not taken seriously. Illness is more profitable than health.  That’s the problem.  It’s a problem nobody is willing to face, and a problem that is literally killing us.

Yet as important a topic as that is, it is still not the reason for my writing now.  I realized this after I outlined an elaborate article, amplifying the preceding points, and adding further comments about the basic ineptness and corruption of the federal government (why place the same federal government that has taken the country through two pointless multi-trillion dollar wars in charge of healthcare?)

But when I finished the outline, I thought to add one final point; and when I did, I realized that this point was the real reason why I felt a response to the article, “What’s Wrong with Healthcare for Everyone?” was necessary.

That more fundamental issue is this:  the author of that article dove deeply into the realm of irrationality.  The tacit premise of the rhetorical question posed is that everyone who opposes ‘Obamacare’ must be callous, selfish, or evil.  That this premise is not valid is patently obvious: there are dozens of serious reasons to oppose Obamacare. Anyone with an ounce of sense should know this.  In fact, everyone does know this.

So when a person titles an article, “What’s Wrong with Healthcare for Everyone?” it is nothing short of an affront to civil society and the principles of democracy;  because it is not only failing to contribute to a genuine dialogue, it is an obstacle to it.

It would be bad enough if someone actually believed that people who oppose ‘Obamacare’ do so out of hatefulness or selfishness.  That would be a mere wrong opinion.  But here the author knew full well how groundless the question is. It was not posed as part of a social dialogue aimed at gaining mutual understanding, agreement, and cooperation.  The naïve-sounding question is merely a tactic aimed at winning an argument by any means possible.  In that sense it is like sophistry, but worse.  Sophistry at least has the superficial appearance of intelligence.  This question is merely a power tactic.  It is vacuous, and the person asking it knows it is vacuous.  It is an aggressive non sequitur that removes all possibility of intelligent discussion.  The point is to forestall a discussion by presenting oneself as entirely unconcerned with even the appearance of reasonableness.  It is the holding of reason and reality itself hostage.  It is saying, “I’m not being rational, and you can’t make me;  I have enough power to get my way so I don’t want to be reasonable.”  And this tactic has been played out countless times by radical progressives insisting that the only way to proceed is to adopt some immediate, radical, and massively government-run reform plan.

There’s an even dark side to this.  The real question is why people are willing to debase themselves, and all of civil society, by resorting to such tactics to promote a plan which is plainly infeasible and aversive.  The sobering answer is this:  a collective self-destructive urge.  ‘Obamacare’ is more than bad; it is suicidal, and the frightening prospect is that a large segment of the American population wants a suicidal plan for precisely that reason.

I’m not going to explain this further now, but maybe I’ll revisit it.  For now my guess is that either you’ll see my point or not.  If you do, further explanation isn’t needed, and if you don’t, it’s probably useless.