“This government [of the United States] never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.”
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1848
I can hear the Conservatives cheering, but Thoreau’s world is not ours. Like it or not, the reality is that the United States is a partially socialist country. Were it not, it could not have survived.
The financial industry is still in denial, blaming everything else but itself for its massive failure. The proof can be seen in companies that even now are cutting investment, services and experiencing plunging profits – but maintaining their former dividend rates. All this “delivering the best return on shareholder investment” is but self-serving schmoozing to encourage investors, while the genuinely important consideration is the product and the customer, without which no wealth would be created. Such corporate attitudes make companies little more than contemporary snake-oil salesmen.
But what is this to do with the healthcare package?
It means that there are a number of things that the private sector can do very well (if it has the right motivations), and some things that require a larger agency to oversee. The government should not be in business itself, but the oversight of the welfare of its citizens is certainly part of its remit.
What is the difference in principle between spending billions on defense systems to protect citizens, or spending billions on medical systems to protect them from disease? It could be argued that in the first case, the state was primarily protecting itself, which it has a right to do, but what about us, personally?
Like the financial industry, the medical-industrial-complex has much to answer for. A quarter of a million deaths per year due to negligence and malpractice; lower live birth rates than countries with lower overall standards of living, and a relationship between the medical profession and institutions, the pharmaceutical industries and the insurance companies that warrants greater scrutiny and regulation. I have no doubt that even the threat of closer regulation would instantly lower costs.
One of the duties of the American citizen is not the payment of health insurance premiums. Investment in a sensible, limited, healthcare program would, in the long-term, pay great dividends, just as the GI Bill has for more than half a century, but enabling its beneficiaries to lead more productive lives.