Monday, July 09, 2007

Are We Capable of Enlightened Self-Interest, Still?

Paul Krugman quotes FDR, and observes...

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” So declared F.D.R. in 1937, in words that apply perfectly to health care today. This isn’t one of those cases where we face painful tradeoffs — here, doing the right thing is also cost-efficient. Universal health care would save thousands of American lives each year, while actually saving money.

So this is a test. The only things standing in the way of universal health care are the fear-mongering and influence-buying of interest groups. If we can’t overcome those forces here, there’s not much hope for America’s future.

So the question is, are we as a people still capable of enlightened self-interest?

I watched Sicko finally, last night. The last week had been too much a frenzy to find the time. It's not that a great deal of what Moore had to tell was news to me. I'd heard the number of Americans uninsured. I knew--from personal experience--how obscenely expensive basic health insurance is, even for those of us whose health is good enough to get the cheapest rates. I also have seen the absurdity; my younger son was denied coverage--completely denied, not merely 'uprated' (charged more for being higher risk) because he'd sprained the hell out of his foot a year ago... and been treated to minimize the discomfort and to speed the healing. In the process, a transient diagnosis of the condition (completely cleared up) made him uninsurable. He's in superb health, hasn't been to a medical facility since his birth other than for the common injuries of boyhood, and is active. But uninsurable. And so on....

But still, the movie hit me like a kick in the gut. It wasn't the failures of our system. It wasn't the criminal malfeasance of those running the for-profit system we're caught in. It wasn't even that other nations--most other non-Third World nations--have managed to do vastly better. It was the brutal dichotomy, the comparison of the basic humaneness of the societies that provide decent health care... with the home of land of the once-free and the home of the depraved.

Those are hard, hard, hard words to write. I spent my teens living abroad; I came home eyes wide-open, aware of America's failings, flaws and history... and yet very much a patriot. At least then, it seemed that all in all... this was the finest nation on earth. Today, I don't feel I can say that--our leaders violate the Constitution and the law, arrange for torture and condone it, make war without justification, and the country just seems to tolerate it. Grumble... and go back to shopping, or watching TV.

And we even put up with our own people, here at home, being allowed to die, to boost profits.

I think Krugman's test is apt. If we can't do this, for ourselves...

2 comments:

Robin Edgar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kim said...

It certainly could be seen as a test. Sicko is helping.