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Screw the Sick and Needy

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The real debate on health care is one of economics. Will the invisible hand of the free market system, if left unregulated, eventually make health care affordable for all? Or should the government step in and redistribute a portion of the wealth of its citizens so that all may have health care right now and for the foreseeable future? It's a fundamental economic quandary, and one that is not likely to ever be clearly resolved.

Undoubtedly, our nation was founded on the principles of the free market. It's written into the constitution. It was also one of the primary motivations to achieve independence from the Crown. And it's what has made our country great. It is the source of our wealth; it is the source of our power. It is why generations of immigrants left their homelands, still do, and will for generations to come. They all want a piece of that gold-paved streets action. Without free market capitalism, America as we know it would not exist.

But the Founding Fathers lived in an era when health care as we know it did not exist, and human rights, as we understand them now, did not exist. That a person could walk into a hospital and be immunized against communicable diseases such as polio and influenza was not something they could have taken into consideration. Medical health care itself was not seen in the same light it is now. Back then, people were just as likely to depend on prayer to God for healing as they were on the neighborhood physician making his rounds. Add to that the archaic vision of human rights written into the constitution and accepted almost universally in the society of the time, and one can see that the founding fathers' vision of the virtues of a free market are less relevant than one might think.

Will the invisible hand right all wrongs, cure society of all its ills? As there has never been a truly free market in a modern society, one must take a leap of faith to believe that the invisible hand has this sort of power, is this predictable. It is generally accepted that it would take decades, some say centuries, for an unregulated free market economy to reach a point of equilibrium, where even society's bottommost rungs are buoyed by the nation's foundation of cash to the point where they can live a middle class existence on a full time job.

Even if this faith pans out in the future, and America becomes the standard bearer for quality of life for all its citizens, one should consider those who cannot afford treatment right now. If you believe that these people should be sacrificial lambs for a better tomorrow — well that's a whole different discussion. Anyway, there are laws in place that require emergency rooms to treat anyone who enters in need of assistance. How many of those who are uninsured will actually pay the $1000 bill they get in the mail? Obviously a healthy portion of them will not. If they want further treatment they have several options: Free clinics; buy private insurance; pay out of pocket; go on Medicare/Medicaid. Free clinics are not designed for use as regular health care providers; those who cannot pay an emergency room bill likely cannot afford private insurance; neither can they pay out of pocket, certainly not for long-term or highly specialized treatment; so then the best option is Medicare/Medicaid. There is little difference between the Medicare/Medicaid programs running now and a national health insurance scheme.

A national health insurance plan most significantly would benefit the large group of Americans who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid and yet cannot realistically afford a private health plan. These Americans would have the opportunity to opt into the plan if they wanted to save the money.  Of course, they could stick with their private plan if they so desired. It is a win-win for them.

But who loses? The insurance companies. They will lose a lot of income, clearly. But, if you haven't noticed, it's not the insurance companies which are putting up the big fight, it's the Republicans. Why? Is it because they believe the free market is the best tool to provide quality of life for all the citizens they represent? Individuals may very well believe this, but that is not why they are fighting Obama tooth and nail. Quite simply, if Obama succeeds with this health scheme of his, then the GOP will be screwed for the next couple of elections. That's it. That's their motivation. And don't worry, I'm sure the Democrats would do the same thing if they were currently on the outs.

Meanwhile, and not to sound cheesy, people really are suffering out there from lack of proper treatment, or lack of expendable funds, and all the suffering of these faceless, nameless constituents could be ended but for the one party vying for power. If any of these politicians really stopped and thought about the people, as politicians like to say, then they'd do all they could to set up a sensible health care system as soon as possible. But alas, serving the people is not what politics is about. If it does come to pass, then yes, it will not be an example of free market capitalism. But neither will it mean a socialist economy, nowhere near it. The little people can have what they need while the big boys can still play at their high stakes games to their hearts' content.

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About Ted

  • Doug Hunter

    Nice article, you’ve covered some good ground here and have alot of pieces in place.

    That’s one of the difficulties being on the right. We have the invisible hand while the other side has the hand out right in front of your face waving money around.

    It is interesting to note something in your article. You recognize and appreciate that previous generations used free markets to build the wealth necessary to create and indeed did a lion’s share of the development of the very healthcare we’re looking to share. Now imagine what we might have lost if they had decided to take the easy road and switch to nice egalitarian socialism back then. It likely would have been easier for them to redistribute and consume their resources as well rather than invest and compound them into the future.

    The danger we face is that by enlarging government and moving towards socialism we risk further wealth development and growth (that future generations would be very appreciative of). What if the funds diverted to pay for ‘free’ healthcare end up coming from research and ends up delaying a breakthrough cure for cancer for 5-10 years? All that money we spent to save and make comfortable a few today will be vastly more than offset by the millions that will die worldwide in those lag years. Same goes for alternative energy and many innovation I can’t even imagine (they call it the invisible hand for a reason).

    That’s not to say universal healthcare shouldn’t be a priority or made reality, just giving you insight into some issues that should be addressed. We did create this wealth for a reason, if not to improve people’s lives then for what?

    We could have universal healthcare without growing government or moving towards socialism. How about training doctors and nurses instead of soldiers and marines for starts. Instead of overseas bases we should have domestic hospitals. I’d like to see us keep some free market elements in order to ensure innovation and infrastructure remain strong, but there’s no reason we can’t reprioritize and make your vision a reality. We just need to make sure we don’t kill the goose while enjoying the golden omelets.

  • Clavos

    Doug, as one of the Politics editors, I invite you to write an article or two (or more) for us.

    What say you?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Seconded.

  • Mark

    Thirded

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    If you can refrain from making inflammatory accusations (like “he thinks freedom and liberty is a disease”), I’ll be happy to see you post an article, too…

    …because I strongly agree that our bloated military budget could be used for much more productive purposes.

    You included in your comment a question asking what if money spent for UHC might prevent developments elsewhere such as cures or alternative energy. I would reply that “what if” is not the same thing as “what is”.

    And “what is”, is the fact that we’re 35th on the list of countries by life expectancy (two of which are third-world countries (Jordan and Bosnia)), and NONE of those evil, evil socialist countries who comprise the top twenty-six on the list spend more than 60% per capita of what we already do.

    And the top twenty-six are all modern industrialized democracies.

    Doug, these facts are “what is” – what you feel is ‘socialized’ medicine is PROVEN to be better for the population as a whole – not just for the ones who can afford it, but for ALL the population. Not only that, but it is significantly CHEAPER than the joke of a system we presently have.

    No system is perfect, but that ‘socialized medicine’ is proven to give better results for a cheaper price. Is it really so unpatriotic to support it, when it helps people to live longer, healthier lives…and uses less of your tax dollars?

    (and btw – if you reply about how horrible it is, I point you again to the BIG picture, the overall success (at a lower cost) of socialized medicine).

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I think you should write an article of your own here, too – if for no other reason than to give me someone fresh to critcize.

    But allow me please to present my points to you briefly. I agree with a great deal that Glenn says here. In fact, with almost all of it. I investigated moving to Canada because it had socialized medicine; I investigated moving to Australia, because it had socialized medicine. When we moved to Israel, I was awful grateful that it had socialized medicine.

    Not to mention that I’m a syndicalist socialist myself.

    Having said all that, I do not think that the United States should adopt a system of socialized medicine. You guys cannot afford it anymore. It is that painfully simple. You’ve shot your wad into the Euphrates and the Tigris and after that into AIG and GM and a slew of banks too big to fail. There is no more wad left to shoot.

    You need to re-foot your whole country on different bases before you will have the productive capacity to pay for a universal health care system of any kind.

    And to think – I used to live in the richest nation the earth had ever seen.

  • Ted

    Doug,

    I think you make a good point about killing the goose that lays the golden omelets. Capitalism is our source of wealth and power, and without it we wouldn’t be able to afford UHC. There is a danger than nationalization can go too far. But we don’t have to nationalize industry to uphold basic human rights.

    My support comes down to two things. 1) We can still be a free market economy with universal health care, which means we’ll still be able to create more resources, even while spending the current ones; and 2) I don’t think we can, in good conscience, deny people access to top health technology just because they don’t have the money to pay for it. If I was sick I’m pretty certain that I would feel entitled to proper long term care. I’m trying to think about it from the perspective of the ill.

    And anyway, it’s going to happen sooner or later. Might as well be now.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Actually, Doug, your comment on the article was interesting and provoking. Even though I might disagree with you on a point or two (having to do with your hypothetical: you can’t presuppose certain events, like the early advent of “socialism,” before they’re ready to happen, because they all follow a more or less natural course), it’s a very interesting proposition and definitely worth considering.

  • Clavos

    Doug, these facts are “what is” – what you feel is ‘socialized’ medicine is PROVEN to be better for the population as a whole – not just for the ones who can afford it, but for ALL the population.

    Not “proven,” no.

  • Doug Hunter

    That’s an excellent link Clavos. It sums up alot of the same things I’ve found in my research and makes the points much better than I ever could. There are so many good writers in here and on the web in general, I just don’t think I have the skills for it. I’ll work on making my comments more coherent first, but if an issue comes up that no one else is addressing… maybe.

  • Arch Conservative

    There’s no doubt that both sides play politics but I take issue with you saying the GOP’s only motivation is to make Obama look bad. Is it so hard to believe that some people would rather be dead than have the government dictating their lives?

    And what about Obama’s motivation. I know we’re not allowed to call him a socialist even though he’s spent more money in six months than any other administration in history and pretty much everything he’s done or tried to do since taking office has had the desired effect of the government exerting more and more control over the lives of the American people….

    But here’s a little hypothetical……..Say we knew for a fact that Obama was indeed a radical leftist hell bent setting up a socialist or even communist shop…..what would be the most effective path to that goal….by admitting it and going full bore? or by pretending to be something else, getting elected and then using you’re power to take more pallettable, practically irreversable baby steps in that direction?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I know we’re not allowed to call him a socialist even though he’s spent more money in six months than any other administration in history

    Explain to me where in the socialist manifesto it says, ‘Thou shalt spend as much money as possible’…

  • Arch Conservative

    I didn’t know there was a socialist manifesto but as I pointed out the effect of that spending is to allow the fed govt more control over people’s lives by controlling goods and services and control of goods and services by the state is a major tenet of socialism

  • Ted

    Arch, to insinuate that Obama might be “a radical leftist hell bent setting up a socialist or even communist shop,” is a cartoonish characterization of a real person, almost as silly as calling W. a Nazi, or painting Obama’s face up like The Joker. It’s unrealistic and counterproductive, unless you’re on the fringes and agitating for some extreme ‘third way.’ It’s merely propaganda.

    I agree with you however about your concerns regarding direct government intrusion into our lives. The more I think about it the more frightening it becomes. For example, I’m a smoker. Will the government have a right to force me to quit if they’re footing my bill? What about my eating habits, et al? The government can make and enforce laws, unlike private insurers (at least not directly), and so if health insurance is required then what else can they require of us? Even if it’s not mandatory, they will still be compelled to pass sweeping legislation to save money. Food for thought.

    What got me thinking along these lines was this article.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    It’s off to smoker reeducation camp for you, Ted. Arbeit Macht Smoke-Frei

  • Arch Conservative

    You’re right Ted….a radical could never gain power in our’s or any other nation. Forget about it. It’s never happened and never will.

  • Doctor No?

    I’m sure government health care will be an overwhelming success: fully and reliably funded, conscientiously managed, meticulously upgraded and retooled, powered by the greatest technological advances the taxpayer can provide, not at all taken advantage of by organized fraudulent element or cronyism, bereft of constant attack via the judicial system. It will be the greatest system ever devised. Yes, health care reform will be an overwhelming success.

    And if health care reform is an utter awful failure that throws our country into an almost unrecoverable clusterfudge of doubt and remorse?

    VOTE REPUBLICAN

    P.S. Death panels…

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And if health care reform is an utter awful failure that throws our country into an almost unrecoverable clusterfudge of doubt and remorse?

    Which is of course the goal of the…

    VOTE REPUBLICAN

    Ah, yes…

  • Clavos

    Arbeit Macht Smoke-Frei

    Very funny, Dave!

    Props.

  • Clavos

    There are so many good writers in here and on the web in general, I just don’t think I have the skills for it. I’ll work on making my comments more coherent…

    Your comments are all I’ve seen of your writing, Doug. They are why I made the suggestion.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    You know, if you step back from looking at a few trees, you might find there’s a whole forest.

    Your link refers to high-end medical care…and when it comes to high-end medical care, we DO have the best in the world (for those who can afford it or have access to it – nearly 50 million Americans don’t).

    Problem is, America’s health care system does NOT provide for nearly a sixth of the population…and that’s why we’re 35th on the list of countries listed by life expectancy – according to the Bush administration CIA World Factbook (so don’t tell me the numbers are skewed).

  • Glenn Contrarian

    For all –

    What could America do with an extra 904 billion dollars? Would it help our budget? Would it help education? Would it help our businesses?

    That’s how much America would save EVERY YEAR if we had the SAME kind of health care that Canada/Australia/Britain/France/Spain have…with which their populations live longer and healthier lives for less than 60% of what we’re already spending per capita.

    2.26 trillion dollars times .4 = 904 billion dollars.

    But I forget – to have a system that keeps the general population healthier, longer lives at a savings of 904 billion dollars per year over what we already have, well, THAT’s just not patriotic, is it?

  • Clavos

    Problem is, America’s health care system does NOT provide for nearly a sixth of the population…and that’s why we’re 35th on the list of countries listed by life expectancy – according to the Bush administration CIA World Factbook (so don’t tell me the numbers are skewed). (emphasis added)

    The Bush administration fucked up everything they touched and you expect me to believe their numbers???

    In any case, even if they were Jesus Christ’s numbers, it’s not that they are skewed, it’s that they are not complete (obesity and bad living habits omitted, among other significant data) and it’s that the conclusions you and others draw from them is out of whack, as my many comments and links have shown repeatedly.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    And I KNEW that would be YOUR reply. As I sat there typing it in, I told myself, “Clavos will simply just deny the numbers.” Just like when you refused to believe the statistics published showing that about half of Republicans supported the ‘birthers’…you didn’t like who did the survey, and so you ASSUMED they were wrong (never mind the fact that one of the most respected statisticians in the country backed them up).

    And Dave agreed with you.

    That’s the conservative way, I guess – ignore the evidence! When the numbers don’t say what you want them to say, ignore them!

  • Arch Conservative

    I thought that was the liberal way. Oh wait the liberal way isn’t to ignore the numbers……….it’s to invent new numbers………sorta like every left wing whackadoo and his mother citing the biased NYT poll and then claiming 70% of Americans support the public option.

  • Clavos

    OK Glenn, how’s this? I accept and agree the USA is 37th or 35th or whatever the fucking number you like is.

    That however, cannot be laid at the feet of the health system, because the numbers do not take into account a whole variety of life style issues such as overeating, smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, shooting each other, and killing each other on the highways, all of which things amerika does far more than any other country does, and which you continue to ignore.

    In addition, Dave has repeatedly pointed out that the criteria and methodry for data collection vary widely from country to country, which makes any comparison tantamount to comparing apples to oranges.

  • STM

    Geez, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

    I live in a country with a thriving – yes, thriving, even in the GFC – free-market economy that has free universal health care and the option of private care for those who want it.

    It also citizens to have private health insurance while still accessing the excellent public system – for free – and not just in the case of an emergency.

    Even if you use the private system, the government’s Medicare universal payer system still picks up a fair bit of the tab.

    Last time I looked, we were in no danger of ditching our capitalist system, either.

    The last time I looked too, this country (Australia) was the only one of the major western economies not have have been affected by the Global Financial Crisis (banking regulation).

    While everyone else was going into recession, our economy grew instead. Unemployment has remained pretty steady throughout and at much lower levels than North America and Europe.

    The truth is, what Americans mistakenly call socialism (it isn’t, really) can very easily go hand in hand with the capitalist, free-market system to improve the lot of all its citizens.

    Once Americans get some form of fairer health care than they now have, they will be asking themselves why they didn’t do it earlier.

    Which is what happened down here when we moved from an American-style health system to the one we have now.

    Interestingly, the health insurers didn’t die out: they actually grew in the long term, because they adapted and offered new types of cover that included stuff like gym memberships and alternative medicine on top of the usual stuff.

    I’ll say it again guys, just because it wasn’t invented in America doesn’t mean it ain’t good and couldn’t benefit you too.

    The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

    This is one are where you are 50 years behind every other major first-world democracy.

    Americans deserve a better deal than they’re getting now.

    To make it work it does take a shift in thinking, though: it means you have to care about your fellow citizens and not just about yourself, to accept that people on smaller wages pay less – but a similar amount proportionately – than those on bigger incomes and for the same service.

    As long as that service is at the highest level possible, everyone wins.

  • Zedd

    And if health care reform is an utter awful failure that throws our country into an almost unrecoverable clusterfudge of doubt and remorse?

    HELP! What does that mean??

    How can the country doubt anything?

    VOTE REPUBLICAN.

    Is that because we don’t want the country to almost not recover from doubt? – A clusterfudge of it mind you. Scary stuff. Give me a ballot now! Nearly permanently doubting chocolate covered countries are scary places.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch-con –

    I thought that was the liberal way. Oh wait the liberal way isn’t to ignore the numbers……….it’s to invent new numbers………sorta like every left wing whackadoo and his mother citing the biased NYT poll and then claiming 70% of Americans support the public option.

    HEY, Arch-con came up with another way to ignore the numbers! He claims we just ‘make them up’!

    FYI, AC, I make up no numbers. All numbers I post – ALL of them – come from reliable sources. But since those numbers don’t agree with what you WANT to believe, you feel you must find an excuse to ignore them.

    In the debate about health care, Arch, one of us is right and one of us is wrong – and when we look at the BIG picture, all the PROVABLE NUMBERS are against you.

    All you (and the other conservatives) have left is to ignore the numbers and to cry, “That’s socialism!”

    Read STM’s reply #27 – do you really think he’s making it up?

  • Ted

    STM,

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • STM

    And Glenn, you’ve been here mate. You know how happy we are with our wonderful lifestyle down this neck of the woods … and why we’re not knocking down the door en masse to get into the United States (although folks like Arch might take some convincing, I suspect).

    Doc will back me too on this. This place isn’t just paradise … it’s a worker’s paradise that embraces wholeheartedly the free-market system and has a robust belief in capitalism, the right of corporations to make the best profits possible whilst being mindful of the rights of employees to share in that, rule of law and highly representative modern liberal democracy.

    It doesn’t get any better – seriously – virtually anywhere I’ve been (and I say that as a person who has lived in the UK and had to make a choice at one stage between staying here or moving to an attractive job in the US).

    And having a universal health care system that means no one loses their home (or their job, as you can’t be sacked here for being off work with a genuine illness) if they get sick is just the cherry on a very nice cake.

    People in Australia raised all the same tired arguments in the early 1970s when it was first introduced here like those that are now being raised nearly 40 years later in the US.

    The fact is, not only did the sky not fall in, we all ended up liking it, even those onn the right who embraced it begrudgingly at first.

    It’s now about pretty well spot on after its tweaks and teething troubles. It is also now the third rail of politics here.

    Any government trying to dismantle it would get the bum’s rush and remain in the political wilderness for a long time to come.

    It’s not perfect, however, and since the funding is federal and the health systems are run by the individual states and territories, in some states there have been problems in terms of how the money is used, but the feds have promised to step in if things go pear-shaped.

    The thing is, no one is denied treatment, ever. And care is, mostly, top-notch. Because it works in with Medicare, which always picks up part of the tab, my family hospital insurance is top of the line and costs me $260 a month. It also covers other stuff, including gaps. My out-of-pocket costs are always: zilch. No waiting at all with that, either, even for elective surgery (which is the one area here where you might end up on a public waiting list). But heart patients and cancer patients don’t wait, or those with other life-threatening illnesses, iof they go public. Emergency treatment is nearly all public and always immediate if that’s what’s needed.

    See, you guys are lucky in a way: don’t need the trial and error bit. Others have done it for you.

    You can benefit from looking at how others have done it, including us.

    The only thing I can see that might be a problem in the US is that you have 10 times our population, which would mean a large bureacracy.

    But on that score, my experience is that America’s a can-do country.

    I think that might be slightly different to Australia, which is more of a will-do country. That “will-do” has extended to all kinds of things that are different to the US, like working conditions, minimum wages, employee pay tribunals (all set up 100 years ago) that make blue-collar wages and conditions in this country the best in the western world. We “will-do” first, and iron the bugs out as we go.

    But given American industriousness, you could have the best health system of all the western democracies if you put your minds to solving some of those kinds of issues.

    I just think a lot of Americans have a fear of “socialism” that is not socialism at all.

    It’s community, based on the premise of a fair-go for everyone, which is a very different thing.

    In fact that notion of an egalitarian “fair-go” is a catch-cry of this country.

    What is so different about America, I probably will never understand.

    It seems to me sometimes that Americans are more short-sightedly interested in their own well-being over the well-being of their country, not realising that their own wellbeing improves when a country is happy as a whole.

    Sometimes, that just ain’t a good recipe for a happy, comfortable and politically engaged society.

    Don’t forget, America: You’re all in this together. Improving the life (and health) conditions of all Americans can only benefit all of America in the long run.

    Therein lies the conundrum in terms of what you choose.

    You stand at the crossroads on this. Don’t take the easy, well-trodden path. It doesn’t lead to anywhere better than the destination you already know.

  • STM

    Thanks Ted. I’m on a crusade :)

    I know how good it is to have absolute peace of mind if I get sick.

    It just stops being an issue. That can only be good.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    STM –

    And Glenn, you’ve been here mate. You know how happy we are with our wonderful lifestyle down this neck of the woods … and why we’re not knocking down the door en masse to get into the United States (although folks like Arch might take some convincing, I suspect).

    As I said before, I’d like to live in Australia…but it’s not because of the health care there – that’s a bonus.

    I suspect it’s because I get less of a sense of me-my-mine there. Of course Australians are just as human as anyone else (with all the good and ill that implies), but the culture…let me expound first upon the opposite end of the cultural spectrum.

    The impression I got of China was one of uber-competition, deregulated capitalism run wild – over a billion souls struggling to climb to garner wealth and power without the ‘Christian’ tradition of consideration for those who get in the way.

    Don’t get me wrong – the relative number of good and moral people in China is just as high as anywhere else. They indeed do many charitable works and provide help to many nations, particularly in Africa; but do not forget Deng Xiaoping’s ‘national slogan’ for the 1990’s: “To get rich is glorius!” Ayn Rand would have loved China.

    But it is normal to do so there without concern for one’s workers or customers, and if one fails in business, one just starts another business as right away. The only unforgivable sin in China is to embarrass the government – that will get one killed. One can only hope China stumbles upon the scale of its own injustice – and it might, since the prohibition against having more than one child has been relaxed in Shanghai, and since their struggle to build a ‘Great Firewall’ against the information of the outside world will prove futile in the end.

    But the game of world power is theirs to lose, and so far they’re playing a smart game. They have only to ensure their people stay under control, and that they don’t outgrow all available resources.

    As long as America plays the game of “America uber alles” (by which I mean our determination that we are by right the biggest and baddest and most morally superior nation in history), we are set to lose against China. China’s weakness from the 1400’s to the 1960’s was an aberration, IMO. In 1941 Japan woke a sleeping giant…but China was a golden dragon even before the times of the Mayans and Aztecs. They’re much smarter than the Soviets were – that’s why they’re not trying to compete with us militarily. Why should they, when they have so much of our money? Each dollar a prisoner of economic war….

    But why the long diatribe about China? What does Australia have to do with all this? Again, besides the fact that they are all quite human, the impression I get of Australia’s national character is one of self-effacement.

    Australia has their own pride, and rightly placed – the finest infantrymen on the planet were nicknamed ‘diggers’. And I’ve heard rumors about this little company called ‘Metal Storm’…but that’s for another time.

    But I digress – back to the culture. Like America, Australia faced their own racist demons…and they (like everywhere else in the British Commonwealth) have a more liberal immigration policy than America does. It’s said that while no one can, say, go to China and actually become Chinese, anyone from anywhere can truly become an American. The same can now be said for most of the Commonwealth and even in France.

    But it’s the Australian art of self-effacement – that’s what America (and Americans) needs to learn. Armed with the ability to not take ourselves so doggone seriously, then we start to see what’s important and what’s not so important.

    I cannot say for sure, but I’d suspect that the Australians see American politics as a game with many immature players, Medicare-eligible children who are willing to do or say anything just to ‘win’ a geriatric game of ‘king of the hill’.

    Self-effacement – if America (especially conservative America) could learn this art, we could learn to not play by the rules of uber-competition – China’s game that they were playing thousands of years before Vespucci Amerigo became the namesake of two continents. For unlike China, we’re trying to lead the economic pack while at the same time hobbling ourselves with a bloated defense budget and an Outback Restaurant-style financial system (“No Rules, Mate”).

    It’s not just Australia that can teach us that lesson, but I suspect it’s from them that we can most easily learn that uber-competition in all things is not what’s best for the people…or for the nation. Do not mistake the Australian’s easygoing nature – he’s as competitive as they come. The key, though, is the game he decides to play – it might not be the same one you’re playing.

    During a port stop in Perth, there was a chess exhibition by Australia’s Junior Chess Team. Fifteen of us sailors faced off in simultaneous matches against a fifteen year-old girl. She slaughtered all of us in less than a half hour – it wasn’t even a contest. She really was a very nice and kind girl – but a heartless assassin of the game. ‘Metal Storm’, indeed.

    Self-effacment – some might call it humility – is not weakness, no, not at all. This is certainly a lesson America (especially conservative America) needs to learn.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doggone it – knew I shouldn’t have watch Tarentino’s movie – I misspelled ‘glorious’….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    …and ‘watched’, too.

    Grrrrr…..

  • Ted

    Misspelled ‘Tarantino.’

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ted –

    Ow. Just ain’t my day….

  • STM

    Glenn, The Diggers got that reputation in WWI because most of the country boys – which in those days was a fair percentage of ALL the boys from here – were crack shots and because this country is very “outdoorsy” thanks to the climate. The food at that time was very good and very very fresh, they were also very physically fit young men, which gave them an edge (nice hats, too!). They knew it gave them the edge, which made them very confident. Mateship is very important to Aussies too – almost an obsession – so they looked out for each other in a way others might not have, especially being 13,000 miles from home. And they could ride.

    Also, they were in it from the very beginning, which meant because of the tyranny of distance they never got the chance to go home and were constantly in action with short breaks only, so by the time they got into the meat-grinder battles on the western front from 1916 onwards they were already veterans and cosnidered themselves more than a match for the Germans. By 1918, though, like most soldiers who’d fought through the war, they were depleted and exhausted.

    The masses of headstones at the WWI Commonwealth War Graves memorials in France and Belgium tell the story. I think total casualties were in the region of 3 million, not to mention those scarred emotionally forever. Sad, really. What a waste – the British Empire literally lost the flower of its youth in that war. Australia had a casualty rate of 64 per cent of all the troops mobilised (all volunteers too), topped on the British side only by New Zealand, where the figure was 66 per cent.

    That attitide carried on into WWII: my father in law was a genuine war hero and had no fear at all of the Germans. He WAS frightened on occasion, though, as he’s not completely mad.

    Most kids of that era in Australia were good riders too and very familar with horses. In the middle-east, the Australian mounted infantry (and their NZ comrades) were largely responsible for defeating the Turks in General Allenby’s desert campaign (as Ruvy knows), and some historians have said the Australian Light Horse made the last great successful cavalry charge in history attacking the Turkish and German guns across open ground at Beersheba in 1917.

    Not quite true: They used their 18-inch bayonets as swords, but it was actually not the last but the only great mounted infantry charge in history.

    The Turks and Germans thought they were cavalry because the long bayonets looked like swords in the distance.

    I’d like to think all those men and women made the sacrifice so we can have the life we have. It seems an unpopulat view around the world today, but with the benefit of hindsight and the lessons of history, I can’t see how anyone can believe it’s not true.

    On the shooting: Kangaroos are very hard to shoot on the run. You have to use a type of very close deflection shot (with a short lead) to nab one and to kill it humanely. Even my generation grew up around rifles and knew how to do this and to do it properly.

    Most of us dislike cowboys who do it for fun, though, because many of them don’t care about the niceties (such as they are).

    And for all those animal lovers out there, don’t preach to tghe converted, thanks. I don’t like the idea of shooting them either. In fact, I hate killing any living things.

    But kanagroos can become feral animals, they are extremely vicious and will rip you to shreds in an instant, with populations that grow out of control. If they start getting too close to a property, they can be very problematic and dangerous too. The aborigines kept the populations down because they hunted them for food, and it’s actually a nice meat if cooked properly. But because of their expldoding populations, they do need culling from time to time.

    Like lots of things: not always palatable, but sometimes necessary.

  • STM

    And you are right Glenn about the self-effacing humour. It is a national characteristic, although we can be also be very nationalistic too in an ugly way, especially when it comes to sport.

    But the term Diggers itself is self-effacing … Aussie soldiers called themselves that because at Gallipolli, while they getting pounded by the Turks, alll they seemed to do was dig holes for themselves.

    Or so the story goes …

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I didn’t know about the mounted infantry charge or much of the other history – and I call myself an amateur historian! Just goes to show how amateur I really am….

    The origin of ‘diggers’ has the ring of truth – I’d go with it.

    Thanks!

  • Susan

    Excellent commentary. Well crafted and very inclusive. However, I’m not so totally sure that this is all the Republicans’ fault! The concern may be more for fear that mediocracy in health care could come about. I don’t know enough to speak absolutely, but it seems to me that many foreigners come here for the ‘best’ treatment. Would we continue to be as truly “on the cutting edge” as we are now, – BUT without all the drugs — if I may add. The after nd side effects seems worse than the disease sometimes!
    Thanks you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Susan –

    More Americans go out of country for health care than foreigners who come here. I’ve done it (my dental crowns cost @ $1000 there, but would have cost $16,000 here), my family’s done it, a nurse I know went to Thailand for a treatment she couldn’t get stateside…and now she has a baby she couldn’t have before.

    CNN estimated 6 million Americans will go out of country next year for health care. Look it up – it’s called ‘medical tourism’.

    We do have the world’s very best when it comes to the high-end treatments…but the vast majority of people don’t need the high-end stuff – they need the everyday care that they often can’t afford (or the HMO’s won’t cover).

    The ‘high-end’ medicine argument is just a excuse Big Pharma feeds the Republican party (along with the ‘Democrats are socialists!’ accusation) to keep their bread basket full. Think on this – who was it that, in a ‘Medicare reform bill’ of their own, too away Medicare’s right to bargain with Big Pharma for lower prices (unlike any other federal program like the VA)?

    That, miss, was your friendly neighborhood Republicans. I used to be one…until I saw through the party’s hypocrisy.