Monday, December 28, 2009

healthcare debate

I am glad that during the coming weeks our nation’s healthcare system will be overhauled. I do not wholly support big government, but I’m growing more and more to see unchecked capitalism as evil. Capitalism must run on people acting to their own best interest, which would work fine for a nation of people grounded in love for their fellow man. But let’s face it: we are a nation most firmly grounded in making our own lives as comfortable as we can and keeping away from the riff-raff who interfere with that goal.

Capitalism on a small scale seems like it could work; I actually like it on paper. But capitalism married with globalism is the dangerous terrain we now tread. Big corporations sell products they make as cheaply as possible, which is to say, as environmentally and irresponsibly as possible. But they also sell the lies of consumerism; creating in us a sense of need for their products and the sense that having what they’re selling at tremendous savings will make us happy.

If capitalism has caused us to be self-focused, and unconcerned about our communities, global capitalism has intensified this trend. We now have the capability to live our lives independent of communities, but also to neglect people we never even see, by employing them at sweatshop salaries or by eating the under priced food of their land, both at minimal savings to us. The more globalized the world becomes, the richer we in the developed world become; yet the less cognizant of the effects of our actions.

In our own country, the problem of inequality still plagues us. Again, I get to see the disparities first hand, even as I walk from my healthy, educated home to the homes of my students who have been failed by the poor educational and intimidating health insurance systems. I don’t think equality is just goal for the poor or minorities of our country. We will all be better off the more equality we can achieve. Huge disparities in health or in education like we now see will ultimately create unrest and derision among us.

That a broadening of the government for something like expanding healthcare coverage takes money out of people’s hands and puts it into others’ is okay with me. Living in Little Village, Chicago as a middle classer, I get to see a lot of people who are very rich and a lot of people who are very poor, and I always have the sense that if the rich just knew what the poor endure, they would live differently. But the rich continue to focus on themselves, and I don’t see that trend curbing on a large scale.

So I welcome the news that more people will get healthcare, even if it is at my own expense. I think this government shift that includes healthcare to those cannot get it in on their own is good for all of us.


Holly said...

Having almost finished your book beginning to see where you are coming from and would like to hear more. My question is this: Whereas the world is chained in sin, those who have the spirit of God are free to live unselfishly. If that is true, is it worth giving up our liberties (and entrusting that power to an secular governments' moral decision making)for the sake of the good "choices" they will force the self centered people to make? that is...caring for our world, people and land included?

Brian Stipp said...


I'm not a big fan of giving up our autonomy, either. I see a major cost associated with giving up personal liberties.

It's true that those who have the spirit of God are free to live unselfishly. It's also true that many who have the spirit of God (at least in part) still live quite selfishly. And it's also true that many who act selfishly against our world, people and land are not making an attempt to be filled with God's Spirit.

Also, that the government is secular does not preclude it from making just decisions. The ideal would be to not need any power meddling with our perfectly peaceable and just lives. But the bigness of global capitalism paired with the sin in our hearts (and other factors, too) has turned us into a people unconcerned with our neighbors and the world entrusted to us. This is why i don't see a better option that government intervention.

Karen said...

Hi, Brian,

Thanks for inviting me to your blog! Your reading list for the 2010s is daunting. You might be interested in stuff by Paul Farmer, if you haven't come upon him already. He is a physician and anthropologist, whose work is divided between an appointment at Harvard Medical Schools Department of Social Medicine, and care for the poor in Haiti and United States. Farmer observes that his patients’ needs are seldom served by the law of supply and demand (2003).

The problem with relying on capitalism to regulate the health care market is that the "hand" that's supposed to keep the markets balanced may be "unseen", but it's not actually very mysterious. It's pretty systematic, maintaining financial benefit to those who already hold financial power. That's fine, I suppose, for growing a large economy, but it creates difference between groups of people.

Policy folks like to talk about "at risk" groups, when in fact, it is risk-creating policy which creates an actual difference between, for instance, the insured and uninsured. (By insurance, I mean insurance that is adequate to purchase consistent, developmentally appropriate health care, not insurance that accrues to hospital emergency rooms after untreated conditions become acute.)

A brief history - if your eyes haven't glazed over yet - is that the first insurance was unemplyment insurance; insurance has been attached to employment since the beginning. Not since creation, but since industrialization and urbanization, which now that I think of it, is the world as we know it. The first US health care insurance was developed to protect Texas hospitals and physicians from the economic downturns of the Great Depression, sold to the middle class, school teachers in Texas. And so the relationship betweeen the middle class/employment/insurance companies began and persists, although now, the upper class would also be brought to their (financial) knees without insurance. The uninsured and underinsured are the unvalued and undervalued. Placed at risk. Kept in their place. Lord, have mercy.