Thoughts on 8 8 09 and a Foray into Health Care

Firstly, I will apologize to my nearly-nonexistent readership for the paucity of postage on this blog this entire summer - but particularly of late. I promise that I will continue to add to this as I head off to Georgetown. Posts may even become more frequent, as I think I may publish writing for various assignments here. No plagiarism please! :)

(I'm just hoping someone might find such writing interesting; plagiarism would be quite flattering - though still frowned upon, of course.)

Today is the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Beijing Olympics, as well as the involvement of Russia in conflict between the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the nation of Georgia. I even remember thinking of writing a post on the situation in Georgia, but it never came to be. In retrospect its clear that there were very few Americans who understood what really happened in the South Ossetian War. The misinformed coverage it received is a simple lesson in the fallibility of our media - as well as the willingness of politicians and interest groups - and average Americans - to disregard objective truth to avoid challenging our preexisting biases. Perhaps I'll learn more in detail about the nature of the conflict this coming year; I'll be more than happy to share more informed insight.
As for the today of this year, August 8th 2009, the political topic du jour seems to be the plans of the President and members of Congress to "reform" the health care system of the United States. It goes without saying that most if not all of the "ideas" in these plans are far from being the best means by which to better our health system, but as with many things, I'd rather discuss health care on a normative and idealistic level, rather than in a way that is "practical."

In health care, one can either have more of a private bureaucracy, or more of a government bureaucracy. Most often "bureaucracy" seems to be a negative word used only in reference to government, but the truth is that in our society, bureaucracy is a necessity, and as I said - it can be private or governmental. The current private bureaucracy of our medical system is provided to us by a plethora of insurance companies as well as other corporations and organizations, and the smaller amount of government bureaucracy takes place on national, state and local levels. In other countries, however, government bureaucracy is the larger presence, and that is what many see the plans generated by Obama and the current Congress as leading to. So what then is the difference?

In my mind, the comparison is simple:

Private companies have a single goal - profit. In the "free market" they act as counterbalances against each other working in competition for the business of the consumer. Without a doubt, this system has its benefits, and it’s created a society with a lot of wealth and luxury, much to consume and much for which to be thankful. The market, however, is mindless. Actions of private companies do not necessarily propel us to any goal or any improvement in care and service. If they do, it is only because these improvements coincide with the interest and increased profit-making of the company.

Government’s goals are not nearly so simple. Government bureaucracy can also be rather mindless, and – as all manner of conservatives are bound to point out – it can be very inefficient because it is unchecked by competition. Government, however, does not aim to profit from those it serves (and often the most profit comes from exploitation). If anything, government’s natural goal is self-preservation, which makes it a dangerous animal when it seeks to grow uncontrollably. There is however something that keeps this from happening – a check that has been very well entrenched in the United States through the course of its entire history: popular sovereignty. A health system of government bureaucracy may not be naturally streamlined by market forces, but unlike the private sector, it is beholden not to money, but to the people.

This is why I am essentially and deeply inclined toward government participation in providing services for its citizens – especially in the American health care system: The insurance corporations of America have no particular interest in making it easier for people to have access to the care they’re entitled. If any company actually does this it is only because they see profit in the action. Some may say that profit is a good motivator. They say benefits gained from the competition created by the inherent greed of our modern corporations more than compensate for the unseemliness of making profit. Perhaps they think greed isn’t unseemly at all.

Well, I for one believe that medical care is not an industry. I don’t think that preserving the health of American citizens should be the opportunity for obscene profit that it is – profit made by the private bureaucracy so many find so preferable to the government alternative. Government services have their problems, but ultimately those problems belong to us, and they can be voted, petitioned, and protested out of existence if need be. It is in the interest of government to please us; otherwise it can be destroyed. We have no such power over private industry, and whether it is pleasing us or swindling us, all it wants is our money.