Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The 4th, the dispute. A rant.

I saw this post on Erik Opsal's blog this morning and the resulting fallout and I just had to add my two cents to the debate. Rather, I add this RANT.

Whenever I hear people talking about freedom, I feel sick to my stomach. Not because I am - as some would say - a "godless communist", but because I know that those who talk about freedom speak in different connotations. We've reduced liberty to a series of visuals in hopes of unifying our understanding. It never really works.

With this debate over the health care issue, the crushing reality of multiple meanings comes to divide us again. Liberals talk about the 10 percent of Wisconsin without health care, Conservatives talk about the overwhelming financial burden on the rest of us. Each one claims the mantle of true American liberty. Both have flaws in their argument.

Erik, despite his claim, is incorrect about the conservative definition of freedom. It is as far from narrow as possible to see. Certainly, the idea of freedom may bring up images wild masses streaming throughout vast idyllic landscape, but the idea is far from the reality. Mike could certainly explain his definition with eloquence and logic, as do many conservatives I know.

What Erik is targeting are those who subscribe to the conservative agenda without really understanding or abiding by it. There are many (neo-cons, the current administration, uneducated hawks) who may follow this path, but I doubt writing an open letter to conservatives decrying their defnition of freedom is a sensible choice.

But on the health care issue, I side against Mike.
This line caught me in Mike response:
If we want to be technical, no one has the right to medical treatment. That may sound mean, but it's true. Don't forget that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Here's my idea for a universal health care system: The patients are free to see whatever doctors they want by paying money to the doctors when they see them. Doctors and other health care providers are similarly free to accept patients based on the patient's willingness to pay for such care. It's called 'capitalism'.

Except for two problems:
1) The ideal system of Capitalism is a far cry from what we have now come to face with. Ideally, capitalism would entirely benefit the consumer because the increase in competetion would eventually level out to zero profit for no companies and the best deal for consumers. As that would make very little money or incentive for more corportations to enter the fray, it turns in a very wicked way that leaves an oligarchy of profit-maxmizing companies to strip the consumer of that low cost (unless you're Walmart and just screw everyone else over instead.) Insurance companies are certainly some of the biggest purveyors of greed in our system. They benefit from capitalism, the patient suffers.
2) We have no right to health care, but we do have a right to life, do we not? If medical treatment is the best way to guarantee us life, shouldn't we make it available to all?

Ahh, but the financial burden. We can't simply force 90 percent of Wisconsin to pay for 10 percent that represent uninsured Wisconsin! It's not my problem, I shouldn't have to pay for it. If that's not a restriction on our freedoms, then I don't know what is!

For all the talk of Independence, freedom sure gets a lot of play. No one thinks about that other half of the equation. The one that we honor with silence and brevity, no fanfare but "Taps."


The countless Americans who went into World War II placed themselves in the line of almost certain death. A sacrifice of the minority of the US for the majority. What did the majority back home do? They rationed. They switched production to the war effort. They did everything in their power to support their boys.
The majority sacrificed for the minority.

We can sacrifice for the minority, can't we? They may not be at war, but if they are without health care, aren't they already on the front lines? They ask for the right to live and it costs employees a 4 percent tax on and 10 percent tax on our employers. We are going to deny that 10 percent their right to life simply because we don't want to give up any more money? When you take into consideration the possible savings to be had from this plan, it's not even a true loss, it's a change in the way we pay. After all, we're still getting coverage out of this deal.

But, we are stubborn. Why? Democracy. Capitalism. Freedom. These have rigid definitions in our minds and altering them would cause a collapse to our way of life. Universal Health Care must be a rejection of all of those things. As such, it cannot pass. The ideals must stand.

We have these ideals, but we're always modifying them. We've always attempted to perfect our ideals, but often arguments for the "right way" choke off our decisions. The oxygen-starved brain that is government freezes because of our own political paralysis.

Only recognition of the need for flexibility will end such stagnation. We may live under the banner of everlasting freedom, proclaim the rule of democracy and run ourselves as a republic, but we blot out the underlying method behind our actions.
We - this country, these citizens and our way of life - are an experiment. Nothing is made in stone.

Democracy is our aim, but the people's rule is far from absolute. We admit to a republic, but our history in foreign lands has always hinted at imperialism.
We strive for freedom, but must confess our rights are subject to security limitations and moral imperatives.

The United States is, just like a scientific experiment, an explosive and ever-changing process. Our conclusions always result in more questions and problems. However, we must stop running the same experiments over and over in hopes we get new results each time.

A new hypothesis must be tested. If it fails, then we try a different one. Lives may be lost, people may lose things along the way. Unfortunately, they're losing those things anyway as we stand idly by. So why not try a different approach?

This may be quite a grand statement for a thing as specific as health care, but it is done for a reason. If this is an experiment, then we are the scientists. We must be ruled by logic and reason, not personal attacks, political spectrum and empty rhetoric. We have a duty to work toward progress.

Therefore, we cannot sit here asking each other the same questions on these matters. We cannot bicker about the conservative or liberal conception of freedom. We have done this before and come out with very few answers. Instead, we must choose one unified direction and act. When we come to a conclusion, evaluation of success and failure will be taken. Then, we can try a different direction. Eventually we'll find the correct path.

Health Care is a test. Democrats have chosen the direction. I suggest we test this new hypothesis. I'm not saying it's fool-proof, I'm not saying it will solve everything. I'm just saying it is worth a test.

After all, we have the freedom to test, don't we?

Happy 4th, everyone.


Erik Opsal said...

"But, we are stubborn. Why? Democracy. Capitalism. Freedom. These have rigid definitions in our minds and altering them would cause a collapse to our way of life."

My post seeked to challenge those rigid definitions of freedom, whether it be from conservative or liberal viewpoints. It looks like I succeeded in at least making people think about changing the status quo.

I'm not sure if I made absolute sense, but I tried. I don't think I meant to look at it only as conservatives on one side and liberals on the other (I know there are liberals out there who disagreed with what I said), but that's just the way it played out.

I was sick of this freedom/liberty argument coming from critics of the plan and I wanted to expose the hypocrisy in their freedom arguments.

It's obviously a hard word to define.

Jason Smathers said...

And that's just fine. Have no problem with the way your post went. I was actually glad to see a post that posed a challenge to the definition. I just thought I'd add mine, as well.

Truth be told, I rather enjoyed the debate between you and Mike.

Jason Smathers said...

and furthermore, I do actually agree with your argument. I only take issue with asking the right why it has a narrow conception of freedom. Starting such a well argued post with a generalization just left a bad taste in my mouth. The rest of it found me nodding.

and don't worry, you did make sense.

Erik Opsal said...

Good to know. I was told by Gallentine that my argument about Iraqis feeling free was out of place, and he's right. I should have taken it out because it didn't really add anything to my argument.