Monday, September 03, 2007

Submit yourself for inspection: John Edwards' health care vision edition

Uhm. Off the top of my head, I don't think making doctor visits mandatory is a good idea in a supposedly free society like the United States of America. Silly me, right? And I'm sure that for our federal government to require mental health evaluations would - somehow - be perfectly harmless, right?, and never mind that (as far as I know) everywhere else that something like that has been tried the folks in power have cheerfully declared people who oppose them mentally ill and in need of rehab (or worse). Shudder.

Thanks but no thanks, Senator. Last time I checked, the United States was still run by fallible human beings, with a heavy skewing toward the power mad in the upper levels. This, I guess, is how most governments in most places in most times are run, but the genius of American government is that it was set up with this in mind, and with an eye toward limiting the damage that wannabe tyrants (let us call them the overt dictators) and zealous do-gooders (many of whom fall into the covert dictators column) can do during any given citizen's lifetime, and from there forward into posterity. As it happens, the chief tool in keeping damage to a minimum is keeping the jurisdiction of government limited and the power of government curtailed. It's a quaint idea, I know, but it has tended to work reasonably well when given a chance. Or, at least, it's tended to beat the alternatives tried thus far, as far as I can see. And it does take human nature, warts and all, into account, which has probably saved us more than a bit of grief. (Call it preventive medicine, if you like.)

And, uhm, not to belabor the point, but last time I checked doctors were human and fallible and prone to enthusiasms and convictions, too. There are pros and cons to that, I think. (As an aside, I love how Richard M. Cohen, the author of Blindsided: Lifting a Life above Illness, mounted a campaign to, as he said, hijack his body back from his doctors. Been there, done that, hated that we had to remind a doctor or two that if it wasn't his life, it wasn't his life to do with as he pleased. But facts are facts, and some doctors are arrogant, and they can easily be in a position to harm you. This is not to mention that the revamped, abortion-and-euthanasia-are-OK-if-you-pause-before-proceeding Hippocratic Oath probably doesn't help much. See also, for instance, The Cruelest Irony of All: When "Those Who Heal You Will Kill You")

I know it's quite possibly unreasonable of me, but on top of all that I simply don't like the idea of, in essence, being sent to the vet by a well-meaning shepherd trying to keep his herd healthy. Not that I have anything against being healthy. And not that I don't know that's caricature. But... I've read some history and I want the freedom my ancestors had. Silly me again, right?

So, by all means, Senator Edwards, tout preventive care. Tout away. Preventive care is good, on the whole. And if you feel like launching a private initiative - a commune, a co-op, an insurance company, a club, a society, an apartment building, a new, planned community, whatever - which requires a person to agree to go to the doctor regularly as part of opting in, launch away. And may you prosper at it.

But when you start taking taxpayer money to do it, then we start to part company.

And that " can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years..." business? Sorry. You've lost me. I can't see where the government has the right to force people into medical offices for scheduled maintenance, all the more so since it would violate the religious convictions of many, and the common sense of others.

And don't get me started on what I think about some bureaucrat looking into his crystal ball recommended schedule and telling me what to do based on that...

BTW: Do you ever get the idea that some Democrats (like, say, John Edwards, possibly) read the dystopian cautionary tales of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley and thought, "Wow. If I could be leader in a society like that, everything would be great!"? I do. The Clintons, for instance, have repeatedly made me think of Animal Farm, especially the repainting the messages on the barn theme, with the 'some animals are more equal than others' theme coming in a close second.

For the record, I'm pretty sure that Orwell and Huxley and company were trying to warn their utopian-dream-addled generation about the dangers of too-powerful leaders and too-pervasive government, etc., amongst other things. They were not advocating Big Brother leadership of grown men and women, even if any given Big Brother in question really and truly thinks it is for our own good. For the record, I'm with Orwell and Huxley on this.

For the record, I'm a fair bit concerned about some of the current Republicans with power, too.

FYI: For a brief rundown on what Neil Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age Of Show Business (c. 1985), saw as important differences between what Orwell and Huxley feared, see this post at philosophical society. com. It's not a minor point, if Postman's analysis is correct.

Well, for instance, from the foreword:

...Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preocuppied with some equivalent of the feelies... As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny 'failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.' In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right...

Hmmm. I'm going to have to mull this for a while. And I might have to check out that book. And maybe reread some classics. Hmmm.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

You failed to mention what the doctors' waiting rooms will be like. Can you imagine? And then they will be sending everyone for more tests so they won't get sued by the trial lawyers! Ha! It will be like "waiting room" hell for every American! Can't wait!

GrannyGrump said...

Sounds like Edwards has a beef with God about free will. Funny, he likes it enough when what's being chosen is abortion. Only if you choose not to turn your head and cough does he protest and say "You have no right to do that!"

Michelle said...

Didn't Edwards make his money suing doctors? Is he trying to get more clients?

I'd like to know how he plans to get homeless people into the doctor for their annual checkup. Do we need extra police to round them up and haul them in?

And I agree with you on the arrogance of doctors: I had a huge disagreement with the OB for my 3rd baby who basically told me that he was the OB and he knew more about obstetrics than I did. I told him he did know more about obstetrics than I, but I knew more about my own body than he did.

As a military dependant, I constantly tell people that I know all about socialized medicine, and it isn't necessarily a good thing (when it's good, it's very very good, but when it's bad, it is horrid). There are better ways...perhaps we might start by living healthier lives?

Laurie said...

Wish I'd had the time and expertise to put that all down in print. With you on it.