Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Insecurity State

artist-Amanda Moeckel
artist: Amanda Moeckel

Steve Gimbel in Philosopher's Playground, a new blog(well, new to me), notes that the World Health Organization recently assessed the healthcare systems of most member countries and ranked the US 37th. Behind virtually all Western European countries, but also behind Costa Rica, behind Chile, even behind Morocco and war-torn Colombia.

From his essay:

...insecurity is the most important force in shaping American society. It manifests itself in two ways. In the middle class, it is class insecurity. There is the sense that our kids will not only fail to have more than we have, but that they may fall from being middle class. This is why schools are simultaneously turned into prisons providing environments that are not conducive to learning and overburdening our kids with too much homework. If they don't get into the right pre-school they won't get into the right college and then they might not end up with a good job. The kids are so risk averse that they refuse to think interesting thoughts. Just get the B, just don't screw up. It is there in the way we create gated communities both in terms of actual gates and in terms of infrastructure. We can't build public transportation because then the wrong kind would have easy access to our homes and our stuff. It's all fear of losing our stuff and our kids not being able to get it for themselves. Look at our drug laws, look at the way we pay for schools through property taxes, look at the discussions around affirmative action. The group of voters who went for Reagan and Clinton are governed by class insecurity and both of them knew it and played them like a fiddle.

The middle class doesn't want health care reform, not because they think ours is the best system in the world, but because it is good enough for them and they are afraid that helping someone else would be a zero sum game and thereby cost them. It works for me and mine so don't mess with it. Insecurity leads to malicious, selfish inaction.

I think there's a bit more to it than that, since this is, to an extent, one of those "people are so X because of Y" arguments, when in fact our society is increasingly less homogeneous and that argument, irrespective of the particulars you replace X and Y with, gets increasingly harder to make. Maybe, as a sort of corollary to Gimbel's thesis, it would be interesting to explore the ways that popular media reinforces our more reactionary traits and deliberately avoids discussing contrasting qualities we have.

Nevertheless his blog looks like a fascinating place to visit and the essay is worth reading in full. Go read the rest here, "Insecurity as an American Social Force"

(via Helmut at Phroneisisaical.)

cross-posted at Hugo Zoom.

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At July 08, 2009 8:02 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

I’m not so sure the middle class is against a single payer plan. As more and more are left without any kind of insurance due to the rapacious cost I would guess that more people will be amendable to a single payer plan. I think Gimbel makes a good point though. I’m sure there are plenty who believe that socialized medicine equals poorer quality health care and would be afraid of that kind of change in how health care is paid for.

At July 08, 2009 9:38 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

I agree on both counts. I'm also exasperated by the leadership dems and the party-line liberal blogs who keep repeating "public option, public option" without explaining to people that isn't the same thing as single payer.

In fact I think Obama and the sundry dems touting the "public option" are deliberately trying to obfuscate on this particular.

But back to Prof. Gimbel: I particularly like the observation,

"The group of voters who went for Reagan and Clinton are governed by class insecurity and both of them knew it and played them like a fiddle."


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