29 January 2011


We know that politics rides on waves of historical social currents. In this case, a renewed radical individualism--a la Ayn Rand--is in vogue among the far Right. There has long been an American distrust of government, especially of the federal government. Reagan ratcheted up that sentiment with his rhetoric of "government is not the solution; government is the problem." 

There has also been a great lessening of civic involvement as Americans are in the middle of a disidentification with civic organizations and involvement. (Tocqueville marveled at how readily Americans joined social and civic and groups.) Today, membership in everything from bridge clubs to museums is way down. With this radical individualism and disidentification with civic and local social groups comes what I see as the breakdown of the social contract, something that most people have never considered and schools do not teach. (In fact, there are hardly any civics classes any more.) We are losing our social capital.

Two ideas are foundational re people's involvement with government and society: the proper role of government in human affairs, and how much the individual is obligated to society. The former is constantly discussed; the latter is nearly forgotten. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher voiced the "Atlas Shrugged" theme when she said, "Society does not exist." 

The point I am getting to is that American society must evolve to the point in which it understands health care as a human right. One that "society" provides for all its members, and as part of the social contract between government and its citizens--and between citizens and citizens. American society, it seems clear to me, is headed towards an anarchic "Blade Runner" society, instead of toward the Swiss model, in which health care was declared a human right and its electorate voted (voted!) for universal health care, with insurance companies providing non-profit policies to the poor.

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