I have an acquaintance who is from Denmark, staying here with her family for a year. She was SO excited that Obama was elected, and she was SO excited at the prospect of socialized healthcare. She forwarded an email to me from her sister-in-law, an American who married a Dane and has been living in Denmark for 7 years. The story was about some medical condition that this woman went through, and she saw her doctor, and it didn’t “cost” her a cent. Neither did it require any paperwork. She was referred for physical therapy, and she went in, presented her Danish equivalent of a social(ist) security number, and again, no cost, no paperwork. After some time, the therapy wasn’t cutting it, and her doctor (at no cost) referred her to a surgeon, who – at “no cost” and no paperwork – did the surgery, and after 6 weeks of (paid??) leave, she went back to PT, free of cost, and got the health issue taken care of.
In essence, this acquaintance was extolling the virtues of socialized medicine, and inferring that she hopes the US will be there soon.
We are on great terms, and we love a good exchange, so I emailed her back. For your edification, and hopefully you’ll share this soon with others, I provide for you my response. [Slightly edited parts in brackets]. I welcome your comments too.
– Paul Revere
Heh heh, about your sister-in-law’s letter….
Well, although I admit the system here in the US is definitely “out of whack”, I don’t think big government takeover is the right plan. Do you know the REASON healthcare costs and paperwork exist? It’s not because capitalism and the free market doesn’t work…
The primary reason we have the healthcare issues we do is because of LITIGATION. When someone goes skiing, smacks into a tree, becomes grossly incapacitated, and the doctor can’t “fix” the person back to 100% health, then the patient gets honked off, doesn’t take any personal responsibility, and sues the doctor (or hospital) for malpractice. Juries (another part of democracy) feel sorry for the incapacitated person, sees the men in suits (doctors, hospitals) and sees deep pockets ($$$), and awards the crazy skier 5 or 10 million for pain and suffering. The doctor’s (or hospital’s) malpractice insurance covers the bill, and insurance companies jack up their rates, and doctors and hospitals jack up their prices sky high to cover the costs.
The other thing that drives me nuts is the idea that “government is the answer.” President Gerald Ford said, “a government that’ big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have.” I realize you don’t have the background of a citizen raised in the United States, so perhaps the context of all this – and the reaction of conservatives in this country – is a little hard to fathom. After all, I’m sure in Denmark you’d run across an issue (not just healthcare) and you call up your friendly government representative and say, “what can we do about this?” And – because socialism in Denmark is so great – I’m sure that something productive happens from that. But you see, here is the difference:
We don’t function like that.
The United States – for several hundred years – (until recently) has thrived on something called “rugged individualism.” Individuals get an idea of how to solve a problem, providing for the needs of the community, and are encouraged to innovate to find the best solutions, and if they are successful, they are rewarded (monetarily) for that effort. As long as we’re not burdened by outrageous government regulations and taxes, more and more and more people get excited about solving problems on their own. It really creates a class of thinkers – movers and shakers – that believe that anything is possible. This is why millions of people immigrate to the US every year. With the exception of the huge Mexican immigration problem, most people do NOT come here because of our massive government social programs; they come here because of freedom and opportunity. And democrats (who employ socialist programs primarily) want to tax the successful to death, and spread the wealth around, and it is the antithesis to freedom. (And as for the Mexican problem: if we cut off all free healthcare, schooling, welfare, and social programs for non-US (translation: illegal) residents, that would almost completely solve that problem; Heh heh, don’t tell me there’s no socialized medicine in the US: the Illegal Mexican immigrants take full advantage of it)!
The sad part, and this is really why I’m disappointed not just that a democrat was elected, but because Obama is the FARTHEST left Senator, with the MOST socialist ideas on how to solve the issues of our day: We have turned a corner away from “rugged individualism” and “I know I can do it” to “government nanny-ism” and “I hope government can do it.” I know that gets you totally excited, because now the US can join the ranks of the France, the UK, as a country that was once great, but has settled for mediocre. Have you heard of the progression of democracy? It goes like this:
From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to Great Courage
From Great Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency
From Dependency back to Bondage
I think the United States is somewhere around “Apathy.” Democrats want more and more government in our lives (which is great if you want socialism), and as more and more people find that the ONLY way they can operated is through a government system, then more and more people are on the government dole, or getting government support, or getting government sponsored healthcare, or government pensions, etc … then they essentially HAVE to vote for democrats (socialism) or they are cutting themselves off. This is the problem with the “two payer” system that some democrats are proposing (health care provided by employers, and government covering the unemployed or the young): Eventually, employers won’t be able to support it, and gradually everyone will slide over to the government system. That is only ONE example. And since a huge government will make it impossible for a private sector entrepreneur to survive, more and more people will just “give up” and start leaning on the government.
We saw that clearly in the first “town hall” meeting that Obama had: the woman who wanted him to give her a remodeled kitchen and a car, the guy who was in college and working at McDonalds and asked how Obama was going to give him a raise … every one of the questioners in the Obama-friendly audience was essentially saying, “how are you (the government) going to give me mine! I want mine!” THESE ARE ANTI-AMERICAN THOUGHTS! Really!! An AMERICAN says, “I’m going to do it myself!” I worked at a pizza joint AND did [another job] throughout college, and I never once thought of calling up my senator to ask how government was going to get me a raise. If you want a kitchen remodel, you get a second job, or lean on relatives, or (gasp) you do without!
One of the best (yet still imperfect) solutions to healthcare is the “loser pays” system of litigation. Then the idiot who pours 30 packets of creamer in his coffee at McDonalds and gets sick will think twice before suing McD’s for not having a warning label on the creamer. Same with healthcare, if an individual with poor teeth wants to sue the dentist because the abscess wasn’t solved the first time, then they will think twice.
I also favor (and you’ll get a kick out of this) a government cap on litigation. When a person who’s cancer surgery doesn’t stop the cancer, they’ll think twice about suing the doctor when they might only win 10,000 instead of 10 million. And they might actually lose, then perhaps they’ll just say, “Know what? I have cancer, and it sure is a bummer I can’t live forever.”
It’s about personal responsibility, and trial lawyers have absolved people of personal responsibility so that everything that happens to them is “not their fault.” Lawyers have absolutely devastated our country and hamstrung business & doctors, everywhere.
And one more thing that makes “government healthcare” an unthinkable plan is the costs. Except for the military, there is not ONE business in the United States that government does more efficiently than the private sector. Perhaps government healthcare in Denmark is great because Danish citizens are used to it. Socialism is a way of life there, so the system there has honed itself down to something that works pretty good.
[For this very reason I think that] democracy will not work in the long term in Iraq. Their citizens just don’t know how to function well with freedom.
And don’t even get me started on the costs of “free” healthcare; I’m sure the tax rates in Denmark are confiscatory. I found an article from a couple years ago, “High Income Taxes in Denmark Worsen Labor Shortage.” It said that taxes can reach upward of 63%. Doesn’t that bother you? Some Danes give 63% of their blood sweat and tears to government. Wikipedia says even the poorest of the poor in Denmark pay almost 30%. That’s nuts. Here they pay nothing (in income tax). That doesn’t include the corporate tax (25%) or the sales tax (25%). If these stats are true – and I actually don’t place a lot of confidence in Wikipedia – Danes give most of their money to government. I just can’t believe it!
And Denmark is a monarchy; something else that US citizens fought so hard against after American colonists signed the “Declaration of Independence” in 1776. I’m sure a “top down” system is easier for those on “top” to manage. It’s the reason that people living under monarchies are called “subjects,” whereas people living under democracies are called “citizens.”
And since Denmark only has 5.5 million people (smaller than [most] states), a socialized system is much easier to work out.
But – for now – you’re dealing in the US with “individualists” (not socialists). We function with freedom. But, if you’d like to be encouraged with this: more and more people are giving up their freedoms here, and yielding personal initiative and responsibility to “what can the government do for me,” and it won’t be long before we slide into socialism.
I hope I’m not around to see it though, and I’m going to do everything I can to stop it in my time.
I always enjoy our exchanges. I’m sure you can sense my passion for the potential in the United States and our way of life, and I hope it wasn’t too overbearing.
Although I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change you, I LOVE being educated on other ways of life, and other ways of thinking, so I wholeheartedly welcome more in this avenue of though.