Politics, Philosophy, and UHC

One “Five Minute Life Hack” deals with the ability to avoid wasting time in pointless discussions.  One such tool is to grasp the difference between philosophy and politics.   The UHC discussion is one arena where this is a clear consideration. With the open admission that I have taken sides in this matter, here’s an exploration of the implications.



Remember my comment that politics is the way we mobilize philosophy?   A corollary is that if you don’t have clarity on those underlying philosophical positions, the political arguments are useless, a distraction, and often an attempt to wear you down so that you think there is no solution.    THE FIRST STEP TO FINDING A SOLUTION IS TO CLEARLY DEFINE THE PROBLEM.


It is in that spirit that I offer these thoughts:




The fact that so many  anti-UHC articles discounting the longer life spans mention “ethnicity” suggests that there is little overlap between those positions and the belief in human equality.  IF you believe in equality, you would look at the differential stats on life span and say: “there is something about the situation that is killing these people.  Countries with UHC get better results for their underclass, perhaps by creating a better situation.”


And if you CARE that the results are different, I think you start advocating for the system that produces greater health.  (The question “why” can still be answered. But just as noticing that washing your hands prevents surgical infections preceded the germ theory of disease, you don’t need to understand an effect to take advantage of it.  Better access to health care?  Better preventive medicine?  Lifestyle planning? Stress counseling?  A more caring society?  Something else?  Probably a combination)


If on the other hand you believe in “nature” over nurture, you hold positions that seem closer to the opponents. “Those” pesky “ethnics” who are dying earlier either just WANT to die, or are genetically predestined to.  Why, then, waste social and economic capital trying to change the basic nature of flawed human beings?  (by the way, it is kicking the can down the road to say: “well, its their society, broken families” and so forth.   Unless you believe the people are different, you MUST assume they have the same basic desires: to live, to see their children thrive.  If there is a behavior contrary to this, you either conclude that it is a result of a flaw in the people, or something different about the history and current situation.  I’ve seen a LOT of racism masked under this distraction, and it never holds up under further questioning)


Get that?  If its nurture, we can change the environment and make it better. With things like providing a safety net of  medical care to everyone.


If it is nature, maybe we can’t change it, but we have to try.


Or maybe its nature, but NOT  worth trying to change (especially if they are “the other”.   How many parents give up on their own children because “experts” say there is no hope?)


Or perhaps it is nurture, BUT WE DON’ T CARE.  Let their babies die.


O.K.  I take the position, very clearly, that the purpose of a health system is to preserve lives.  EVERYTHING else is secondary to that: wait times, methods, etc. etc.  They are means to an end. The end is to preserve lives.


THAT’S my position. So I look most carefully at that first metric: what system produces the greatest lifespan.   The lowest Infant mortality.


AFTER we establish that, then we look at standards like cost of delivery and self-reported satisfaction with quality of care or life.  They are less important in some ways, but more important in others.


All of this is philosophy: what is true?  What is the core desire of humanity? What is the purpose of medicine? What is the nature of the social contract?


Politics should be “how do we accomplish a goal we have decided upon?”  If different political systems or parties have different BASIC beliefs about the nature of humanity, that would produce the kinds of arguments we are having.  That could relate to race or ethnicity. Or it could relate to whether “Free Enterprise” or “Government” has greater morality.


It seems to me that most people, believe that there is no greater morality on either side, but that each has its role. That the conversation is “which things should be handled by which form of social organization?”  That seems a sane and honest conversation.   There are lots of different valid positions to take about that.  My thought is that government is better at dealing with and regulating NEEDS, while the free market is better at dealing with WANTS.


This is a very broad comment, and would need lots of refinement. But it is approximate, and useful in a rough way.


There is a group of people who simply believe something different about humanity.  They take the position that “government can’t do anything right.”   As I cannot parse that comment so that it makes any sense, I have to think that what it really means is “governments are less efficient and moral than free enterprise.”  That at least can be evaluated.


I don’t know how they come to the conclusion that the same human beings sort automatically into less or more moral based on whether they are operating for profit or for social organization, but that seems to be the position.  Well…as I said, while I might disagree, I can at least parse it.


But the fact that if you say: “each has its uses” they so often seem to hear:  “government should control everything!  You are a communist!” suggests to me that their reaction is emotional, not logical.




There is a very good conversation to be had about how to accomplish the dreams of humanity.  But we need enough agreement on what those dreams are, and what the nature of Man is, to move toward them.   Those who hear “each has its use. I believe X is best handled in the commons” as “Government should control everything!  Government is better than private industry!” strike me as people of strongly dualistic inclination, who take the position “Free enterprise is better at everything!  Government is less moral!”


And therefore are extending their own humanity: they assume those who disagree with them have taken the opposite point of view  (“Government is more moral!”).  It is entirely possible that they cannot really grasp the CONTRARY point of view (“each has its uses”), and therefore disbelieve that anyone else can either.  That’s possible.  I once had an intelligent, staunch Conservative express wonderment that I could actually hold two possibilities in my mind at the same time.  Is that a common issue, the inability or disbelief?   I suspect so.


Of course then, if they don’t believe your self-reported positions, they are saying you are lying, at the very least to yourself (“you are a secret communist.  You are lying about what you want.”)


Some might feel that the problem is a “creeping communism” (“you don’t understand where this path will lead”) which is   at least part of a conversation.  (“Lets discuss the history of collective action, and see what might be a reasonable limit to it. What produces the best effect?  The worst?  How much collectivism? What is the minimum or the maximum that is healthy?  Is there some objective measurement we can agree upon?” and so forth)


THAT is a conversation that respects both people, is honest, asks to look at history and the nature of human beings, looks at current social context, and then, after some agreements are reached, politics can enter to decide HOW to best implement the agreed upon goals and philosophies.


It’s a good discussion. But those who believe government is evil, or less moral, deserve only to speak to those who believe private industry is evil, or less moral. They are each others’ natural partners, and that conversation cannot be pleasant, reasoned, or rational.   I hope they enjoy each other.


Those who believe “each has its uses” can speak to others who believe the same.  Those who believe people are just people, can speak to others who believe the same.  Even if you disagree that THIS is a situation that should be handled by one form of organization rather than another, at least you aren’t having a political conversation that masks an underlying belief about race or the basic nature of human beings.


If you fail to resolve the underlying beliefs, or at least admit they are there, you simply shout at each other.  You don’t need to agree with each other.  But if we argue about the décor or menu at a restaurant we want to go to, rather than reveal that the restaurant owner is our “ex” and we just don’t want to go there, we will waste all the energy and time we might have invested in enjoying a meal at a different venue.


If you believe that “government is evil” and I believe it is no more evil than the human beings in the society we live in…and you agree but admit that you think that people are evil…and I ask why, then, you trust private industry…and it is because “they don’t have guns” we might not be able to agree, but at least we’re having the real conversation.


I’ll still choose to have my conversation with those with whom I have enough agreement for there to be a potential resolution…but I’ll know where you’re coming from, and can try to protect your interests, by finding a compromise that allows us to live together despite disagreement.


I THINK that is what politics is for.  Philosophy is “what is true?”  Politics is “how shall we organize to accomplish our aim?”


Different things.





(If you find this kind of thought appealing,  you would probably enjoy the free “Seven Day Mental Diet” course available at www.fiveminutelifehacks.com)





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