Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Conservative Mind At Work

I hate to generalize- at least when conservatives are doing it. Still, at least there will be a modicum of accuracy and relevance to my post, unlike the recent one of conservative talk show host Michael Medved on the right-wing site townhall.com. Contemplating the distinction between right and left in American politics, Medved writes

The bitterness of the current health care debate demonstrates the power of this important insight. Liberals invariably plead that the United States must follow the example of Britain or France, Canada or Cuba, and expand the governmental role in medicine to guarantee health care as a sacred human right. The left insists that despite the high cost of American medical care we actually lag far behind more enlightened countries in health outcomes. Conservatives, on the other hand, while decrying the rise in costs, cite the many ways that the US system leads the world (in technological breakthroughs, as well as responsiveness where America is ranked number one by the World Health Organization of the UN). Conservatives want other countries to learn from us and follow our example; liberals long for the United States to learn from our European counterparts and to follow their example.

Ah, the mind of the conservative opinion maker of the early twenty-first century. It is not ignorance. Citing the World Health Organization in his argument, Medved obviously knows that in its last report (2000), the WHO (not these guys) ranked the health system in the United States the world's 37th finest. Understandably, he neglects to refer to any aspect of the 2007 update to a 2006 study and 2004 study conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, which found

Compared with five other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom—the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives....

Among the six nations studied—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2006 and 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and as shown in the earlier editions, the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, efficiency, and equity.


Oh, heck. Ignore that. Most of us ignore incovenient data from time to time.

But take a look at this: of the 36 states which reportedly enjoyed a better health care system than the leader of the free world are France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, Malta, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Monaco, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Holland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Finland, and Denmark. That would be 21- 21! of the European continent, including some in Donald Rumsfeld's dreaded old Europe.

And our conservative talk show host complains-complains- that "liberals long for the United States to learn from our European counterparts." That would be twenty-one (21) nations which (even if, like Medved, one doesn't like the criteria employed) are superior in one or more aspects of their care. And Medved wants us to ignore them!

But it's not only Medved and Donald Rumsfeld. Conservative opinion makers, who shape help shape the mind of the conservative masses, have denigrated the Europeans for some time now. No need to criticize Asians or Africans; it's understood that in terms of most objective criteria- e.g., education, income, political freedom- we enjoy a superior quality of life to theirs. (Besides, criticizing Asians or Africans would not be politically correct.) Europeans, however, are largely our peers, albeit living in societies in which (usually) government plays a more prominent role in assisting the middle class than it does here. That is threatening to the right- and is why our erstwhile conservative critics harbor a grudge against Europe.

A politically correct grudge, at that. Sure, in the 1980s universities, it was a denigration of the contribution of the Dead White European Male in literature. (After all, what can be learned from the likes of William Shakespeare?) Now, radio hosts and politicians are much more subtle. We can hardly admit that we envy, or can learn from, other developed societies which are not clearly inferior to ours; and race cannot be mentioned, except to accuse others of racism.

It is disingenuous, irrational, and narrow-minded, but it helps satisfy the right's fetish for political correctness.

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