World’s greatest healthcare (TM)

What does it mean when a US politician like Chris Christie tells the Republican National Convention the US has “the world’s greatest healthcare system”? Is it like when kids buy a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug for Father’s Day: An expression of affection for an ill-favoured thing, but mine own?

One of my formative political experiences was the summer during graduate school, when I listened on the radio to broadcasts of the US Senate debating the Clinton healthcare proposals. What struck me above all was how the senators universally (it seemed) invoked the unmatched excellence of American health care. “The envy of the world”, “best health care in the world”. The only difference of opinion was, of course, that opponents of the reform said that tinkering with this paragon of perfection would inevitably be disastrous, while supporters argued for making this blessing available to more people.*

So, the politicians certainly appear to believe it, and to believe that it should have policy implications; or to believe that a significant portion of the public believes it; or to believe that a significant portion of the public will respond favourably to the assertion, even if they suspect it is untrue. Is it cognitive dissonance? We’re America dammit, and being the sort of people we are, we certainly wouldn’t put up with a ramshackle healthcare system.

Continue reading “World’s greatest healthcare (TM)”

More reflections on 9/11 and the Iraq war

I left out a few points that I wanted to make in my post on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War:

  1. About a week after, I wrote in my diary that I had the disturbing impression, reading the comments of journalists, politicians, and intellectuals, that a significant subset of them were in a certain way pleased: not that the country was attacked, certainly not at the tremendous loss of life, but that life had turned serious. The country had been wallowing in nostalgia for the “Greatest Generation” — Tom Brokaw’s book had been published just a few years earlier — while the current youth (a group which I was just growing out of, being then aged 33) had its culture defined by ironic detachment. So we had articles on “The Age of Irony Comes to an End“. It was mainly just another way to bash young people, which is always popular, but it also appealed to a deep-seated desire to be the protagonists of history, solving problems of historic dimensions. And there are no victory parades for conserving energy and stopping runaway global warming. This was confirmed for me when people started quoting incessantly W H Auden’s 1939 disdain for the “clever hopes” expiring “of a low dishonest decade”. Continue reading “More reflections on 9/11 and the Iraq war”