Quote of the day--truth in strange places edition

>> Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What interests me a great deal, and what I have not heard talked about much, is the way that the government's failure to provide healthcare places power with business. Businesses are not democracies.

The good thing about governments giving health insurance is that it strengthens democracy. We can influence how health insurance is managed and conducted if we are able to vote on the people who run it.

We don't really trust democracy, do we? We don't really trust our fellow citizens. We would rather trust business owners. Why is that?

My passion is for democracy. Democracy is a really great idea.

Cary Tennis, "My family insists I be insured"
Salon, April 25th, 2011

An advice column seems like an odd place to find such a wonderfully succinct observation of the political landscape. But there it is.

I mean, this is a fundamental puzzle about the way this country mishandles healthcare, and a puzzle about those who advocate privatizing Social Security and other functions handled by government, or about anything we've handed over to corporations or are in the process of handing over to corporations--the privatizing of national defense and diplomacy by way of companies like Xe (formerly Blackwater). If some mid-level government bureaucrat flubs something up, I can vote for somebody who will fire him, but if some mid-level company man screws up, what's my recourse? The complaints department? And yet businesses are purportedly more responsive than the government.

And then there's the fact that government, in a democracy, is us (at least to whatever extent the country still qualifies as a democracy), while a corporation is an artificial person looking out for "his" interests. Somehow the wisdom of a crowd is suspect, even a wisdom bounded by the various checks and balances we've put on ourselves, while the self-interest of a fake person created for the primary purpose of generating a profit for itself is to be trusted implicitly. I realize, of course, that the employees of private companies are friends and neighbors just like government employees are friends and neighbors. But that isn't quite the point; the point is that I own the State and Federal government (at least in principle) and hold a stake equal to any other citizen over the age of eighteen who hasn't been convicted of a felony; meanwhile, I don't own a single share of corporate stock and the most I could ever afford to purchase if I scraped all my lunch money together for a month probably wouldn't equal the voting share of a mogul of industry. Furthermore, if I don't like what my government does, it's really ultimately my responsibility, while if I don't like what a corporation does, well, it's a legal entity designed with the express purpose of distributing and even evading responsibility on the part of any actual human by spreading losses and civil or criminal liabilities.

Like Tennis is suggesting, it's a hell of a funny thing, isn't it?


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