Clive Crook Changes His Mind

by Henry on January 11, 2012

This column by Clive Crook today:

Democrats therefore find themselves having to deny the obvious. Obama wants to make the country more like Europe? Ridiculous. A straw man. But it isn’t ridiculous. What’s ridiculous is the idea that Republicans take for granted and squirming Democrats tacitly endorse—that making the U.S. more like Europe would be a disaster. … The biggest step the U.S. needed to take in Europe’s direction, and the longest overdue, was health-care reform. The Affordable Care Act is a start. … Obviously, political cultures differ in deep ways, so there will never be One True Capitalism, right for everybody. … Still, Europe’s biggest economies all reflect a social- democratic tradition that puts more emphasis on collective provision and the guiding hand of government than seems natural in the U.S. The American political tradition stresses the rights and responsibilities of individuals; it exalts private enterprise and almost celebrates risk. These are choices that countries should be free to make.
… Europe’s politicians looked at the U.S. and decided they needed, among other things, more American incentives and more American creative destruction. … They said so explicitly: Unlike their U.S. counterparts, they weren’t embarrassed to point to the other model. … On the other hand, Europe can teach the U.S. a thing or two about social insurance—and not just in health care, the most egregious failure of the American economic model. Help for the unemployed has traditionally been ungenerous in the U.S. … Republicans might also ask whether America is living up to the merit-society ideal. … In America, land of opportunity, if you are born poor, your chances of staying poor are higher than in Europe. The trade-off between economic vitality and economic security cannot be eliminated. But its terms can be improved in the U.S. and Europe, if each pays closer attention to the other.

presents a striking contrast with this one from three years ago.

Where has France gone too far, in the view of an American liberal? … Presumably, liberals approve of the universal health care, the generous and extensive welfare state, the comprehensive worker protections, the stricter regulation, the vastly more-generous subsidies for higher education, the stronger unions, the higher taxes, and especially the higher taxes on the rich. … Perhaps some liberals privately long to make the United States over in the image of France, but the great majority, I imagine, are more interested in taking the things they regard as best in the European economic model—all the things I just listed—and combining those “socially enlightened” policies with the traditional economic virtues of the United States. Take French social policies and welfare-state institutions and add them to the American work ethic, spirit of self-reliance, and appetite for change. Et voila, the best of both worlds. Color me skeptical. Culture shapes institutions and vice versa. Culture—that bundle of traits of self-reliance, self-determination, innovation, and striving for success—underpins the American exception. … In ordinary times, this culture makes it hard for a government to push the United States in a European direction … it would be an error to assume that the policy transformation that some liberals long for—and which Obama, if his budget is any guide, appears to be aiming for—would leave America’s unusual cultural traits unaffected. … the American exception is alive and well, and that it is more than likely the secret of this country’s awesome success. … I would need to think long and hard before casting it for “transformation.” Repairs here and improvements there, of course, but transformation? It would be a shame to see America revert to the Western European norm.

NB that I am noting, not criticizing, this apparent change of heart. People have different attitudes to returning prodigals. Except in the case of continued rank hypocrisy, I’m by and large in favor of killing the fatted calf (or at the least, keeping it nicely plump in the hopeful anticipation that the change will stick).

{ 61 comments }

1

J. Otto Pohl 01.11.12 at 7:19 pm

To be fair remaking the US in Europe’s image is neither practical or desirable. Yes, they have better health care than the US, but so does Ghana. They also have more social mobility and generally a higher material standard of living. But, they also have a greater attachment to primordial ideas of ethnicity that makes full assimilation of people descended from non-European immigrants impossible in some European countries. So it is not all utopia in Europe. I found people living in London to be far more openly racist than people living in Virginia or Arizona, the three places I lived between 2001 and 2007.

2

politicalfootball 01.11.12 at 7:30 pm

The whole “becoming more like Europe” thing was always a foolish way to frame these issues. If that’s the frame you use, it’s pretty much inevitable you’ll end up talking about stupid things like whether we should call them “French fries,” or whether we should adopt forms of racism more common in the UK.

There are more effective methods of providing health care and health insurance, and just because they’re used in Europe doesn’t make them intrinsically European. That’s just a way to frame the issue to appeal to U.S. xenophobes.

Nobody suggests that Americans should give up imperialism because it makes us more European.

3

J. Otto Pohl 01.11.12 at 7:36 pm

I actually do think the US should give up imperialism because we do not have the mindset to do it properly. The US experiment with colonialism in the Philippines and to a lesser extent Liberia did not turn out real well. The British did a much better job with Malaya and the Gold Coast.

4

UserGoogol 01.11.12 at 7:46 pm

And of course, the evil foreigner country that American liberals are most inclined to look to to model our health care system after is Canada, which is not in Europe at all.

5

J. Otto Pohl 01.11.12 at 7:48 pm

Canada is not nearly a good a model as the NHS in the UK.

6

Jeffrey Davis 01.11.12 at 8:00 pm

Don’t trust Crook. I’d want an explicit “mea culpa” from returning prodigals. Framing the issue in “becoming more like Europe” still clings to fetid Republican rhetoric.

Rick Perry, born again populist, has been lambasting Dems for wanting to overturn Glass-Steagall. All the while saying, “We have enough regulations.” Wanting to have one’s cake and to eat it too is typical Republican spoor.

7

BenP 01.11.12 at 8:05 pm

Mark Thoma shows this is a nonsense. Not that France is heaven on earth but it did perform better than the US over the same period for the median – with better social services and choice of cheeses. Unless you belong in the 1% of course.

8

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.11.12 at 8:08 pm

Everybody wants to be more like Europe (even the Ghanians, I imagine), but they are soooo terrified of failure that they have to pretend they don’t. Losers.

9

MPAVictoria 01.11.12 at 8:29 pm

“I found people living in London to be far more openly racist than people living in Virginia or Arizona, the three places I lived between 2001 and 2007.”

Just want to chime in and say that this was not my experience while living in the UK. Not saying your experience isn’t valid, just that it doesn’t match up with mine.

10

Tedra Osell 01.11.12 at 9:16 pm

@ J. Otto: they also have a greater attachment to primordial ideas of ethnicity that makes full assimilation of people descended from non-European immigrants impossible in some European countries. So it is not all utopia in Europe. I found people living in London to be far more openly racist than people living in Virginia or Arizona

I know what you mean, and there’s some truth to it–I have a good British friend who in America would be considered “white” (and therefore “really” American) but in Britain is considered “black” and therefore sort of “other.” But otoh, the recognition of ethnicity as being more than just (African not including north Africa) black v. white, and that white isn’t monolithic and white people have ethnicity is a lot more nuanced than the US popular view, and means that ethnicity gets talked about *as* ethnicity.

Which I think is very much part of the “American exceptionalism” that the op is about. I think in America, race is heavily coded in terms of poverty and “responsibility”, and that this is the real reason for our aversion to a strong welfare state: we don’t want to support “those” people (and of course, “those” people are the ones that “we” would be supporting, because everyone knows they’re lazy, etc.; this second part is very rarely said out loud, but occasionally you get slips like Santorum’s recently, which lets the cat out of the bag). I think it’s no coincidence that the Republican resurgence followed the US civil rights movement.

11

Tim Worstall 01.11.12 at 9:18 pm

Tchah!

This is the Andrew Sullivan Gambit. If you’re not in the middle, willing to change sides for a feather or two on the scales of justice, then you’re just not a relevant public commentator, are you?

For if you weren’t there in the middle, using your feathers to change that terribly important balance of public opinion, then who would pay attention to you?

12

heckblazer 01.11.12 at 9:37 pm

Tedra Orsell:

I think you pretty much nail why the welfare state never took off in the US. And not only was the Republican resurgence after civil rights not a coincidence, it was from a deliberate strategy to attract racist white voters, aka Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”. I heard somewhere once that whenever the US differs strangely from Europe you can usually trace the root cause to slavery, and whether or not it was intended as a joke all too often seems to be correct.

Also, one European thing I wish we had in America: legally required paid leave. Here an employer is free to give you none at all if they so choose.

13

heckblazer 01.11.12 at 9:38 pm

addenda: I meant to type “racist Democratic voters”. Though they were of course white.

14

P O'Neill 01.11.12 at 9:48 pm

Take French social policies and welfare-state institutions and add them to the American work ethic, spirit of self-reliance, and appetite for change.

There already is such a thing. It’s called “Germany”.

[ducks]

15

bert 01.11.12 at 9:56 pm

Not a perfect proxy for racist attitudes, but the figures here (pdf) allow a direct comparison: “blacks in Britain are signicantly more likely to have a native born white partner than their US counterparts.”
The authors conclude that “if numbers are the engine of social change, our findings imply that Britain will turn hospitable to assimilation sooner than the United States.”
In both societies they’re in no doubt that it hasn’t happened yet.

16

bob mcmanus 01.11.12 at 10:33 pm

once that whenever the US differs strangely from Europe you can usually trace the root cause to slavery

“Why is There No American Labour Party”, Gompers vs Haywood, 1885 Colombus Convention:

The AFL’s founding convention declaring “higher wages and a shorter workday” to be “preliminary steps toward great and accompanying improvements in the condition of the working people.” Participation in partisan politics was avoided as inherently divisive, and the group’s constitution was structured to prevent the admission of political parties as affiliates.[7]

But Gompers and the AFL-CIO were strong lobbyists for tighter immigration policies, which might be construed as racism by certain types, but still is not directly connected to slavery…o whatever. Bored.

17

Keith 01.11.12 at 10:41 pm

American discussions about Europe seem a bit baffling from London as they are often totally fact free prejudice at least on the Republican side. Europe is like “middle England” in the UK, a place that does not exist like Utopia by Thomas Moore. But we must discuss every political idea in terms of this Utopia of the mind. Europe is a continent not a country, with huge differences of economic development and culture. British Tories do not think we are in Europe any way or would prefer to be off the coast of Florida or the middle of the Atlantic. It is worth while to remember that the US does have a welfare state but it mainly involves tax relief plus Medicare and often benefits the well off. Old well off white folks as they say. European states often pay for their more comprehensive welfare spending by high indirect tax. The French invented VAT and the UK followed adopting it when joining the EEC. So redistribution between social classes is limited by regressive methods of finance. The actual difference between the USA and developed european states is far smaller than I think is realised in the USA. I would be vary of drawing conclusions about Race based on personal experience. Having lived in England all my life I can say that I have met or been friends with people who are very racist and people who are firmly anti racist. It all depends on which biased sample of people you end up meeting.

18

mclaren 01.11.12 at 10:52 pm

It’s hilarious to read about how these kinds of social policies are “like Europe.” In fact, these kinds of social policies are actually “more like America” — America of the 1940s and 1950s. When I ask people whether they’d support a excess profits tax on corporations in America, people become apoplectic with indignation. Socialism! Communism! Pinko! Hippy!
Then when I point out that Congress imposed an excess profits tax on the corporations from 1917-1918, from 1933 onward on corporate stock, and on corporate profits in general from 1940-1943 and 1950-1953, the same people become speechless, their mouths opening and closing like guppies in a pet store.
Ask people if they’d be in favor of a 90% maximum marginal tax rate, and they beat the table in rage, screaming about theft and the end of capitalism. When you point out that America had a 90% maximum marginal tax rate during the 1950s, the same people blink at you in bafflement, nonplussed, like cave-dwelling insects hauled suddenly into the light.
America had many of these policies (except for universal single-payer health care) back in the 1950s. Putting these kinds of policies in place isn’t making America more like Europe, it’s making America more like America.

19

bob mcmanus 01.11.12 at 10:55 pm

Okay, let’s gently put it this way.

Identity factions in America are trying to rewrite American History as all about the racism and sexism, and erasing the currents of corporatism, anti-socialism, anti-communism because they think that framing the mistakes and exclusions of previous eras in terms of racism and sexism will benefit and privilege their particular groups and factions in the deals they want to make with Capital.

Like Gompers.

20

Kevin 01.11.12 at 11:06 pm

+1 mclaren @18. It’s really depressing when the educated social democratic left treats even modest social welfare measures as exotic foreign artifacts, as if they have no connection at all to the traditions of ‘Capitalist America’.

21

stostosto 01.11.12 at 11:22 pm

Europe is full of conservative governments that want us to be more like America. America has a Democratic government that — well, actually the intended contrast breaks down, because Obama shows, to me, inexplicably timid inclinations toward embracing a more comprehensive model of social protection and promotion of equal opportunity. But at least he doesn’t engage in vulgar (and misguided) American chest thumping and ignorant name-calling.

22

StevenAttewell 01.12.12 at 12:11 am

Erm, “squirming Democrats tacitly endorse” is a pretty biased reading of “Democrats who favor the extension of the welfare state aren’t stupid enough to invite xenophobic backlash for the sake of a handy analogy.”

23

rea 01.12.12 at 12:20 am

The point of the Republicans accusing Obama of wanting to make the US over into Europe isn’t about the merits of any particular policy. It’s just a straightforward invocation of nationalism and bigotry. Crook doesn’t seem to have grasped this . . .

24

Antti Nannimus 01.12.12 at 12:35 am

Hi,

The main things wrong with the U.S. are the meanness, ignorance, and stupidity of the average Merican, the rampant, hypocritical, irrational, religiosity of a majority of the citizens, our excessive xenophobia and chauvinism, our extreme, unnecessary, and excessive militarism and mindless nationalism and “patriotism”, and incredible economic unfairness. We might be said to have a selfish disregard for the global environment and the future of natural resources. Oh, I suppose I should also mention our political system and public information and entertainment media are mostly bought and paid for by those with the greatest power and wealth, so that every election, it seems, only makes things worse.

And in the “richest country on earth”, almost half our people live in or within near sight of abject poverty. Also we imprison and execute more of our people than almost any other country on the planet.

Other than those few minor quibbles though, we are the GREATEST country in the world, as we will gladly tell everyone who will listen. And even those who won’t. We also have a great Constitution, which we once partly observed.

Who amongst us would ever want to be Europeans? A lot of our ancestors came from that place a century or more ago, and we know how bad that was. So God bless America!

Have a nice day,
Antti

Geez, don’t even get me started. I’m trying to be positive here. There are a LOT of other very crappy places I wouldn’t want to live.

25

piglet 01.12.12 at 12:47 am

Not directly on topic but I wonder whether this has received much attention yet: the British government officially forcing unemployed youth to provide unpaid slave labor to big corporations (like supermarkets).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/16/young-jobseekers-work-pay-unemployment

If US Republicans knew this, they might be less adverse to everything European …

26

Odin 01.12.12 at 1:44 am

“The American political tradition stresses the rights and responsibilities of individuals; it exalts private enterprise and almost celebrates risk.”

Actually the American political tradition is to aid private enterprise. The business of America is and has always been business. Yes the American political tradition stressed the responsibilities of the rich. I miss them days.

America’s moral tradition has also stressed the rights and responsibilities of individuals, rich and poor. In most of our wars, including our Revolutionary War, poor citizens were drafted to “do their duty” while the rich were allowed to buy their way out of military service. If it’s the patriotic duty of poor citizens to put life and limb on the line in defense of their country, what’s the patriotic duty of the rich? What’re their moral obligations?

27

Keith 01.12.12 at 1:47 am

re: 25; yes England is getting more American every day. Except is it not the “illegals” and imprisoned who get this treatment in the USA? But then on second thought immigrants get this treatment too here, like the Chinease cockle pickers who die now and again or the poles who cannot speak english from the east of Poland sent into the fields. So you see Europe and America are getting more alike. Always some one to exploit. Citizen or foreigner lets rip them all off. Its the efficient market at work. Mit Romney will tell them they should be grateful. Being exploited is patriotic. Or we are all in it together as our Prime Minister will say. Makes you proud and keen to fly the flag. Not.

28

Lee A. Arnold 01.12.12 at 2:29 am

It’s very interesting that many of these pundits have started to amend their old arguments, more or less. Perhaps the fact that the plutocratic takeover of Wash D.C. has now become so obvious that it is received wisdom around the dinner tables; while the continued output gap, unemployment (especially among the youth), and the failure of austerity have also become obvious and a little frightening; and they may also have realized that “that bundle of traits of self-reliance, self-determination, innovation, and striving for success [that] underpins the American exception” (Crook) couldn’t possibly be harmed by universal healthcare: that was always ridiculous. They won’t come out and SAY it, of course, but even the whining about Krugman’s “shrillness” feels to me like a silent capitulation on the facts and theory of our predicament, and perhaps a new appreciation of our likeliest way into the future, which is, as I keep trying to point out, an enormous welfare state.

29

liberal 01.12.12 at 2:34 am

@5: “Canada is not nearly a good a model as the NHS in the UK.”

Agreed.

30

Lee A. Arnold 01.12.12 at 2:37 am

I tries to make a nice picture of the output gap at minute 2:53 of this one:
http://www.youtube.com/user/leearnold

31

Sev 01.12.12 at 2:51 am

#25 “the British government officially forcing unemployed youth to provide unpaid slave labor to big corporations (like supermarkets).”

So the Big Society rhetoric translated into policy equals State conscripted tea-baggers?

32

faustusnotes 01.12.12 at 3:06 am

I’m entertained by the accusation that Frenchies don’t have a work ethic or a willingness to take risks – why do Americans think this is some special American trait? Maybe we should ask Napoleon.

I’m also entertained by the suggestion that the NHS is better than Canada’s system. Canada’s system must be awesomely crappy.

33

heckblazer 01.12.12 at 3:10 am

Bob McManus:

One, I framed the question as why the American welfare state played out so differently from the way it did in Europe, since I’m pretty sure corporatism, anti-communism and anti-socialism also existed (and still exist) across the Atlantic. I submit that the US’ history of slavery is a major factor for that difference.

Two, I very specifically said ‘slavery’, not racism. The after-effects don’t just include racism, it also includes institutions and habits of mind that were quite easily directed at whites as well as blacks. I myself still hear echoes of the notorious Mudsill Speech:

“In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill”

Three, The AFL and other American unions sanctioned segregated locals. This in turn meant that the hated scabs that were attacked for crossing picket lines were very frequently blacks who wanted to have a decent paying job for once. Big business did it’s best to stir up racial resentment to keep the working class divided.

34

purple 01.12.12 at 4:09 am

The average factory worker in Europe has 4 paid weeks of vacation a year.

The U.S. ruling class knows they need to keep this fact well hidden away.

35

faustusnotes 01.12.12 at 4:40 am

Or, purple, they could celebrate this difference in editorials as evidence, not of the cowed and weak situation of the US industrial working class, but of their “work ethic” and “willingness to take risks,” and construct a national discourse in which people are proud of this, rather than wanting to change it.

36

J. Otto Pohl 01.12.12 at 10:02 am

Tedra:

The ethnicity most English people that obsess about these things are concerned about is merely race with the pseudo-biology replaced by culture. That is why I used the term primordial ethnicity. That is the idea that people are born into a particular ethnicity, can not assimilate no matter how much they acculturate and pass that status onto their children. In this sense ethnicity is identical to race. In fact it is race. Many English talk about how just because a dog is born in a stable that does not make him a horse. Similarly for many, although not all, Englishmen a person of Pakistani descent or even Black of Jamaican heritage can never, ever become English no matter how many generations his family has been in England. They are always considered outside the British nation, “there ain’t no black in the Union Jack,” and much of the British discourse on immigration has informed by such popular ideas in the last 30 years.

Casual racism of the type that has not been tolerated in the US for decades is pretty common among the English. I frequently heard anti-Black and anti-Asian racial defamation in London pubs that I never heard anywhere in the US. Even in the US, my mother worked with an English ex-pat in Virginia who unlike all the Americans thought it was perfectly acceptable to deny service to Black people. Her boss had to explain to her that such behavior was not tolerated in the US after Black customers complained. I know racial discrimination is illegal in the UK as well, but there is a lot more popular tolerance for it.

bert: Interracial marriages don’t prove anything about the level of racism. As Memri pointed out it is possible to be sexually attracted to Black women and still be a racist. The people who use interracial relationships as evidence of the absence of racism in the UK have obviously never been in one themselves nor is it likely they know anybody who is. You just make an exception for your family and hate the other 99% of the people in the group.

37

Chris Bertram 01.12.12 at 11:28 am

_Many English talk about how just because a dog is born in a stable that does not make him a horse._

I’m fascinated to hear that many English people use that expression. I’ve lived in England nearly all of my life and I’ve never heard it used once. Something similar is attributed to Wellington, but is actually Daniel O’Donnell referring to Wellington:

bq. No, he is not an Irishman. He was born in Ireland; but being born in a stable does not make a man a horse.

So either there are lots of English people channelling O’Donnell on Wellington on the Irish or J. Otto Pohl’s testimony about the English is not to be relied upon. I know which I find more plausible.

38

Kevin Donoghue 01.12.12 at 11:42 am

Daniel O’Donnell? Wee Daniel? No, Daniel O’Connell.

39

Chris Bertram 01.12.12 at 11:45 am

Yes, Kevin, sorry, my bad.

40

J. Otto Pohl 01.12.12 at 12:17 pm

Chris Betram:

I live in London for three years. I heard the phrase used in such places as The Northumberland Arms and the King’s Head. I think the phrase they used came from Bernard manning whose direct line was “They think they are English just because they were born here. That’s like saying that just because a dog is born in a stable, it must be a horse.” But, if you want to believe there are no English racists go right ahead. Next we can hear from Chris Betram how no English man ever a racist slur.

41

J. Otto Pohl 01.12.12 at 12:19 pm

That should be no English man ever made a racist slur.

42

Chris Bertram 01.12.12 at 1:42 pm

_if you want to believe there are no English racists go right ahead_

I neither believe nor asserted such a thing. It is entirely consistent with believing that there are plenty of racists in England (as there are) also to believe that your testimony on that and related matters is unreliable.

43

J. Otto Pohl 01.12.12 at 1:46 pm

My testimony is reliable and since you are insulting me what other matters are you talking about Mr. Bertram? Your lack of incivility is quite telling.

44

J. Otto Pohl 01.12.12 at 1:50 pm

Oops that should be lack of civility. I have no idea why Mr. Bertram is so rude or why he is calling me a liar.

45

bert 01.12.12 at 1:52 pm

bq. The people who use interracial relationships as evidence of the absence of racism in the UK have obviously never been in one themselves nor is it likely they know anybody who is.

A completely baseless statement. Indeed your entire argument rests on anecdote, not evidence. Of course, your personal experience is yours alone, and you’re entirely free to draw your own conclusions from it. As long as you acknowledge that others find your description of the UK unrecognisable. There’s racism in Britain, of course there is. But you seriously overstate both how widespread it is and the degree to which it is socially accepted.

As far as contrasts with the US are concerned, I linked to that paper because it uses census data to attempt an objective comparison. But if you want to trade subjective impressions, I’ll tell you that racial issues are the one subject above all others that’s set up by history and by current circumstance to get an American tangled in knots.

46

belle le triste 01.12.12 at 2:20 pm

He’s not calling you a liar, he’s calling you a fathead.

47

Guido Nius 01.12.12 at 2:29 pm

If many means ‘at least a couple of people in at least 2 pubs’, you’re not a liar.

48

Barry 01.12.12 at 2:52 pm

J Otto Paul: “That is the idea that people are born into a particular ethnicity, can not assimilate no matter how much they acculturate and pass that status onto their children. In this sense ethnicity is identical to race. In fact it is race. “

Please note this is strong in the USA; indeed recently a party decided to kick out a major ethnic group, purely due to hatred by the base.

49

MPAVictoria 01.12.12 at 3:03 pm

J. Otto Pohl I don’t think anyone is calling you a liar (or at least I am not). It is just that your experiences are so different than the ones I had while living in the UK.

50

ed 01.12.12 at 3:41 pm

Lots of over-thinking going on here.

Yes, MittensCare is a nudge in the direction of Europe, but come on, saying that “Obama wants America to be more like Europe” (using ObamaCare as an excuse to say it, yes) is merely an appeal to rank and file Republican voters who want America to be more like America, dammit. Where we’re One Nation Under God, and not whatever multiple gods they pray to–if they deign to pray at all– in whatever foreign languages they speak in those Other Places on the other side of the great waters. Plus Europe’s kinda gay. Just look at the way it dresses and stuff. Also soccer.

Lee Atwater’s ghost is prolly scoffing at the gross lack of subtlety.

51

kdog 01.12.12 at 3:42 pm

In other news, Newt Gingrich has taken to calling out Romney for being a capitalist who preys upon labor. . .

52

Henry 01.12.12 at 3:56 pm

J. Otto Pohl – you started acting like a bit of an arsehole, claiming sarcastically that Chris was making a stupid claim that he obviously was not making. You got called on it. You then claimed erroneously that Chris was calling you a liar, and started complaining about how howwidly mean and rude he was. I would advise you to calm down a bit, start trying to read a little more carefully, and not overreact to what you are reading.

53

Don Levit 01.12.12 at 4:17 pm

I agree with the author that we could take the best of both Europe and the U.S., and make some real progress.
One thing we may be able to learn from Europe is compassion for others, and a bent towards the community and away from self.
This does not mean, in the health care arena, single payer government-provided health care.
One of America’s greatest assets is our ingenuity and creativity.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield used to be distinguished among the other health insurers, thus earning 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
However, they evolved into their me-too commercial competitors, and were stripped of their federal tax-exempt status in 1986, with the passage of IRC section 501(m).
The time is ripe for new non-profits to emerge, or old non-profits to change to provide the best of Europe and the U.S. – innovative insurers who put the community interests on the same level, or even higher than that of the individual.
Doing so could provide meaningful, unique health insurance that is affordable for the long run.
Don Levit

54

MPAVictoria 01.12.12 at 4:28 pm

Or Don we could just use an actual existing and well functioning system as an example.

55

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.13.12 at 7:18 am

@53One of America’s greatest assets is our ingenuity and creativity.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield used to be distinguished among…

It’s a friggin insurance company, man. Collects the premiums and pays the bills. Accounting. The less ingenuity and creativity, the better.

56

faustusnotes 01.13.12 at 10:04 am

innovative insurers who put the community interests on the same level, or even higher than that of the individual.

That’s not innovative. The NHS has done that since 1948.

57

Latro 01.13.12 at 11:12 am

Its sad. I mean, as an European, I’m seeing my healthcare system being under attack and dismantled and sold to “private initiative” right now.

So it seems we are all going to learn from each other, yes. Only the subjects are exactly the opposite ones – not how to get the best of each side of the Atlantic and build something new, but how to get the worst.

58

Tim Wilkinson 01.13.12 at 12:00 pm

re: One of America’s greatest assets is our ingenuity and creativity

I think it may be possible to overestimate the importance of these supposed advantages relative to capital, food surpluses and physical insulation in excess of every other country in the world by an exceedingly large margin.

The Stratfor article continues: like the Turks, the Americans are not important because of who they are, but because of where they live.

Upon this are built other advantages such as military and petrodollar hegemony, and somewhere down the list, some degree of increased scope for expressing ‘creativity’ (possibly, in some sense) and innovation (probably, in the technical sense).

(That link may go behind a paywall at some point.)

59

Don Levit 01.13.12 at 8:02 pm

We don’t need a lot of ingenuity and creativity to set apart an insurer from its commercial competitors.
In fact, it can be very simple, much more simple that what we now have!
The key is to accumulate reserves with the partcipants, not with the insurer.
If this can be done up to $25,000 in reserves, the premium is cut 60%.
If it can be done up to $50,000 in reserves, the premium is cut 80%.
What will make these insurers creative and innovative, is that up to $50,000 of expenses, they will not be operated on a pay-as-you go basis, as we now have.
Every year, you are starting all over again, whether you have claims or not.
Don Levit

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Tim Wilkinson 01.14.12 at 12:23 am

If I have correctly understood your aphorisms, this sounds like relying less on insurance and more on savings – pooling less risk. I should have thought that would make things even worse.

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Don Levit 01.14.12 at 2:08 pm

Tim:
Maybe you and I can communicate offline.
Is it okay with the moderator to provide my E-mail?
Don Levit

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