06 June 2007

Propaganda vs. whole systems thinking

Ivan Miller is one of the seven authors of single-payer proposals that were submitted to the Colorado 208 Commission — the Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform. His proposal was based on an idea that he explains in his book, Balanced Choice.

He notes that initial polling often shows an 60-70 percent of the public supporting progressive measures — like single-payer healthcare, a bottle bill, or other environmental and social justice proposals for the public good. Then there’s a massive campaign against it, beginning with focus groups figuring out just what works to make people question their best instincts. The proposals typically are defeated by 15 – 20 percent or more.

It's enough to make you wish TV had never been invented. The internet may already be changing things, but not for the majority of Americans who watch substantially more television than our counterparts in other Western democracies.

In his interview on Oprah, Michael Moore talked about how we Americans are different than citizens of other democracies, that we're more about "me" than "we." It may be that we have more distrust of government and more of an individualist ethic than the Brits — but it's hard to believe that we're more individualistic than the Australians — and they have universal healthcare.

The difference may be rather that our laws are screwed up. Moore also pointed out that it's illegal for corporations not to maximize their profits. Which should be illegal — after all, we don't force individuals to maximize their profits at the expense of doing the right thing.

One of the pundits on PBS tonight explained that in regard to the current dust-up on Bush's initiative on global warming, part of the problem is that Americans just want to fix the problem, while Europeans are big on process. (It could also be that it's arrogant for Bush to swagger in and demand that the rest of the leaders line up to learn his particular dance when he's been out to lunch for years while they've been working on their steps together.)

That problem — going after particular symptoms rather than fixing a bad system — is also part of the problem in the United States regarding healthcare. George Dunn, a Methodist minister on the board of Health Care for All Colorado, points out that Americans hate systems thinking — which is another way of saying process. So we end up with piecemeal solutions.

Crappy piecemeal solutions.

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