Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

***  Sorry about the length and/or lack of quotes on Hobbes.  I am home for break and I didn’t bring my book, and this was not meant to be a long entry, but instead something short about the debate.  Then I started flowing and  it turned into something much more.  It contains a bunch of questions, that I wont pretend to have an answer to.  This is totally informal, just kind of long and if you don’t make it all the way through, I totally understand.    ***

I would like to make a comment about the health care debate (as though you all haven’t heard enough already).  However, I think it is the perfect example of Hobbes in modern day. On the one hand, the health care bill is an act of generosity: our “Sovereign” (don’t judge that assumption yet, read on) is looking out for the welfare of his population- most importantly their right to live, which Hobbes places above all else.  But at the same time, passing the bill has become an issue of survival for the Democratic party, an issue of self-interest (also Hobbesian).

I have found that in discussion, Hobbes’ relevance to the modern political scene has been questioned because he seems to be an “idealist”.  I believe people are confusing what Hobbes means to say.  That is, people believe that once a commonwealth is formed, Hobbes assumes that everyone leaves the State of Nature and hence shed their “evil” behavior of greed and jealously, etc.  The truth is, once we are out of the State of Nature the Law of Nature still holds.  Although Hobbes urges people to uphold their covenants, his reasoning only applies to self-interest.  To break a covenant, is to go against the law of nature as it will eventually be detrimental to yourself.  The whole point of the commonwealth is to centralize the fear, in an effort set up order and keep peace- not to abolish thoughts of greed and self-interest.  Really, the whole idea revolves around self-interest.

This is an important, yet subtle distinction: the commonwealth is not a utopia, it is the world that we live in today (abstractly).  Although it contradicts Hobbes to say that our system of government is a representation of the “Sovereign”, as he is adamant in having one absolute ruler in order to quell internal conflict- I think that in the abstract sense, as it applies to the individual, we can indeed draw this similarity.  Hobbes’ Sovereign looks out for our best interests (as the government does, or claims to) and holds the sword in the background to prevent us from breaking the law.  That sounds exactly like world you live in? Doesn’t it.  We just have a much more complex sovereign, in order to balance the power and prevent a fascist dictatorship.  Although this is definitely not Hobbesian, the purpose of our government is just the same.  In fact, I am from a state they call “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”. (Boo Penn State!).

Anyway, in today’s political debate on health care, we see the “Sovereign” looking out for our best interest and also his self interest.

I think that Solnit would say that the health care bill (said to be voted on Tuesday), is a beacon of hope- that people are actually out to help one another.  And in one sense, this is true (maybe— but I would like to stay in the middle on this one as whatever I have to say will certainly not resolve the conflict), that it would be good for everyone to have health care.  Isn’t that what Hobbes talks about as being most important?  The preservation of everyone’s life is the utmost important factor in making a commonwealth, according to Hobbes.

However, the push to pass this bill is anything but beneficial to the American public.  It has become symbolic- a divide between left and right.  The article I was reading (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/10/08/health.care/index.html) mentioned the importance of the bill being passed before the 2010 midterm elections.  This is the stark reality of anything good, and I think Hobbes touches on this as well- that anything that we do is actually in an effort to benefit ourselves (like giving money to the beggar).  Democrats, who are leading this “crusade” to benefit the common man, are actually willing to just compromise to save face.  They are willing to pass a lesser bill, in their eyes, just to get it done before 2010.  The same can be said for Republicans, who are using this debate to undermine the credibility of President Obama, who they see as a threat (as he is the most influential Democratic president in a long time).

So, this raises the question as to whether my previous statements about the United States as a commonwealth are even valid.   According to Hobbes, the Soverign is always doing what is in the peoples best interest and when there are many people acting as Soverign there is inherently conflict (which he calls war, and is therefore approaching a state of nature).  It is clear that modern U.S. politics is in fact a state of nature, where you have two parties who are always looking out for self interest (above all else? I dont know).  Although the divides are not large enough to start civil war, there are certainly elements of war on the Senate floor.  So are we a true commonwealth? No- the “sovereign” is looking out for his/her self interests, rather than just the peoples.  Are we a sudo-commonwealth? Maybe.  I think this all stems back to the duality of human nature.  On one hand, Solnit is right in saying that we gain satisfaction in helping our neighbor.  On the other, the millions of Americans who oppose the bill based on higher taxation, seem to allude to the opposite- like Hobbes that we are all just self-interested (again, I am not taking sides).  I think it is a coin toss, at least in my elementary understand of basic neuroscience that underlies human cognition.   People are drastically different.  I’m not sure that anyone can fully explain this phenomenon, or classify people or even write a definition of politics because there are way too many human variables that seem to me as being unpredictable.  Fortuna, I believe, describes it best.  Maybe we are all just reacting to life the way we feel we can best at that particular time.  I guess that is self-interest.  Maybe Hobbes is right.  What do you think?  How does Hobbes apply to your life?  I’m really interested.

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 As I was reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I couldn’t help but think of the protests and rallies that have been going on across the United States throughout the summer, the Tea Parties and health care protestors.

These Tea Parties, which protest the expansion of government and higher rates of taxation, have occurred in every state and have drawn massive crowds.  They recently culminated in Washington D.C.  The actual number of people who attended the D.C. Tea Party is highly contested, most claim that the numbers were somewhere between 60,000-75,000, but other sources state that there were over one million.


Reading Dr. King’s letter, I was left with the impression that MLK would most definitely respect the protesters, and would frown upon politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, who has accused the grassroots operation of being “astroturf” and implied that the participants are Nazi sympathizers.


Through his statement, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored,” Martin Luther King, Jr. shows that he believes it is necessary for people to make some noise when they see something happening that they believe is unjust.  He even calls out people who do nothing as being “lukewarm.”


The Tea Party goers and the healthcare reform protesters are not violent, they are peacefully assembling to voice their concerns, in order to do all that they can to help the nation (in their own eyes).


Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress need to realize that there is nothing wrong with voicing opposing views, and the worst thing they can do is ignore these voices and engage in name-calling.


Pelosi recently stated that the rhetoric against President Obama and his policies needed to be toned down to avoid violence.  I believe that Martin Luther King would disagree.  “If … repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.”  In this quote, MLK suggests that the best way to ensure violence doesn’t take place is to have worries, opinions, and thoughts all publicly discussed.  Martin Luther King’s view of this current situation would very likely be that Speaker Pelosi’s actions are much more likely to spur violence than any protests and words ever could.


If Nancy Pelosi wanted to avoid violence, then she would listen to the protesters and stop her name-calling.  The protesters are protesting policy, whereas Pelosi is attacking ideas, beliefs, and the American people.  


Martin Luther King’s Letter from from a Birmingham Jail suggests that he would view the protesters as legitimate and Nancy Pelosi’s dismissiveness and unwillingness to engage as dangerous.  Martin Luther King perhaps wouldn’t agree with the Tea Parties and healthcare protesters, but it is clear from his letter that he would not agree with the accusations by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats that these protesters are dangerous, radical, or un-American.  

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