Robert Downes 8/17/09
When the kings and queens of Europe heard of the American Revolution in the 1770s, they doubted that our experiment in democracy would succeed because they assumed our government would fall prey to anarchy and mob rule.
Given what weve seen on television with organized activists disrupting the town hall talks on health care reform, perhaps those royals were right.
Apparently, the protesters all have solid gold Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage and think our health care system is fine and dandy the way it is, without a concern for their fellow Americans being raked over the coals by the insurance industry. Armed with Internet advice on how to disrupt public meetings, they‘re getting a lot of attention on TV, while Americans who lack health insurance are ignored.
But when the mob rules, the people lose.
To take you back a bit, some of the political thinkers of the 1700s believed that a democracy could not possibly work because government of the people, by the people and for the people would involve too many hands in the national treasury. They reasoned that without a wise king to rule over a country, then the mob of a democracy would quickly make a mess of things.
Even America‘s founding fathers were uncertain as to whether their experiment in democracy would work because the predictions of mob rule came true during the French Revolution of 1789. By 1792, France was in the grip of a Reign of Terror, in which up to 40,000 people from the nobility and middle class were put to death by the guillotine.
At the time, there was fear that the terror of the French Revolution would spread to America. Fortunately, our government evolved into a representative republic (governed by elected officials) rather than a pure democracy, and the fears of mob rule evaporated.
But today, we seem to be coming full-circle back to the fears of the 1770s, with a mob of people with varying agendas shouting down our elected representatives.
Some say the protesters have been organized by the Republican Party, which has a stake in preserving the turf of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Others claim that they‘re libertarian Tea Party types, whipped up over bogus scare stories promoted by FOX News and talk radio.
There‘s also the claim that the overwhelmingly white protesters include racists who still can‘t handle the fact that we have a black president and their guy lost the election.
And some, of course, are simply concerned citizens. But there‘s a difference between expressing an angry opinion and deliberately setting out to sabotage a meeting or spread disinformation.
On TV, you see the so-called grassroots Americans going into hysterics over their fear of losing the best health care system in the world.
This is the same system that is behind more than 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in America due to medical costs. It‘s the system that leaves 46 million people uninsured, and up to 40 million others under-insured. Health care costs are crippling American businesses (GM a case in point) and resulting in the loss of millions of jobs.
Will organized mob scenes be the template for all future discussions in America? When Michigans insurance industry wants to stick it to you with yet another perk in some future ballot proposal, will hired performers (ie. grassroots Americans) be trucked in from other states to shout and make a stink at town hall meetings?
Count on it.
With that said, it‘s good to report that the debate on healthcare in Northern Michigan seems to be taking a more civil tone. U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak reports that he has held a telephone town hall meeting with 3,500 constituents. His office has also been contacted by some 5,000 citizens.
“While there has been both support and opposition for (health care reform), many people simply have questions or are looking for more information on the issue,“ Stupak reports.
So, if you truly believe that America has the best health care system in the world which doesnt need any changes, you are certainly welcome to your opinion.
But ask your boss how long he can keep paying 50 percent rate hikes in your health insurance benefits each year. Ask yourself if you can keep paying if you lose your job or benefits. Ask what you will do if you have a catastrophic illness and no insurance. Lose your house? Lose your retirement savings? All so you can preserve the greatest health care system in the world and prevent the government from establishing a health care plan for everyone?
Funny thing. People who are the most opposed to government intervention often seem to be first in line for assistance when, say, a hurricane or tornado blows through their condo. Today‘s activists grinning and yelling on TV will be tomorrow‘s hypocrites, demanding their government health care benefits when the chips are down.