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[culture|politics] National blind spots - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2012-12-14 07:50
Subject: [culture|politics] National blind spots
Security: Public
Tags:culture, guns, health, healthcare, personal, politics
As long-time readers of this blog know, I've been pretty exercised about the United States' national healthcare policies (specifically healthcare finance, not healthcare delivery) for a long time. This was true even before I became a cancer patient and got to experience much the madness first hand. I am similarly exercised about certain other issues, such as our firearms policies (viz recent blog entries) and education policies (specifically, that we have a political and social system that allows Creationists to take control of public education, leading to monumental wastes of time and effort and the horrific mis-education of children as characterized by the Dover decision).

But we also get a lot of things right in this country. To name a few, healthcare delivery (as opposed to healthcare finance), where when the United States is at our best, we are generally the world's best. Aviation policy, where most of the world follows FAA standards. The research-industrial complex that has delivered everything from Teflon to the Internet for the whole world to use. Higher education, where again, at our best we are generally the world's best. Our First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and freedom of worship, which provide us with at least the potential for maximum personal expression and individual freedom of thought.

So what I wonder is about our national blind spots. If our healthcare finance system so wonderful, how come nobody else in the industrialized West has anything like it? If our national social policy on firearms is so conducive to personal liberty and a free society, how come nobody else in the industrialized West has anything like it? Quite demonstrably, more often than not when the United States get something right, the rest of the world tends to either develop in parallel or follow along. Yet no one will touch our healthcare system or our firearms policies with a bargepole. And those countries tend to have much better healthcare outcomes than we do, and much lower rates of violent crime. As Americans, we seem incapable of perceiving that.

In other words, if our policies on healthcare and firearms are such a good idea, how come no similar societies are following our example?

History will judge us harshly for some things — leading the path in climate change denial, for example. Our obsessive militarization of world affairs, for another example. But history will be simply baffled by other aspects of American culture, such as our vicious healthcare policies and our national obsession with placing deadly weapons in the hands of every citizen who ever dreamt of having one.

Blind spots. Destructive blind spots.

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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2012-12-14 17:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have to say that the attitude towards firearms strikes me as incomprehensible. Saw a very civilised internet debate last month in which someone recommended that the blog owner obtain a gun because, essentially, people on the net were disagreeing with her. WTF? I've had people show up at my house in a psychotic state and I don't feel the need to tool up. Really, dealing with problems in another way, folks....
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russ: polska walczy
User: goulo
Date: 2012-12-14 18:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:polska walczy
Cool interesting way of looking at it! (But I can already hear the paranoid wing of the gun supporters replying that other countries have more restrictive gun laws because their governments want to suppress the people that way and keep them from being able to revolt. You know, those oppressive hellish dictatorships like Canada, France, Germany, Australia, etc...)


On the other hand, the rest of the world does occasionally copy mistakes of the US, e.g. excessive consumerism and automobile dependency and disco music.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2012-12-17 04:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
...Switzerland, Israel...
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2012-12-17 09:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
I'm not sure what you're getting at. I note that there are plenty of countries with strict gun control which nonetheless are not oppressive hellish dictatorships, and you mention Switzerland and Israel?

I guess you're using the pro-gun argument that Switzerland and Israel don't have strict gun control and aren't as violent as the US, but that doesn't refute or even seem to relate to what I said.

(In any case, as far as I can tell, those 2 countries have stricter gun control than is commonly believed in the US. So perhaps you are simply adding them to the list of countries with more restrictive gun control laws which are nonetheless not dictatorships? If so, apologies for not understanding your point.)
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2012-12-17 13:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I should've included a quote: This was in response to Canada, Germany, Australia, etc. I included them because they do have strict gun control and was actually agreeing with you.
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2012-12-17 13:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
OK, cool, thanks for clarifying!

Since I so often see Switzerland and Israel mentioned by pro-gun US people as "arguments" why the US should not regulate guns, I was confused what you meant. :)
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When life gives you lemmings...
User: danjite
Date: 2012-12-14 18:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, a lot of other countries see some of your higher education as a despicable game. It goes something like this:As a lot of your in University Scientific research is done in cooperation with the private sector, a foreign grad student can in fact get a great education, but it involves paying tens-of-thousands of dollars to work in secrecy for major corporations on projects they aren't allowed to talk about in general and, where publishing of new findings actually is allowed, getting second or third billing to a political hierarchy that has power, but frequently didn't aid in any way the actual scientific effort.
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chris_gerrib
User: chris_gerrib
Date: 2012-12-14 19:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't think historians will be baffled by our healthcare policies. At the start of the 20th century, everybody had our pay-to-play model. Then, WWII and the collapse of the previous system in affected countries forced a change. This change propagated out in rough proportion to how much the receiving countries were politically and culturally influenced by Europe.

Regarding guns, several factors influence our current policy. One of them is the same factor that leads to our protection of religion - we enshrined a right into the Constitution.

The other factor, which I will probably write about more on my blog, is the influence of rural voters. I own guns, and that's in part because I grew up in a rural area and owning guns was frankly easier.

The British countryside, as another example, has a much higher level of gun ownership than the cities. But in a lot of countries, including Britain, rural voters are largely drowned out by urban voters. So things from hunting laws to gun regulations are written for urban interests.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2012-12-14 20:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's higher but not that high. There are restrictions on gun ownership and you usually can't have one unless it's for a good reason (i.e. you are a farmer and you are applying for a shotgun license). I live in a very rural area and feel no need to have a gun of any description. There's only been one occasion in which I regretted not having a gun (badly injured animal). I know one person here who has a handgun and she's a lunatic who narrowly missed killing her husband with it (she threw it through the windscreen of the 4x4 instead, which is obviously a really intelligent thing to do).
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chris_gerrib
User: chris_gerrib
Date: 2012-12-14 20:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's higher but not that high. Understood. My point here was that you *can* get a shotgun permit in the country. You couldn't in the city.
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Dave O'Neill
User: daveon
Date: 2012-12-14 23:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm not entirely sure about that. I suspect that if you could provide a satisfactory reason you'd be able to get one... certainly the gap between city and country in a lot of the UK is pretty narrow.

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chris_gerrib
User: chris_gerrib
Date: 2012-12-14 20:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And to be honest, I'm not sure how much of my "need" to have a gun in my house is a product of always having a gun in the house.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2012-12-14 21:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I just looked up what you have to do to get a shotgun license - the police come and interview you, basically. I know my relatives have them and my cousin (a farmer) had to go through additional hoops some years ago, as he reapplied for the license shortly after a couple were shot on a cliff path in the county (a killing which at the time was suspected to be the work of the IRA, but turned out to be a local psycho and armed robber, who has now been jailed for a very long time). But it's not an entirely simple process and if they have any doubts about you, you can't have a gun.
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Chris McKitterick: Bush dollar
User: mckitterick
Date: 2012-12-14 22:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Bush dollar
Now this sounds like it could be a reasonable way to institute gun-law reform in the US: You have to talk to an officer of the law, trained in identifying crazy people or those preparing to commit crime.

As far as safety goes, I'm very glad to have had a shotgun in the house a couple of months ago when a serial robber tried to break in. Also REALLY glad I didn't have to use it, as he left about the time I showed up, armed. Then, a few minutes later, the police showed up.

Why we have the current healthcare fiasco in this country is another matter related entirely to corporate greed. Why we allow insurance companies to be for-profit is beyond me....
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Dave O'Neill
User: daveon
Date: 2012-12-14 23:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
While I'm actually no fan of the UK's current gun laws. The last serious killing (Dunblane) actually happened mostly because a magistrate didn't confiscate the guns from a guy who had them legally whom the police said wasn't safe to own firearms.

IF they're instigated the standing laws pre 1997 he wouldn't have had those handguns anyway and while he might have done something else I suspect he wouldn't have, and if he had he'd have killed fewer children.
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Amanda
User: cissa
Date: 2012-12-20 00:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I live in MA, and had to both take a class in gun safety AND get interviewed by the local cops. Fair enough.

What's weird is the structure of the license: in order to get the permissions I needed, I ALSO got a concealed carry permit thrown in. That's nuts. I have NO need for that; why is it a default?
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Lethran: Angel
User: gwyd
Date: 2012-12-15 06:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Angel
I am in agreement with you, but wanted to point out a third blind spot. The cost of higher education is inflating faster even than health care delivery, meaning if you are not born extremely rich, or get very, very lucky with your career, odds are a college education will burden you with a huge debt you can never pay back.

It's a huge burden on my generation, but scary for the Millennials who have it even worse. The Democrats have no plan to make this better and the Republicans are in favor of making it dramatically worse.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-12-16 15:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
more often than not when the United States get something right, the rest of the world tends to either develop in parallel or follow along.

A profound and useful observation.
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Rick Moen
User: rinolj
Date: 2012-12-17 22:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Aviation policy, where most of the world follows FAA standards.


Doesn't really work for me, sorry.

Best Regards,
Rick (note the 'Moen' in that NTSB report) Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com
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User: benthenzara
Date: 2013-01-31 09:38 (UTC)
Subject: radiation therapy
Your blogs are totally worth giving time and energy.
radiation-therapist.org
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