Monday, July 26, 2010

The Implosion Cometh, OR, It's Only Fear-Mongering if it Contradicts Your Ideology.

The fight for quality health care has been framed by conservatives (with time-honed fear of government programs and ideological adherence to "pro-life" but futile care policies) as an either/or financial and "sanctity of life" apocalypse. Either we as a society recognize "human exceptionalism," a term bandied by the likes of Wesley J. Smith and meant to codify a "pro- life" ideology that means, particularly regarding end of life care, irrational expenditure for treatments that do nothing to cure or extend life or -- and here's the implosion scenario used -- we start killing the vulnerable.

What a tragic debacle that will cause suffering beyond comprehension. And this is is the milieu in which legalizing assisted suicide is being seriously contemplated! Unbelievable.

It's a black-and-white view of a much more complicated challenge faced by westernized countries the world over, one that does little to problem-solve loss of patient autonomy, the impossible rising cost of health care, discrimination in health care delivery, lack of corporate regulation, nor the very necessary discussion of death and palliative care that desperately needs to take place. But, as you'll notice in the comments to WJS's fear-mongering post and as I mentioned at the beginning, there are political and ideological objectives that are met by fanning fear among the elderly, disabled, and poor. Smith and others are willing to call recognition of a crisis fear-mongering when it contradicts their objectives.

Regarding climate change, another challenge with political and ideological framing but one that pitted "alarmists" against climate change deniers, Ross Douthat writes today at the New York Times:

The Seventies were a great decade for apocalyptic enthusiasms, and none was more potent than the fear that human population growth had outstripped the earth's carrying capacity. According to a chorus of credentialed alarmists, the world was entering an age of sweeping famines, crippling energy shortages, and looming civilizational collapse.

It was not lost on conservatives that this analysis led inexorably to left-wing policy prescriptions -- a government-run energy sector at home, and population control for the teeming masses overseas.

Social conservatives and libertarians, the two wings of the American right, found common ground resisting these prescriptions.

I quote Douthat, though I dislike his politics greatly and find his own prescription for climate change -- do nothing and see what happens -- to be terribly irresponsible, because he makes an important point.

Social conservatives and libertarians are denying on-the-ground facts regarding delivery of health care (and climate change) not because they don't think we need to solve the problem but because the only viable solutions belong to the opposing political party.

An interesting bit about this post: I came to the Smith hand-wringing post via a fundraising email from the activist organization founded by Terri Schiavo's family, dedicated to legislating that patients like Schiavo not be removed from life support.

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