You are victims. You are helpless against the wiles of big corporations and insurance companies, and you need protection. You need the government to take over and do things you cannot do for yourself.
That is the thinking of what David Brooks calls "the educated class" that favors the Democrats' health care bills. Members of this elite spout tales of woe of people denied coverage or care with the implication that there but for the grace of government go you. So sign on, and the government will take care of everything.
It's an argument that has often been appealing to Europeans but that has always been unappealing to Americans. That's why these advocates segue to other arguments, like Barack Obama's assertion that the government can expand coverage and save money at the same time.
But voters quickly sniff out what this means. The government will use the "science" of comparative effectiveness research to achieve cost savings the only way government can: denial of care. The Soviet medical system kept down the heart disease caseload by placing cardiac care units on the fifth floor, walk up. Death panels, anyone?
In the meantime, the House, Senate and the latest iteration of the Obama health care legislation -- which is too vague for a cost estimate, according to Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf -- promise to eliminate Medicare Advantage and cut $500 billion from Medicare, and increase federal spending by something like $1 trillion. Obamacare Plan B would add a new layer of federal regulation on health insurance.
Why do Americans reject such policies while Europeans seem content with them? One reason is history. Twentieth-century history -- and 19th- and 18th-century history, too -- showed Europeans that they were often the helpless victims of tyrants and total war. That made them content to rely on government for security.
Americans have had a different experience. As scholars like Seymour Martin Lipset have documented, Americans are more likely than Europeans to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward. And to believe that they can improve their situation by their own hard work and ingenuity.
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