Orchestrated Civility

What does it take to get Americans so riled up that they actually go to “town meetings?”  And, after having arrived, what compels them to shout down speakers who are in favor of health care?

First let me make it clear that I do not endorse shouting anyone down.  Even my mother-in-law deserves to be heard (just joking, Joan). I should think that for all the perfectly reasonable objections to the health care plan, we could do a better job of being civil.  Having said that, what on Earth could get us a collective bee in our bonnet as bothersome as the Viet Nam War or nuclear power?

Our leaders have struck a nerve.  Actually, more like a dreadfully painful nerve buried deep in a bad tooth.  Basking in their newly re-acquired power, the Democrats have set out to “fix” health care.  Rather than being grateful, many Americans have (horrors) indicated that they think this is a ghastly idea that should be opposed vigorously, and in some cases rather impolitely.

Democrats are clearly perplexed.  Nancy Pelosi is sure that Hitler’s ghost has arisen from the Great Beyond and sent his emissaries to question, no disrupt her plans!  It is either a mark of unchecked hubris or just plain stupidity for her to miss the point–that the protesters are not themselves Nazis, but rather liken Obama to a Nazi.  A misguided comparison, no doubt, but one cannot help notice how insulated Pelosi must be from the world you and I live in to miss this painfully simple message.

For all our occasional collective stupidity, we Americans know a rat when we smell one.  The health care plan under consideration seeks to solve, with more government, what government caused in the first place.  Though they are not articulating it very well right now, protesters know that the real solution is for government to do less, not more.  To wit:

  • Give individual insurance buyers the same tax benefits that business buyers get.
  • Allow insurance companies to compete across state lines.
  • Repeal laws requiring insurance companies to insure against certain diseases so a variety of plans can emerge through competition.
  • Remove obstacles to high-deductible plans–those that allow people to insure only against catastrophic medical expenses.

These are the positive suggestions protestors should be bringing to town meetings.  And, please, no shouting.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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