The hysteria of the American individualist "Christian" right over Obama's health care plans is mind-boggling. By which I mean that it literally boggles the mind, overwhelming its capacity for a rational response, specifically because they dare to criticise the NHS when the USA has no health care for 46 million of its citizens - 15% of the total. This is barbaric, a scandal, and a negation of the claim of the USA to be a civilised, democratic country.
By "hysteria" I man the neurotic tendency to absolutise a debate. Sarah Palin calls the health proposals "evil". Rick Joyner, a "christian" minister, extends the necessary rationing implications in any healthcare system as being about euthanasia, and then extends this concept to a comparison with Hitler and Stalin - always ignoring the fact that the present US insurance based system condemns the uninsured to untreated illness and early death. Others describe universal healthcare plans as diabolical, that is, things of the Devil.
Is there any point in trying to reason with these people? In their totalist, black and white frame of reference, anything that does not fit in with their ideology is demonic, a threat, something to be resisted totaly. In this the American Right is at one with Osama bin Laden and his cohorts: anyone who deviates from their beliefs is absolutely anathema ("Christian" term) or Haram (Islamic term).
Individualism is the foundation of this species of thought. It is a term which is rarely used, possibly because it has seven syllables, as opposed to the four syllables of socialism, but individualism is the ideology of the Americans who are screaming at the town meetings on healthcare. The Wikipedia article is a good example of their approach, and a bad example of Wikipedia, since it is an expression of a dedicated Point of View, without the Criticism section which is normal for a Wikipedia article. Several times I have put in a line to the effect that the problem with Individualism is that humans are a social animal, and each time it has been removed bythe ideologues of individualism.
Individualists claim to be giving rights and freedom to the individual, but the healthcare debate shows that their definition of individual does not include all human beings, or even all citizens; it refers really to economically successful individuals who are able to prosper in a divergent economic system where the tendency is always for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.
I find it difficult to write about the politics of health, partly because it is myday job, and partly because I spent a year writing a book about what makes people ill, showing that about one fifth of healthcare spending is devoted to treating illness caused by unnecessary conditions caused bybad political decisions, such as unemployment, povery, poor housing and pollution. That is another undiscussed elephant in the room.
As for Daniel Hannan, MEP for South East England, arguing that the NHS should not exist, I hope that the voters in the South East feel proud that they have elected such a man. The simplest way of assessing the depth and robustness of Hannan's thought is to ruminate on his endorsement of Iceland's economy, writing in the Spectator in 2004: "Icelanders are rolling in it, says Daniel Hannan". The "it" to which he refers is not a pile of dogshit, but money, in case there is any misunderstanding. Readers with a short attention span may need to be reminded that Iceland's banks were among the first to need to be bailed out by the people.
Cameron calls Hannan "eccentric", but in fact, Hannan is mainstream, but outspoken. People should be aware that the whole underlying trend of thinking by politicians and officials in Westminter is for the NHS to be restructured along the lines of the American model.
The best way I know of to deal with the sheer magnitude of the irrationality of the so-called public "debate" about US healthcare, not to mention the banks, is to place the palms of the hand on each side of the skull, sit down and utter low moaning sounds for about five minutes or until bored, and then to go and do something practical.