Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No Britain - No USA

After ousting Winston Churchill for precisely the issue of health care, Britain created its Single Payer National Health Care System (NHS) in 1948. The country is now ranked 18th in the WHO health care rankings (metrics include longevity, infant mortality, medical mishaps, acute care beds per capita, etc).

The USA is ranked 37th.

Annual per capita cost in Britain: $2500.
USA: $6000.

While health care is not a good example, it is impossible to overstate the influence of British history on the United States. Columbia University Professor Simon Schama's 15-hour A History of Britain (2000) provides an easy to watch presentation that not only offers the novice a decent overview of the subject, but it also enriches an appreciation of what made the United States of America possible.

All too often those in the US think democracy and the ideas behind it were invented by the founding fathers of this country and those involved with writing the US Constitution. While obvious, more than a few lose sight of the simple fact that the US Constitution was crafted by those deeply embedded in British thinking. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, & Co. weren't samurais from Japan. Their ideas and philosophies regarding government, governance, and citizenship were rooted in Britain's bloody struggle from monarchy to republic and democracy, a struggle that involved brutal clashes between king and parliament and the eventual emergence of "Prime Minister" Robert Walpole before they had a name for the office.

More out of natural political economic developments than design, Britain developed the two party system with the Whigs, supporting aristocratic families, and the Tories friendly to the monarchy. Diametrically opposed, they went to different taverns and had different social circles. Tories accused the Whigs of being fanatics. Whigs accused the Tories of being puppets. Think cats and dogs and boatloads of vitriol back and forth. I know, difficult to imagine.

The series was probably wise to only briefly mention the intellectual machinery under the hood of all this history, but it does note the influence of philosophers (most of them Scottish) like David Hume and, in particular, John Locke, without whom events would have unfolded very differently. As industrialization and economic expansion continued, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (Full Online Text) suggested the best thing the government could do was get out of the way and let the "invisible hand" of the market do its work. Despite ample mathematical refutation of this model (not to mention the recent financial meltdown), a lot of folks are still worshiping Smith's invisible hand.

Those with a casual sense of British history will find the series useful for improving the organization of their understanding of the various names and events including 1066, Thomas Becket, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, William of Orange, of course William Wallace (made famous by the film Braveheart), Bonnie Prince Charlie, Oliver Cromwell, William Pitt and so on.

The series followed with Howard Zinn's remarkable People's History of the United States really connects the dots regarding the founding fathers and the creation of the US Constitution.

Judy, one of the most spiritually advanced beings I have ever encountered, once noted, "No Jews - No Christians."

Christians are good at forgetting that.

Know the tune "My Country Tis of Thee"?

The original song (same tune):

God grant that Marshal Wade
Made by thy Mighty Aid
Victory Bring
May he sedition hush
And like a torrent rush
Rebellious Scots to Crush
God Save the King!

No Britain - No USA.

On Sunday the USA showed it is starting to understand what Britain understood about health care over 60 years ago.

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Anonymous Observer said...

One thing I can say about this blog is that you never know what is going to show up.

This is a good thing. It's gotten to the point with some blogs where I already know what's going to be there. The right wing blogs are as predictable (with zero creativity) as a digital clock.

Just curious, x4mr, do you have a particular religious affiliation?

3/23/2010 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very informative blog and story. Are you a professor at a university?

3/23/2010 9:04 PM  

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