Europe again

Decided to post responses to the comments to the post below in a new post. This is the kind of thing you learn when you spend far too long in school–now it looks like I’ve written a brand new post.
Thanks so much for the interesting comments. Jeff, your comment about trust resonates in several different ways. Both conservatives and liberals distrust government, and distrust each other even more than usual right now. I have actually wondered why some people propose entrusting important elements of peoples’ lives such as health care to an entity in which they have no trust whatsoever, and putting welfare recipients to some extent at the mercy of the other party should it gain power. Bush has incorporated this into his proposals for health care and Social Security, saying that the individual is more to be trusted to make decisions about these things than the government, and so wants to “privatize” these things.
Of course, medical savings accounts etc. would seem to depend on actually having enough income to put into the accounts, which is a dangerous assumption. I have income now (at least Andy does, as I’m busy frittering my life away in grad school), but when I lived in Chicago, if I had the money I spent on health insurance or FICA I would have used it for groceries, not put it in any medical savings account. And I’m not sure what kind of magic would need to happen to make Bush’s Social Security plan (or Kerry’s, for that matter) work. In any case, with all the talk of healing division and working together these past few days, I hope we can actually put this miserable election season behind us and find some common ground to begin to figure out how to trust each other at least enough to solve the problems that affect us all.
Kim, I agree completely with your assessment that while private charities are better able to meet needs in unique ways, but that the public safety net is necessary. During the eleven months or so I worked at child support enforcement, I came to believe that because government has to treat everyone equally, it is incapable of taking into account peoples’ individual situations. Private charities can, and can build relationships with people and work with them to find solutions for their individual problems. However, in addition problems of funding and scale that you noted, there are others: in the cases like that of child support, individual charities don’t have the law-enforcement clout needed; and also the government is accountable to the public not to discriminate based on religion, race, etc., whereas private charities are much less so.
I’m a big believer in the American spirit, which does believe in individualism and personal responsibility as well as the need to work together and to help those in need. I’m hoping that we can figure out some kind of synergy (augh, not that word!) between public and private welfare that will work as well for us in solving society’s problems as Europe’s does for it.
In other notes, there were homeless people in England, England [meant to say London here, I obviously don’t spend a lot of time editing] and Edinburgh were the first places I encountered numerous homeless people asking for money on the street (this was pre-chicago). The numbers probably are less than for American cities though. On the religion thing, churches in England seemed to be pretty active too. I’m wondering if the interview guy’s findings had anything to do with either (1) the guy not being a church-goer himself, and assuming that other people weren’t either unless they talk about it all the time like Americans apparently do; or (2) self-reporting, Americans describe themselves as more religious or as bringing religion into political decisions or whatever more than Europeans because that means different things to them, or they just talk about it in a different way.
Thanks again for the comments. If either of you have any info on where I could learn more about the European welfare system, could you let me know? I tried googling “socialized medicine” one time and all I could find was an article on the libetarian site, which was interesting but not necessarily informative.

One Response to “Europe again”

  1. michele says:

    thanks for the websites! My French is okay, but I could actually use some practice, so if you had any French-language sites that would be cool.
    Your idea about the NGO health thing sounds like you need a blog. That’s where all the good ideas go to be ignored…maybe by the next election the candidates will be paying attention to the bloggers…didn’t Bush or somebody quote Andrew Sullian recently?

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