Rousseau’s Health Care Plan

November 22, 2011

Political action, Political Theory

Rousseau believes that there are two fundamental inequalities experienced by humans: natural or physical and moral or political inequality. The definition natural and physical inequality is so obvious it is almost common sense. It is the difference in strength, intelligence, health, etc. among men. Moral and political inequality is a bit vague. According to Rousseau, moral and political inequality “consists of the different privileges, which some men enjoy to the prejudice of others; such as that of being more rich, more honoured, more powerful or even in a position to exact obedience.” Today, we see these inequalities acting in parallel in many political issues.

Rousseau’s theories on the state of nature and inequalities can be usefully applied to the discussion of healthcare and the government. Health insurance, and issues surrounding it, concern both natural/physical and moral/political inequalities. Rousseau says that it is natural for humans to want to protect their property. Thus, it makes sense that humans would want to contract into an organization that aids and ensures the protection of their property. I am talking about health insurance. We actively consent to pay a certain amount of money every month, in exchange for the monetary, and arguably physical, protection health insurance provides us with. However, similar to Rousseau’s developmental shift to a society with inequalities, health care has developed into a money dependent, corporate run, industry. The wealthy have considerably more “protection” for their health (and finances). The intention of health care reform and Obama’s health care plan is to attempt to equalize this protection.

However, an enormous amount of controversy has come from this “solution” to inequality. On one hand, many believe that what Obama has done is good and progressive towards the ideal society, where inequalities do not exist.  On the other hand, many believe that ObamaCare is doing the opposite, and will eventually be more problematic for the physical and economic health of Americans.  I am not going to offer my opinion on ObamaCare, because I don’t believe that I currently know enough about it to criticize one way or another. However, I do feel that something needs to be done to improve the current situation. Below is a graph showing the population of Americans without health insurance.

Population of Americans without heath insurance

In addition, I think it is interesting to assess this situation in application of Machiavelli’s theories on the role of a ruler. If Obama were to act in a more Machiavellian way, do you think the current health care situation would likely be solved? Obama could do what he sees fit to address the current situation of American and reach the end goal of affordable healthcare for all Americans. Since we live in a democratic country, there would – without a doubt – be conflicts and controversies, but what if the ends justified the means? In a democracy, is it the means of doing something that we fail to compromise on or the end goal that we disagree upon?

What do you think should be done to address healthcare in America? Do you agree with Rousseau, that inequalities are inevitable in a society but also problematic? If so, should Obama take a Machiavellian approach and potentially act amorally in order to achieve the end goal?



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