Monday, September 15, 2008

Effect of culture - Culture Versus Politics: Random Sunday Reading

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m catching up on my reading. On my reading docket are:

Richard Reeve’s American Journey: Traveling with de
Tocqueville in Search Of Democracy in America
(Simon and Schuster, 1982). In the book, Reeves noted that de Tocqueville, a French nobleman, who wrote the first volume of Democracy in America in 1831, said America had a unique culture devoid of matters of birth or status. He equated American democracy with opportunities for upward economic, political, social mobility, and rise of a great popular culture

In other words, America is a bottom-up society rooted in popular culture.

• Lee Siegle’s “Triumph of Culture over Politics in the September 13 Wall Street Journal’s Weekend edition,

There is the Republicans' unilateral mastery of the cultural strategy. The Democrats consider any attention to the practices and prejudices of everyday living a mendacious diversion from the "issues," while the GOP, the party of the status quo, has proven itself astoundingly skillful at using its cultural antennae to adapt to new times. Who knew? The Republicans may or may not be the party that will effect change. But they are certainly the party that knows how to ride it.

The Republicans, in Lee Siegel’s opinion understand popular culture. And how to play it in a presidential campaign.

Lee Siegel's most recent book is "Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob."

• Thomas L. Friedman’s “Making America Stupid,” New York Times, September 14, 2008

No, no, no, says Thomas Friedman, the New York Times international correspondent. It is policy from the top, not culture from the lower echelons of society that America needs. Friedman says we ought to go “green, green, and green” in our energy policies, not “drill, drill, and drill.” We ought to unleash government-led innovative policies that “invent, invent, invent.”

Friedman adds, “I dwell on this issue because it is symbolic of the campaign that John McCain has decided to run. It’s a campaign now built on turning everything possible into a cultural wedge issue – including even energy policy, no matter how stupid if makes the voters and no matter how it weakens America. There in son strong leader without a strong country. And posing as one, to use the current vernacular, is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig

The Republicans, in short, are stupid and are treating voters as stupid who don’t understand intelligent, wise Democratic leaders who are doing what’s best for the country and the world.

• Richard L. Reece, Voices of Health Reform: Interviews with Health Care Stakeholders at Work (Practice Support Resources, Inc, 2005).

I don’t complete understand complexities of federal decision making, nuances of Democratic policies, or innuendoes of the Republican cultural wars. But I do understand the conclusion of a book I wrote three years ago after interviewing 42 national health care leaders.

Our health system is a creature of our culture. When asked what Americans believe, Garry Orren, a professor of political science at Brandeis, who polls for the New York Times and the Washington Post, said, “A good place to start is to remember we are pro-democracy and anti-government. It comes down to ideas that are essentially antiauthority and tend towards self-regulation. If there were an American creed, I think it might begin.

• One: government is best that governs least.
• Two: majority rules.
• Three: equality of opportunity.

That seems about right to me. It explains why Americans prefer local health solutions, why they reject federally mandated universal coverage with rationing why they feel capable of making their own health care decisions, why they seek equal opportunity access to high technologies, why they prefer pluralistic payment systems, why they allow market-based and public-based institutions to co-exist and compete, and why they permit doctors to behave democratically seeking their locals to practices, often acting independently of hospitals, health plans, and government, and making their own decision, fee of the fetters of outsiders Democracy is a messy business. That’s the way Americans like it

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