Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome (Westminster: Newman, 1959) 128.
[Plato’s] relatives in the Oligarchy of 403-4 urged Plato to enter upon political life under their patronage; but when the Oligarchy started to pursue a policy of violence and attempted to implicate Socrates in their crimes, Plato became disgusted with them. Yet the democrats were no better, since it was they who put Socrates to death, and Plato accordingly abandoned the idea of a political career.
Socrates and Plato were friendly with the corrupt Oligarchy of tyrants in Athens, only to become disillusioned with them when they became utterly despotic. When the Athenian Democracy replaced the Oligarchy, it went after Socrates, in part because of his relationship with the Oligarchs (according to some historians).
Plato was not supportive of democracy, believing that it elevated the passions of the populace to the status of official policy. He preferred for a firm, authoritative hand to steer Athens through her difficulties. Yet, he also realized that the opposite system, an Oligarchy, was fraught with problems as well, since Oligarchs could be jealous, despotic, brutal–in short, just plain human. And so Plato chose to stay aloof from the political fray, notwithstanding his desire that wise philosopher-kings guide Athenian society. Whether a system is a Democracy, an Oligarchy, a Monarchy, or a Republic, people run it, and people are corrupt.
This quote from Copleston stands out to me because I can relate to its “none of the above” view of political options. That’s how I am with the two political parties in America, particularly on the issue of health care. Our present system does not work, pure and simple. In terms of health insurance, premiums and copays are high, yet insurance companies refuse to pay for operations for the flimsiest of reasons (i.e., “pre-existing conditions”). I once read an article in which a person claimed that her family’s monthly insurance premium was “practically the cost of a mortgage,” and yet their insurance was useless when they actually needed to use it.
There are cases in which the cost of health care in America drives families to bankruptcy or poverty, even when they have insurance and health savings accounts (which Republicans tout as the ultimate solution!). The American health care system is broken, even if emergency rooms have to treat everyone who’s brought in (which Republicans tout as a sign of how excellent America’s health care system is!).
Yet, I’m skeptical of a single-payer health care system, which the Democrats’ “public option” may lead to. If the government pays for all operations and doctor visits, then the entitlement could impose a crushing burden on the federal government, requiring it to (a.) raise taxes, (b.) borrow money, or (c.) print money, all of which can have a negative impact on the American economy. Just look at how the cost of Medicare rises astronomically, and it only covers senior citizens!
The Democrats realize that the government cannot be all things to all people, and that is why President Obama is trying to cut costs in Medicare. Obama also remarked that the government won’t be able to pay for every doctor’s visit. But that could lead to rationed care, precisely because the government cannot be all things to all people and must decide what operations and doctors’ visits to pay for. As much as I hate the insurance companies, at least they have to maintain a veneer of responsiveness and customer service, since they want to keep their customers. But a health care bureaucrat is accountable to nobody, so I’d have a hard time dealing with him if my care were denied.
Hopefully, I’m wrong on the public option. Michael Moore’s Sicko showed people in England who were satisfied with their health care system. They went straight to the doctor, waited a few minutes, got their health care need met, and went out, without having to pay. When Michael Moore asked a couple who had just had a baby how much they had to pay for the delivery, the husband replied, “Oh, it’s on the house. This isn’t America!”
I know people from Canada and Italy who say good things about their national health insurance system. Sure, they acknowledge that people may need to wait a little bit for certain operations, but, overall, they’re glad that their system is not like America’s, where people are afraid to get sick because it can break them financially. But there are also people who tell horror stories about the health care system in Canada and Europe!
In response to my “none of the above” approach to politics, some may say, “Well, that’s why I don’t get involved in politics. Politicians are all carnal! I’m just going to wait for Jesus to come back and set things right.” They may have that luxury, but Americans whose backs are being broken by their health care system need relief right now! They can’t afford to sit out of politics as if the government doesn’t affect them. Their finances, their health, and often their lives depend on it!