One of the darker chapters in the history of the
title="American Medical Association">AMA is
their historical opposition to universal, single-payer health care
coverage. The term socialized
medicine came into use in the post-World-War-II period, in
an attempt to falsely conflate such a health care plan with the menace
Evidently, many people did not bother to discern the distinction
between socialism and Communism; nor did they appreciate the fact that
we have a mixed
I recall those days. That is, I recall the days when the
invocation of Communism functioned as a href="http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/08/semantic-stopsi.html">cognitive
stop sign: the emotions conjured by the term were so strong,
that the process of actual thought simply stopped. It was the
end of the discussion.
In fact, I distinctly recall conversations with other doctor’s kids at
School. The others had been indoctrinated, such
that any mention of a Medicare-for-all style program would immediately
elicit the response: “but you can’t do that, because it would be like
Greenhills was, and is, a very good school. But I did not
care for the social environment at the time.
Anyway, the point is, that even some fairly intelligent people were
taken in by this slick piece of propaganda. Now, according to
a study by href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty/robert-blendon/">Robert
Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis,
the phrase seems to be losing its power.
The LA Times reports:
href="http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-me-socialize25feb25,1,4131331.story?ctrack=3&cset=true"> style="font-weight: bold;">‘Socialized medicine’ loses much
of its stigma
Most people no longer
fear the term that has turned people off since the days of FDR.
By Susan Brink, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 25, 2008
THE term “socialized medicine” may be losing its boogeyman status,
according to a survey of voting-age adults. Long uttered in warnings
against any sort of government involvement in healthcare, today the
term has largely lost its scare power.
That’s according to a study led by Robert Blendon, professor of health
policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“This is a term from the 1940s,” Blendon says. “We wondered if
anyone even knew what it meant anymore.” To find out, his team, along
with pollsters at
Harris, asked more than 2,000 people in two
surveys what they knew about the term.
* Of the respondents, 67% said they understood what “socialized
medicine” meant. Of those, 79% said the term means that the government
makes sure everyone has health insurance. Only 32% said it means that
the government tells doctors what to do.
* Of those who said they understand the term, 45% said that if America
had socialized medicine, the health care system would be better, while
39% said it would be worse…
The article clarifies an important point: 70% of Democrats think
socialized medicine would be an improvement; 70% of Republicans think
it would makes things worse; independents are split. 45% of
independents say that socialized medicine would be an improvement, with
38% saying it would be worse than the current system.
One thing I notice is that the numbers do not convey as strong as an
impression as the title of the LA Times article. Clearly
things have changed quite a bit, but not as much as the title implies.
Blendon’s web page has a link to a report on the same study.
Interestingly, the title there is less forceful: style="font-style: italic;">Poll Finds Americans Split by
Political Party Over Whether Socialized Medicine Better or Worse Than
Current System. Unfortunately, the href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/publisher/upload/news/press-releases/2008-releases/poll-americans-split-by-political-party-over-socialized-medicine.html">page
with that report is not available at the moment.
I’d like to think that this study is an indication that people are no
longer so strongly influenced by pejorative labels, and that the
tendency to conflate related concepts is not so strong. Not
much chance of that, though. It’s just that the old bogeyman
is forgotten when a new one takes its place.
I wonder if left-wing nut is ever going to point out that the health
care system advocated by the Republicans would be “like the Taliban:”
if you can pay for it yourself, go ahead.
No, that would be a ridiculous comparison. No one would fall