Revisionist History Channel

I remember when I went to public school growing up, studying history.  I loved it.  However, I was brought up in a Christian household, and though my parents did not care a bit about history, I began to notice that something was missing in what I was being taught at school.  There was simply no mention of the impact of Christianity on Western history.

Of course, the first college world history class I took wasted no time in properly bestowing credit to Western thought on the Greeks, Romans and the Judeo-Christian Ethic- just as it should have been.  It was refreshing to see Christianity getting its due, but more than that, I began to feel that it was ‘history’ itself that was being cheated by the public schools in selectively choosing which parts of the story to leave out.

I learned a term while I was at college that was easily applied to this situation- “Revisionist History”.  It’s not a complement.  It’s would be more correctly described as a disease.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is room for some revisionism.  This is easily seen when we look back at some recent presidents.  Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush were all reviled during their presidencies, but as Clinton and Reagan are both now being revised in a positive note (and rightly so), so will George W. Bush in a few years.  This would be why you should not write history until at least 20 years after the fact, but that’s a whole different discussion.

The bad form of revisionist history tends to be agenda driven.  A horrible example of this would be C.A. Tripp’s horrible book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln which attempts to turn our greatest president into a homosexual based on the flimsiest evidence.

The History Channel over the past four or five years has begun a shift toward this type of agenda based historical programming.  It, and the National Geographic Channel, have both begun to promote shows that are based on flimsy theories with little or no backing and no refutation.  For example, there are a host of shows based on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code that are presented as if they are based on real, long-standing historical theories rather than new speculations taken from a single man who himself says they are just made up.  Unfortunately, this type of programming seems to be their trend.

Last night, I watched the first episode of Expedition Africa on the History Channel.  In it, a group of quarrelsome idiots have decided to attempt to follow Henry Morton Stanley’s famous expedition to find David Livingstone.

The show has given some of the back-story of both Stanley and Livingstone.  They were both great men who do not enough credit for their accomplishments today.  Livingstone was easily the greater of the two.  I was taken aback when they referred to Livingstone as basically an explorer who wanted to end slavery.  I went to the History Channel website and read to see if they elaborated on him further.  Here it was much the same, except that they referred to him as a ‘former missionary.’

David Livingstone was one of the greatest missionaries to ever live.  Period.  He was also a medical missionary.  He saw Africa, and realized that there was so much intertribal strife that he could either stay in one place and affect only a few people, or he could change the way the whole continent worked, and reach millions of people.  He was a strategic missionary.  His theory was that by exploring Africa, and opening up trade routes, the people there would end up seeing the economic benefit of supporting these trade routes and working together.  This, in turn, would make it easier for missionaries, like himself, to reach more people.

The problem I had was that this program, and the History Channel blatantly ignored Livingstone’s primary life calling and reason for doing the amazing things that he did.  It’s easily done in this case, because most people were only taught in school that Livingstone was an explorer also.  I am not expecting them to turn this into a religious program, but the truth of his motivations could be presented without it sounding preachy.  In the end, by selectively ignoring essential aspects of a story, it is the history and the History Channel’s reputation that suffer.

Government Health Scare

A friend sent an article to me this morning that talked about the three candidates and their ideas on health-care reform.  Generally, I believe that the less government intrusion there is, the better, but in this instance America’s politics have wandered into an area where I feel there is need for reform.  The problem is that I do not believe any of the candidates has a serious or good idea for reforming this problem.

Both of the Democratic candidates prefer some sort of all-inclusive government sponsored plan, while McCain’s plan prefers to remove the business incentive from the current system, ostensibly allowing businesses to pay people more in actual salary and allowing individuals more freedom and power when choosing a health plan.  I don’t see any of these plans as viable, or well thought out. 

I really would like to see a non-profit insurance company established.  Of course, you would have to pay the people who work there, but it seems to me that a group of people or businesses could come together and establish an insurance company that takes only enough to pay its medical bills and operating expenses.  It makes sense, and is the purest example of the original purpose of insurance, to get people to pool their money together, so that if something bad happens to one of them, the corporate body of funds covers the expense. 

Originally, insurance companies were created as a profit venture, but the problem came when this idea was taken to its logical conclusion (which is where it is now).  I believe there is a moral issue at work here.  These companies lose sight of their true purpose, pooling individuals’ money to protect against catastrophe, and begin to look at profits as their main objective.  In this scenario, the motivation is to get medical costs up, to justify raising premiums and to keep from paying as many claims as possible so that profits will be as high as possible.  It’s a problem when you take a person’s money for “health insurance,” and then make it one of your company’s stated goals to get and keep as much of that money as you can by refusing to pay or by making achieving payment so difficult that people give up. 

So why doesn’t someone start a non-profit insurance company?  Because, state laws are highly protective of insurance companies’ interests.  Texas has many state laws that protect the insurance industry.  For example, you cannot take an insurance company to court for not paying your medical bills.  I want to make it clear that I am not talking about tort reform.  That is another issue for another discussion.

My main point is this: why do we need a middle-man?  If the point of insurance is to band your money together, and to make sure that everyone is covered by the contributions of the whole, then there is no need to pay a for-profit company to do this for you.  What could happen, is that a large (and I mean large- the larger the better) group of individuals could set up an insurance company in this fashion to work in their best interests, not the interests of a group of stock holders (the insured would be the stock holders).  In truth, the insurance company has little to offer, except to be a place to pool money and weed out fraud.  They are no different than a stock broker who bundles your money with that of other people and helps you buy into a fund.  The difference is that the stock broker is not trying to figure out a way to keep your money for himself (except for fixed transaction fees).  When you want to sell a stock, you sell, the broker collects a few bucks, and you are done.  In contrast, when you have a serious health problem, many insurance companies will do all they can to make the pay-out difficult.

And as we have seen, with the growth of technology and the information age, there is really no need for a stock broker these days you can do it yourself on-line for even less.  The same technology could be used to help bring people’s money together to insure themselves.  This is the kind of leverage that could also effect medical prices in a good way for those choosing to insure themselves this way.

For me, the political solutions presented by both parties are no more serious than their current ideas for solving the “big oil” problem.  All the Republican idea does is to remove the onus from businesses to help provide health-care.  I do not believe for a second that businesses will raise employee salaries commensurate with the money that they will be saving on health-care.  The businesses will rely on the fact that most people do not associate the business cost of benefits with their salaries.  Most people are worried about their take-home-pay.  Good jobs will still have to provide health-care benefits in order to get good employees, and smaller businesses and lesser desired jobs (see burger flipper), will be effectively cut off from insured health-care coverage.

The worst part is that the Republican plan does nothing to deal with rising health-care costs.  It insinuates that allowing people to control their own medical benefits will cause competition and drive prices down.  But, that is not where the problem is, the problem is between the insurance companies and the medical companies.  I personally find it hard to believe that a company, such as Home Depot, cannot use the leverage of its thousands of employees to get access to decently priced insurance.  And, if a company that pools this many people together cannot get it done, I am sure that these people as individuals will have no chance.

The Democrat proposal is just as bad.  Any time government steps in and decides to simply cover the costs associated with an industry, the entities in that industry begin to salivate.  If you want to see medical costs go out of control, just allow the government to pay the bills.  In the end, the insurance and medical companies will reap record profits, and our taxes will soar in order to pay for it.

The only people benefited by McCain’s idea are businesses who carry insurance, and the only people benefited by the Dems’ ideas are the insurance companies, medical companies and themselves (politicians).  No surprises