Commentary Magazine


We’re Sick, Alright

A new study shows that Americans with chronic medical conditions complain more about healthcare than do their international counterparts:

The researchers questioned 7,500 adults in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain and the United States. Each had at least one of seven chronic conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression.

Dutch patients had the fewest complaints, while the Americans had plenty, according to the study by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based health policy research group.

Meanwhile, the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that 20% of England’s curable lung cancer patients become incurable while waiting for treatment. The British journal Lancet Oncology found that Americans have a higher survival rate than Europeans for 13 of the 16 most prominent cancers. 10% of the Canadian population is stuck on a waiting list without a primary care doctor, and another 800,000 are on another waiting list for procedures.

All this study shows is that Americans complain more than other people. But that’s not really news.

We remain the surest bet in a world of crumbling economies, and American journalists write gleefully about the end of American financial preeminence. We hold the most free and transparent elections on the planet, and “patriotic” liberals threaten civil war should the wrong candidate win. We give more international aid and seek out more international cooperation than any country on earth, and Americans say they’re ashamed to travel abroad. Our military fights cleaner than any armed force in history, and domestic movements are underway to put President Bush in jail for war crimes. Bush endured more public dissent and protest than any president in U.S. history, and Americans say he’s shredded the constitution. We’ve cut our CO2 emissions by a greater percentage than countries that actually signed the Kyoto Protocol, and still Americans self-flagellate for not adopting international environmental standards. We ceased being colonial overlords decades before other Western countries, and Americans still decry their county’s imperialism.

When a country finds itself on an irreversible path downward, it is in decline. When people believe their country in on this path, the belief is called declinism. Declinism can lead to decline in no time. If America isn’t really in decline, but Americans think it is — and so it will be. Because once citizens feel that way, they have no reason to defend or contribute to a dying state. Why enlist in the army of a fading power? Why sacrifice anything to contribute to a lost cause? In fact, why not try to get the most out of the state before the state croaks? More subsidies, more assistance, more healthcare. We are nowhere near real decline, yet we’re perilously close to virtual decline. My greatest hope for the Obama years is that Americans claiming to once again be proud of their country mean it. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in areas such as military enlistment, birthrate, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity. My greatest fear is that people are just proud of themselves for voting for him.