Why Obamacare Will Not Conquer American Culture

obamacareIt’s become quite obvious that, politically, Obamacare has conquered America. (It now has the power of law.) However, it will eventually fail. In fact, it’s failing already because of something that transcends politics – our ingrained culture.

I had a conversation yesterday with a very astute European friend. While discussing the differences between Europeans and Americans, he said:

On the scale of a whole society, Americans change slower, Europeans change faster. But individually, Americans change faster, and Europeans slower.

And he is quite right about this. Europeans change in groups, but Americans very seldom do. And even when they do, those changes seldom last.

He went on:

This gives Americans an advantage: they can try many more solutions before choosing. But if a society-wide change is imposed on them, it may never find mass adoption; the majority will resist it, and wait it out.

Obamacare is one of these society-wide European-style solutions, shoved down the throats of American culture. Confused by politics (which is, more or less, the purpose of politics), most Americans haven’t known what to think about it, so they are waiting to see what happens.

At the moment, what they see is very bad and while they may hope it works itself out, we know it won’t for one simple reason: Americans expect to choose, and to change their choice whenever they want.

Americans expect to choose a product this year, but to change to a different one next year, when something better comes along. This is deeper than the noise and clamor of politics – it is ingrained in our culture.

Obamacare transgresses the American cultural norms, and will therefore fail – sooner or later, in one way or another.

Why Obamacare Is Much Like A Viking Invasion

In the early Middle Ages, the Vikings wrought havoc on the British Isles. They plundered wherever they wished, extorted astonishing amounts of silver from the kings of England, and never suffered a serious defeat. They conquered, clearly and definitely.

But a funny thing happened to the Vikings over time – they became Englishmen.

The Vikings started as a wild band of pagan destroyers and thieves, and ended up, in a fairly short span, as Christian British farmers.

Why did they make this change? Because the English way of life – English culture – was far more attractive than a life of frozen oceans, killing, and drunkenness.

The Vikings conquered militarily, but they were defeated culturally.

The same thing is happening to Obamacare in America: It conquered politically, but it will fail culturally.

Culture trumps conquest, whether it be the conquest of arms or the conquest of politics.

Obamacare will fail because Americans expect to choose, and to change their choice when they want.

When Americans want a different doctor or hospital, they expect to get it. If they don’t, they’ll break the rules: either they’ll bribe people to get what they want, pay for political favors to get what they want, go to the black market to get what they want, or start taking over hospital administration offices. (I fear that there may be a few shootings too.)

American culture expects choices; it is built for individual changes, not collective changes. This is in the DNA of the culture, and no matter which political gang controls the levers of rulership, the culture will not simply follow.

Whether in one way or many, sooner or later, Obamacare will fail. American culture is not dead yet.

Paul Rosenberg