Herbert Hoover, of all people, once said: “The trouble with capitalism is capitalists; they’re too damn greedy.” Of course, capitalism has many flaws and they’ve been examined ad nauseam by people who are all too willing to take our culture to task for sins real or imagined.
Perhaps this serves a purpose. An even better philosopher than Hoover stated long ago that “An unexamined life is not worth living,” and I suppose that Socrates could be speaking for societies as well.
However, as those philosophers who write sit-coms too often put it, sometimes you need to get real. Thanks to capitalism, most of us live the sort of lives that our grandparents could only dream of. Heck, we lead the sort of lives that the kings of a hundred years or so ago could only dream of. Capitalism brings us the gold, and what we do with it is our business. Witness Bill Gates, who is endeavoring no less than to save the entire continent of Africa, among other worthy projects.
My background is journalism and it’s been the reflex of journalists to wince in the face of anything that smacks of jingoism. That perhaps is a reflex from that metaphysical insanity known as World War I; I don’t know. Or it might be from the memories of our grandparents who recall the days when big companies would have us all work for a dollar a day.
Where is this leading? Well, directly to our cover story about how health plans must deal with the growing power of providers. There is a tendency to think of capitalism as a zero-sum game, but that is not always so when interests align. Three health plans have developed ways to work with these new powerful providers and I think you’ll find it compelling reading.