There is an assumption current among the western democracies that the economic braintrusts know best about how to manage the affairs of the body politic. Since economics trumps everything else, unless and until a sacred cow, like national security/military materiel rears its head, we do cost benefit analyses on everything, with assumptions that beg more questions than they answer. And those whose speciality is not economics, like ethicists, and historians, and "generalists" have no business or authenticity in commenting, because we lack "expertise." Even voices whose opinions differ from the "mainstream" or conventional viewpoint (subscribed to, sycophantically by the media) are marginalized by their own lack of specialized competence, according to the prevailing illusion.
We have a health care system that pays doctors for more patient visits, but only for brief ones and for writing prescriptions, not for "preventing" further illness, like helping individuals re-shape their lifestyles into healthy diet, exercise, stopping smoking and excessive alcohol and non-prescription drug consumption. That process would take more time than the current billing system permits. It could be said to be a system designed more to "pay" doctors than to help people get and stay well. In short, the system's design and structure is counter-intuitive to the higher purpose of a healthy, and therefore less costly society. But the doctors are the kings/queens of the health care system, are they not; certainly not the patients! That would turn the conventional "wisdom" upside-down.
We have a national, perhaps even an international fixation on "economic growth" established through such numbers as Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And we watch these numbers "crawl" across the bottom of our tv screens in relentless military precision, as if they were the holy grail of needed information.
However, it is, once again, the assumptions that must be questioned and even changed.
For example, growth, as we currently understand it, classifies education as a cost, thus a liability. A golf ball, on the other hand, is an asset and the sale of it a measureable factor of growth. A face lift is an element fo economic activity while a heart bypass is a liability which the economy must finance. Holidays are among the pearls of the service industry, while child care is a cost.
In other words, our concept of assets and liabilities, of goods versus expenses, has a negative effect on the realities of growth. We are unable to take into account the needs of a sophisticated society. Investment in training and in the care of citizens cannot be treated as an asset. Yet the illusion of growth, through the sale of golf balls remains firmly in place. (The Unconscious Civilization, John Ralston Saul, CBC/Anansi, 1995, p.152.)
And, as in all things, it is the powerful, those who 'have' who set the definitions of issues, in accordance with their own best interests. And for all the other voices, unheard from in the corridors of "power," education and training must be seeen as "assets" not as liabilities, and health care must become an asset, not a liability, especially focussed on the prevention of major illnesses.
And spending $16 billion on stealth aircraft, when even the military are divided about the need for such American-defined needs, (to suit their budget, income and "asset" calculation needs) at a time of severe financial crisis, (caused by those very ones the government "power-brokers" trusted to "govern" themselves, the Wall-Street bullies), is another non-sequitor, another upside-down perception of "public or national security."
And the powerful interests are not concerned about global warming, because to really care means an added cost for "doing business;" and the powerful interests are not interested in eliminating poverty because to really care means spending public dollars for low-rental housing; and the powerful interests are not interested in "people" because to really care about people, as opposed to "profits" and "power" means giving up the kind of absolute control to ordinary people, who don't deserve it, on the merits of their social "capital". We have none.
And the powerful will work to preserve that illusion, while the public "eats" the cake of another illusion...
–John Ralston Saul, Voltaire’s Bastards