A Christian nation?

One of the most annoying things to me when teaching American government is the number of students who refer to this as a Christian nation and somehow believe that Jefferson and Madison were akin to modern-day evangelicals.  Not exactly.  Anyway, Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist whom I normally find to be little more than a blithering idiot, somehow had this incredibly good post on the topic:

The prophet
Isaiah wrote: “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are
regarded as dust on the scales…Before Him all the nations are as
nothing; they are regarded by Him as worthless and less than nothing.”
(Isaiah 40:15-16). That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for those
who claim America is a “Christian nation.”

What does that mean? That we are all Christian? Of course not, because all are not.

Declaring America as special, or uniquely Christian, or more favored
by God than, say, Canada, or Mexico, or even Iran, is a form of

It also reflects an unbiblical view that God's Kingdom and the
United States have a kind of “special relationship,” the theological
equivalent of the “special relationship” that has existed between the
U.S. and Britain. A lot of Scripture has to be twisted to reach such a

Only individuals can be Christian, not countries, and those who
think otherwise are in danger of breaking the Commandment, “Thou shalt
not have no other gods before me.”

So, not only is it extraordinarily bad history to make the argument that America is a Christian nation– it's bad Christianity, too.

You get what you pay for?

Good article this week about the cost of private Higher Education that basically sums up all that's wrong with America and just how gullible people are.  Here's the lede:

COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. ? John Strassburger, the president of Ursinus
College, a small liberal arts institution here in the eastern
Pennsylvania countryside, vividly remembers the day that the chairman
of the board of trustees told him the college was losing applicants
because of its tuition.

It was too low.

So early in 2000 the board voted to raise
tuition and fees 17.6 percent, to $23,460 (and to include a laptop for
every incoming student to help soften the blow). Then it waited to see
what would happen.

Ursinus received nearly 200 more applications
than the year before. Within four years the size of the freshman class
had risen 35 percent, to 454 students. Applicants had apparently
concluded that if the college cost more, it must be better.

Basically, people just foolishly assume that more expensive must equal better, even when there's no empirical reality to back up that assumption.  Sure, the more expensive tickets at a football game put you down low at the 50 yard line and the cheapest put you in the end-zone nosebleed seats, but quite often in life, differences in price have little relation to differences in quality.  Anybody who thinks that the education at Ursinus approaches that at Harvard because their tuition charges are now almost identical, deserves to get ripped off (and surely is not smart enough to get into Harvard). 

Reading this reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, Influence by Robert Cialdini.  There's a chapter which deals extensively with how people are hopelessly biased thinkers when it comes to price and quite often simply fail to behave rationally.  The book is filled with useful psychological principles that I still think about almost every day (and I have not read it since my undergraduate days– at least 12 years ago).  It is also incredibly readable.  Looking for something good to read over the holidays, you could do a lot worse.

Canadian Health Care

So, as I suspected, I did hear from my friend Big Steve about the problems with Canadian health care.  I'm not really surprised, while Canada is well-known for providing health care for all its citizens, they really do not do a particularly good job of it.  Of course, whenever people in this country oppose universal health insurance, they just say, “look at all the problem in Canada.”  As Steve points out,

“Socialized medicine is a great thing, just not the Canadian brand.  The Europeans do it much better.  Here, it varies by province, although a private second tier is largely opposed throughout the country, despite the Europeans being fine with that.  Quebec sucks at health care? despite the high taxes, ?long waits, hospitals that are nice for generating new forms of bacteria, etc… better to be poor here than in the US, better to be in the US if you are a
prof with good insurance.”  (given Steve's occupation, you can figure out the source of his bitterness).

The larger point, though, is that most Western European natures do a much better job at national health care policy.  People in Europe– France actually has what many consider to be the best overall health care system– get better care for less money, and they all get it.  To say that we should not have national coverage just because Canada does a pretty poor job with theirs is an entirely specious argument.  It is roughly the equivalent of telling somebody they should not upgrade their old computer to one with a faster processor and more memory because HP computers tend to have reliability problems.  But, nobody's preventing them from getting a Dell.

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