The words argumentation and argument here do not mean the same thing as they do in casual conversation, where they are associated with bickering, contention, and conflict. In the context of writing essays, an argument is the combination of a point you are trying to make and the support you offer in order to make that point. This is sometimes called academic argumentation, especially when the argument is supported by rational explanations, reliable evidence, and similar rhetorical strategies (see the textbook section Rhetoric).
At some level or another, nearly all college writing is argumentation. This is because every assignment asks you to convey your point, claim, or message, and to support it somehow: with explanation, research, description, etc.
Argumentation in college writing overlaps with purely persuasive writing in many ways as well, but there is a subtle difference: pure persuasion needs to change others’ minds in order to succeed, but academic arguments don’t. Instead, to be successful, an academic argument need only be complete and valid, independent of whether the audience agrees. Good academic arguments are persuasive, but it’s also possible to have a good academic argument—through careful support of a claim—that a reader rejects in belief or action yet considers viable and worthy of sincere consideration. This subtle difference becomes apparent in the tone of a good academic argument, which is typically sober, precise, and focused on the ideas themselves, as opposed to purely persuasive writing, which can seem closer to a cloying sales-pitch focused on the beliefs or actions of the reader. The former is our aim in argumentation, and the latter is to be avoided.
But in order for writers to make their arguments successful, they do need to make writing decisions that express their ideas as effectively as possible for the audience. This means that argumentation requires the use of rhetorical strategies. This also means that when you are using rhetorical strategies, you are assumed to be engaging in some version of argumentation. Just as there is a lot of overlap between argumentation and persuasion, so too is there a lot of overlap between argumentation and rhetoric. In fact, the three terms—rhetoric, argumentation, and persuasion—are often used interchangeably.
Why is argumentation so vital in a college education? One main reason is that the world you live in today was built by a series of well written arguments. If you live in the United States of America, that is because Thomas Jefferson wrote an argument called “The Declaration of Independence,” and the founders of the USA made sure to protect the freedom to write more arguments in the future by identifying the freedom of speech in the First Amendment. Martin Luther King, Jr. presented an argument in a speech of his called “I Have a Dream,” and it was effective enough to help bring about the much more just society you have now. And the man after whom Martin Luther King, Jr. was named, Marin Luther, wrote an argument called “The Ninety-Five Theses,” which in many ways led history into the modern era. To participate in writing an argument is to better understand the world around you, and, by doing so, to empower you to participate in that world. If you paid close attention here, you can point out that even this paragraph is an argument: it presents a thesis that is arguable, specific, and significant, and it supports that thesis with explanation and examples.
Argumentation and Rhetoric (and Persuasive Writing)
Argumentation and rhetoric have many similarities and are sometimes used as interchangeable terms. Argumentation is the mode of writing in which the author clarifies and supports a point for an audience, and rhetoric is the art of “finding all available means of persuasion” (see the textbook section Rhetoric), so the two indeed coincide. From the perspective of argumentation, being more persuasive through the use of rhetorical strategies makes for a better argument, so rhetoric improves argumentation. From the perspective of rhetoric, argumentation can be one mode of persuasion, perhaps even a strategy, one that relies on clarity of and support for a main point. So considering the two as interchangeable in many instances is fair enough.
But there are some subtle differences.
One difference is that rhetoric is an art that can be used in modes other than argumentation. Rhetorical appeals and strategies can be used in personal narratives, illustration or descriptive writing, comparison and contrast writing, and others, and it can even be used in non-written forms, such as advertising images intended to provoke emotions from viewers. So the art of rhetoric exists beyond the argumentation mode of writing to clarify and support a main point.
Another difference is that, while rhetoric is the “art of finding all available means of persuasion,” argumentation need not be merely persuasive. This is the same difference that distinguishes argumentation from persuasive writing or persuasive speeches. The aim or persuasion is to convince an audience to accept or agree with a proposal or position, but a good argument doesn’t have to convert any readers in order to remain a good argument. Instead, a good argument clarifies its point and presents support for it in such a way as to be considered valid by an intelligent audience. Even if the audience does not agree with the argument’s point or adopt its position, that audience could still accept its validity, and therefore, even though the argument would have failed as persuasion or as an exercise in rhetoric, it would have succeeded in the mode of argumentation. Indeed, this is how academia has come to encompass “schools of thought” or competing theories within its various fields. In economics, psychology, sociology, literature, even physics, arguments have been presented that don’t agree with each other, and audiences within the field don’t or can’t necessarily agree with all of them, yet those same audiences consider those theories or schools of thought valid regardless, which means they have succeeded as arguments.
Key Parts of an Argument
A good argument can be constructed using many different strategies and arrangements, but most of them have some common components. These key parts of an argument can be scaled up and down: they can all exist within the small space of single paragraph, or they can each take their own paragraphs and build and entire essay or book. As detailed below, the four key parts of an argument are the following:
- Acknowledgment with Rebuttal
The claim is the main point about a subject, or the position on it. The main claim of a whole essay is often called the “thesis,” and the main claim of a paragraph is often called the “topic sentence.” Sometimes claims include a main reason, often as a “because” clause, such as, “Schools should eliminate the requirement of uniforms because they are unfair and ineffective.”
Support is a broad term in argumentation. It refers to any reasons to accept the claim, or any strategies a writer uses to effectively convey the claim to the audience. In essence, all the other parts of an argument that follow are types of support. And there are numerous other strategies for support that are detailed in other sections of this textbook (see Body Paragraphs or Rhetoric and Argumentation), such as offering examples, comparisons, definitions, or discussions of causes and effects. And as you support your claims, remember not to assume that your reader automatically agrees with your statements. Convey your ideas as if you are dealing with an intelligent, critical, and reasonably skeptical reader.
Evidence is any information from external references and sources that demonstrate the validity of your claim, or of your support. The best evidence relies on information from legitimate, authoritative, or commonly accepted experts, publishers, and institutions. Mere research alone isn’t enough to function as evidence; you need to explain how the research relates to your claim or support in order for it to be real evidence. Remember that MLA format requires you to cite all instances of such evidence.
Acknowledgment with Rebuttal
Acknowledgment is a technical term in argumentation that means to address reasonable opposition to the ideas you state above. In other words, it is the strategy of bring up counter-arguments, or the ideas from the other side that go against yours. Do this by anticipating what other perspectives or weaknesses a critical thinker might be able to find in your ideas. Consider using research to find the best available opposing ideas. Remember not to assume that your interpretation of the evidence is the only valid possibility. Instead, state an opposing interpretation.
The whole point of acknowledgment is to further strengthen your own argument, not to contradict it. Addressing opposition and counter-arguments is a way for you to test out the validity and resilience of your ideas, and to show your readers that you have thought through the issue thoroughly rather than having taken a narrow-minded short-cut. Also note that true acknowledgment doesn’t bother with unreasonable, exaggerated, or easily-defeated opposition. This poor strategy is often called “the straw-man fallacy.” Acknowledgment can only strengthen your argument when the counter-argument is strong itself.
But acknowledgment won’t strengthen your argument unless you offer your own rebuttal to it. Rebuttal is your explanation to defend your ideas against the acknowledged opposition. Don’t forget this rebuttal. A common error is to end on just the acknowledgment, which only creates contradiction and confusion. Another common error is to get aggressive or bombastic, but this only weakens your argument. Instead, remain focused, reasonable, and professional. Admit to your weaknesses with honesty if the opposition is to too solid to rebut directly, but end on a strong defense of your ideas regardless. And remember that the best defense is a clear expression of good ideas.
Here are examples of short excerpts that contain all five parts of an argument. They short for convenience and space, but whole articles—such as those listed as readings in this textbook—can serve as larger examples.
TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on children because those exposed to lots of it tend to adopt the values of what they see. Their constant exposure to violent images makes them unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. Smith found that children ages of 5-7 who watched more than three hours of violent television a day were 25 percent more likely to say what they saw on television was “really happening” (214). Of course, some children who watch more violent entertainment might already be attracted to violence. But Jones found that “children with no predisposition to violence were as attracted to violent images as those with a violent history” (12).
—Adapted to display MLA format quotation from The Craft of Research (Booth, Colomb, Williams 113)
Claim: “TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on children because those exposed to lots of it tend to adopt the values of what they see.”
Support: “Their constant exposure to violent images makes them unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.”
Evidence: “Smith found that children ages of 5-7 who watched more than three hours of violent television a day were 25 percent more likely to say what they saw on television was ‘really happening’ (214).”
Acknowledgment: “Of course, some children who watch more violent entertainment might already be attracted to violence. ”
Rebuttal: “But Jones found that ‘children with no predisposition to violence were as attracted to violent images as those with a violent history’ (12).”
What was not foreseen was the backlash of the [First World War]. Emotionally, it was a revulsion against four years of carnage. In practical effect, it was nothing less than a social revolution. The war itself was revolutionary, having moved the masses out of their routines-the men into the trenches, the women into the factories. What happened under Lenin in Russia, and for a time among her neighbors, advertised this social upheaval. The masses were now sovereign in their outlook and behavior. Henceforth, whatever was done must be done for their good and in their name. Their needs and wants, their habits and tastes, marked the high tide of democracy as Tocqueville had foreseen it in this country. The message was clear to all, because it had been preached with growing intensity for 100 years. Universal suffrage; the end of poverty; identical rights for everybody; social, economic, even sexual emancipation; popular culture, not elite esthetics—these demands went with a distrust and hatred of all the old orders, old leaders, and old modes of life that had brought on the four years of homicidal horror and destruction. The new modes were to be anti-capitalist (obviously); anti-Victorian in morals, and anti-parliamentarian as well, for many thought representative government a corrupt and contemptible fraud. Democracy needed better machinery. In that mood it is no wonder that fascism and the corporate state triumphed so rapidly.* If England and France hung on to their constitutional freedoms amid this turmoil, it was due largely to historical momentum, the same force that threw Russia back into its old groove.
—Jacques Barzun, “Is Democratic Theory for Export?”
Claim: “What was not foreseen was the backlash of the [First World War]. Emotionally, it was a revulsion against four years of carnage. In practical effect, it was nothing less than a social revolution.”
Support: “The war itself was revolutionary, having moved the masses out of their routines-the men into the trenches, the women into the factories. What happened under Lenin in Russia, and for a time among her neighbors, advertised this social upheaval. The masses were now sovereign in their outlook and behavior. Henceforth, whatever was done must be done for their good and in their name. Their needs and wants, their habits and tastes, marked the high tide of democracy as Tocqueville had foreseen it in this country. The message was clear to all, because it had been preached with growing intensity for 100 years.”
Evidence: “Universal suffrage; the end of poverty; identical rights for everybody; social, economic, even sexual emancipation; popular culture, not elite esthetics—these demands went with a distrust and hatred of all the old orders, old leaders, and old modes of life that had brought on the four years of homicidal horror and destruction. The new modes were to be anti-capitalist (obviously); anti-Victorian in morals, and anti-parliamentarian as well, for many thought representative government a corrupt and contemptible fraud. Democracy needed better machinery. In that mood it is no wonder that fascism and the corporate state triumphed so rapidly.* …
*The theory of the corporate state, or socialism in the guise of state capitalism, was expounded in France and Germany and promulgated in Italy. It had intellectual adherents for a time; Winston Churchill praised Mussolini, and David Lloyd George, Hitler. The defeat of the Axis powers silenced such advocates, which shows again how dependent on current events theorists are.”
Acknowledgment: “If England and France hung on to their constitutional freedoms amid this turmoil, …”
Rebuttal: “… it was due largely to historical momentum, the same force that threw Russia back into its old groove.”
Our Founding Fathers gave us excellent advice on foreign policy. Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” George Washington, several years earlier, took up this theme in his Farewell Address. “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest,” he maintained. “But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences.” Washington added:
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible… Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
Unfortunately, we have spent the past century spurning this sensible advice. If the Founders’ advice is acknowledged at all, it is dismissed on the grounds that we no longer live in their times. The same hackneyed argument could be used against any of the other principles the Founders gave us. Should we give up the First Amendment because times have changed? How about the rest of the Bill of Rights? It’s hypocritical and childish to dismiss certain founding principles simply because a convenient rationale is needed to justify foolish policies today. The principles enshrined in the Constitution do not change. If anything, today’s more complex world cries out for the moral clarity of a noninterventionist foreign policy.
It is easy to dismiss the noninterventionist view as the quaint aspiration of men who lived in a less complicated world, but it’s not so easy to demonstrate how our current policies serve any national interest at all. Perhaps an honest examination of the history of American interventionism in the twentieth century, from Korea to Vietnam to Kosovo to the Middle East, would reveal that the Founding Fathers foresaw more than we think.
Anyone who advocates the noninterventionist foreign policy of the Founding Fathers can expect to be derided as an isolationist. I myself have never been an isolationist. I favor the very opposite of isolation: diplomacy, free trade, and freedom of travel. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seeking change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example. The real isolationists are those who isolate their country in the court of world opinion by pursuing needless belligerence and war that have nothing to do with legitimate national security concerns.
—Ron Paul, “The Foreign Policy of the Founding Fathers”
Summarized Claim: The US should have a noninterventionist foreign policy.
Summarized Support: The Founding Fathers advised it. The advice is old but still relevant. Recent troubles with interventions show this.
Summarized Evidence: Quotations from Founding Fathers; analogies to the Bill of Rights; lists of violent and chaotic locations of US intervention
Summarized Acknowledgment: Opponents might think it’s isolationism.
Summarized Rebuttal: Isolationism is created by interventions; noninterventionists seek peace, exchange, and freedom.
For extended examples (entire essays) of masterful argumentation, go to Readings in this textbook, and read “An Animal’s Place” by Michael Pollan, “The Moral Equivalent of War” by William James, and “The Federalist No. 10” by James Madison.
Read either “An Animal’s Place” by Michael Pollan, “The Moral Equivalent of War” by William James, or “The Federalist No. 10” by James Madison, and analyze its parts of an argument:
- Acknowledgment with Rebuttal
Read any other essay included in Readings in this textbook, and explain how it works as an argument.
See the following example of argumentation, which is excellent, and which the author wrote when she was in a first-year composition course. It is so good that it was soon after published by the international magazine Areo.
“Why We Need Fantasy Literature”
By Lauren Stengel
First published in Areo, May 17, 2019
J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has sold around 150 million copies worldwide, which makes it one of the bestselling fiction novels of all time. Some even claim it is the greatest book of the twentieth century. While Tolkien’s Middle-earth novels continue to grow in popularity, many scholars still refuse to take them seriously. Most critics not only disregard, but despise them with a fiery passion. Critics of the younger generation focus on the supposed social problems in Middle-earth, such as racism or sexism. But the most astounding criticisms come mostly from the older generation of literary critics, who claim that Tolkien’s writing is just awful. Edmund Wilson argues in “Oo, Those Awful Orcs” that The Lord of the Rings is nothing but “juvenile trash.” In the introduction to Bloom’s Critical Modern Interpretations: J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Harold Bloom claims that Tolkien’s writing style is “stiff, false archaic, and overwrought.” Bloom is “not able to understand how a skilled and mature reader can absorb about fifteen hundred pages of this quaint stuff.” These criticisms are as absurd are they are comical. If anything, The Lord of the Rings is anti-racist and anti-sexist and beautifully written. Of course, the merit of any work is, in essence, subjective and tastes differ. But what is the cause of both the contemptuous criticisms and unwarranted indifference toward The Lord of the Rings?
Realism has taken over literature; fantasy—and other genres—have been deemed childish garbage. Ursula K. Le Guin blames the modernists for this. In her article “The Critics, the Monsters and the Fantasists,” she writes,
The modernists are largely to blame. Edmund Wilson and his generation left a tradition of criticism that is, in its way, quite a little monster. In this school for anti-wizards, no fiction is to be taken seriously except various forms of realism, which are labelled ‘serious.’ Universities have taught generations of students to shun genres, including fantasy (unless it was written before 1900, wasn’t written in English, and/ or can be labelled magic realism).
But realism is a very recent movement. Before the eighteenth century, genre fiction was literature. What makes genre writing after 1900 any less significant than its predecessors? There isn’t any lost, secret knowledge on how to write fantastical literature. There isn’t anything about English that changes the literary merit of genre writing. Perhaps, as Le Guin asserts, these critics simply don’t understand how to read fantasy. And, if they don’t understand how to read genre literature, by what authority can they criticize The Lord of the Rings?
Critics’ obsession with allegory may be one of the obvious pitfalls, since fantasy literature—at least according to Tolkien—should never be read in this way. In the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes:
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
Of course, as Tolkien states, there’s nothing wrong with finding parts of faerie stories applicable to our own individual lives: that’s one of the greatest things about them. But Harold Bloom’s claim that The Lord of the Rings is a “giant Period Piece” about World War II is nonsense. Simply put, it is a story of a hobbit and his companions and their quest to destroy a ring. Tolkien did not write allegory. Anything more you get from the story is on you. Of course, living through both world wars influenced Tolkien’s ideology, and that ideology made its way into his fiction—but, in writing the books, Tolkien had no political agenda. He only wanted to create a faerie story.
But what is it about The Lord of the Rings specifically that provokes such strong objections from the critics? Possibly, the question is too specific. Perhaps it’s the genre of faerie story that critics detest, not The Lord of the Rings itself. Critics raise the same objections to other modern fantasy works that receive acclaim. In a review of Harry Potter, Bloom writes, “Taking arms against Harry Potter, at this moment, is to emulate Hamlet taking arms against a sea of troubles. By opposing the sea, you won’t end it. The Harry Potter epiphenomenon will go on, doubtless for some time, as J. R. R. Tolkien did, and then wane.” This is from a review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series, and was written in 2007, while the novel itself was written ten years previously. Yet, twenty-one years after publication, Harry Potter is still as big as ever, if not bigger. It makes one wonder what Bloom thinks of Amazon’s plans for a new Lord of the Rings series (65 years after publication, The Lord of the Rings is still going strong). These faerie stories aren’t going anywhere.
They aren’t going anywhere because we need them. It’s no coincidence that the fantasy genre can be traced back to some of the earliest forms of writing. We need the warriors, the adventure, the monsters, the magic. Exploring these aspects of fantasy is a great way of gaining insight into what it means to be human. Critics love to attack fantasy for not being serious literature: realism is the human experience. But not only does fantasy encompass the human experience, it does so better than realism. In his essay “Hamlet and His Problems,” T. S. Eliot outlines his theory of the objective correlative:
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.
Don’t tell us how you feel—show us how you feel. This is one reason storytelling is so important. It’s not that realism can’t incorporate the objective correlative in beautiful ways, but what better way to show our fear of the deep than Tolkien’s Watcher in the Water, our fear of death than Ringwraiths, or our fear of the forest than Mirkwood? These images are so much stronger than those realism can produce. Realism is forced by its own limitations, in many instances, to deal in abstracts, while fantasy gives us concrete images of emotions that couldn’t be as vividly portrayed otherwise. Fantasy also allows us to lower our guard, which makes it easier to understand otherwise difficult subject matter, and helps us see things from new perspectives. Maybe the new insights into ourselves that we gain from fantasy literature are too difficult for critics to accept. People usually don’t like to admit they’re wrong. And maybe, whether they’re aware of it or not, that’s why critics shun fantasy literature: they’re afraid of what they’ll discover about themselves by studying it. The anthropocentric nature of realism makes us out to be both the victims and heroes of our reality, while fantasy forces us to confront the monsters within ourselves. I bet the critics don’t like accepting that. I doubt anyone does. But the truth is important.
Not only does fantasy remind us of what we are, it reminds us of what we once were. The industrialization of our current world has severed us from the connection we used to have with nature. In “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists,” Ursula K. Le Guin expresses this beautifully:
The fields and forests, the villages and byroads, once did belong to us, when we belonged to them. That is the truth of the non-industrial setting of so much fantasy. It reminds us of what we have denied, what we have exiled ourselves from.
Animals were once more to us than meat, pests, or pets: they were fellow-creatures, colleagues, dangerous equals … what fantasy generally does that the realistic novel generally cannot do is include the nonhuman as essential.
That’s possibly another reason critics discredit fantasy literature. Fantasy, at its foundation, is anti-anthropocentric. But news flash, critics: we’re not in charge. We don’t run the world: nature does. We enjoy pretending we’re in control—and fantasy challenges that. Progressivism is certainly at least partially to blame for the shunning of the fantasy genre. The idea of progress assumes that it is imperative to the betterment of the human condition, but it may be just the opposite. The repercussions of such a philosophy are a narcissistic, materialistic and ruthless humanity, which is becoming more and more distanced from its roots in the natural world. It’s no coincidence that realism took over as the primary literary mode during the Industrial Revolution. Maybe we’ve become too sophisticated to find meaning in childish fairy tales. But, as we run away from these childish themes of hope, heroism, magic and divinity, we become less inclined to care for anyone or anything but ourselves. We’ve become selfish. We build ourselves up just to tear others down; we pollute our oceans and destroy our forests. We are disconnecting ourselves from nature, with which we should be in harmony. So maybe it’s society’s fault that critics shun The Lord of the Rings and other fantastical literature. We don’t need magic; we have science. We’re our own heroes, in it for ourselves. But we don’t seem to be getting anywhere worthwhile in our industrial progressiveness: we live in a world of greed, hatred and constant war. Possibly, one of the reasons is our abandonment and complete disregard of the faerie story and its significance. This may seem like a giant leap, but maybe we can only learn morality through storytelling and from the magic embraced by fantastical literature.
In the Boston Globe article “Dumbing Down American Readers,” Bloom claims that the fantasy genre is dumbing down America. But perhaps it’s our flight from fantasy that is dumbing us down. Bloom says that the reasons are “very complex … there’s very little authentic study of the humanities remaining.” But maybe we’re tired of being told what is and isn’t relevant. Maybe we’re ready to accept that fantasy is an important aspect of the human experience and will continue to be. The twenty-first century is a century of the strange and magical, of the fantastical. It’s a century of wizards, faeries and dragons, and the critics will eventually have to accept that. The fantasy genre is back, ready to reclaim the rightful place in the world of literature that realism unjustly stole from it.
After careful study of the essay above, “Why We Need Fantasy Literature,” identify and explain three particular strengths or strategies of argumentation that Stengel employs.
Read the next student example, which is a lesser essay than the above example but is still functional overall. Then evaluate it as argumentation. Which parts of an argument does it achieve well? Which part of an argument are weak, vague, or missing?
Universal Health Care Coverage for the United States
The United States is the only modernized Western nation that does not offer publicly funded health care to all its citizens; the costs of health care for the uninsured in the United States are prohibitive, and the practices of insurance companies are often more interested in profit margins than providing health care. These conditions are incompatible with US ideals and standards, and it is time for the US government to provide universal health care coverage for all its citizens. Like education, health care should be considered a fundamental right of all US citizens, not simply a privilege for the upper and middle classes.
One of the most common arguments against providing universal health care coverage (UHC) is that it will cost too much money. In other words, UHC would raise taxes too much. While providing health care for all US citizens would cost a lot of money for every tax-paying citizen, citizens need to examine exactly how much money it would cost, and more important, how much money is “too much” when it comes to opening up health care for all. Those who have health insurance already pay too much money, and those without coverage are charged unfathomable amounts. The cost of publicly funded health care versus the cost of current insurance premiums is unclear. In fact, some Americans, especially those in lower income brackets, could stand to pay less than their current premiums.
However, even if UHC would cost Americans a bit more money each year, we ought to reflect on what type of country we would like to live in, and what types of morals we represent if we are more willing to deny health care to others on the basis of saving a couple hundred dollars per year. In a system that privileges capitalism and rugged individualism, little room remains for compassion and love. It is time that Americans realize the amorality of US hospitals forced to turn away the sick and poor. UHC is a health care system that aligns more closely with the core values that so many Americans espouse and respect, and it is time to realize its potential.
Another common argument against UHC in the United States is that other comparable national health care systems, like that of England, France, or Canada, are bankrupt or rife with problems. UHC opponents claim that sick patients in these countries often wait in long lines or long wait lists for basic health care. Opponents also commonly accuse these systems of being unable to pay for themselves, racking up huge deficits year after year. A fair amount of truth lies in these claims, but Americans must remember to put those problems in context with the problems of the current US system as well. It is true that people often wait to see a doctor in countries with UHC, but we in the United States wait as well, and we often schedule appointments weeks in advance, only to have onerous waits in the doctor’s “waiting rooms.”
Critical and urgent care abroad is always treated urgently, much the same as it is treated in the United States. The main difference there, however, is cost. Even health insurance policy holders are not safe from the costs of health care in the United States. Each day an American acquires a form of cancer, and the only effective treatment might be considered “experimental” by an insurance company and thus is not covered. Without medical coverage, the patient must pay for the treatment out of pocket. But these costs may be so prohibitive that the patient will either opt for a less effective, but covered, treatment; opt for no treatment at all; or attempt to pay the costs of treatment and experience unimaginable financial consequences. Medical bills in these cases can easily rise into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is enough to force even wealthy families out of their homes and into perpetual debt. Even though each American could someday face this unfortunate situation, many still choose to take the financial risk. Instead of gambling with health and financial welfare, US citizens should press their representatives to set up UHC, where their coverage will be guaranteed and affordable.
Despite the opponents’ claims against UHC, a universal system will save lives and encourage the health of all Americans. Why has public education been so easily accepted, but not public health care? It is time for Americans to start thinking socially about health in the same ways they think about education and police services: as rights of US citizens.