universal ain't a bad idea

I don’t think “universal” is a wildly radical idea.

These days it seems like everybody thinks that any idea that includes everyone isn’t good for anyone. But if I say we should all know love in our lives, there aren’t many people who would disagree with me. If I say everyone deserves love, however, I might be stepping into a bit of new-agedness. If I say the universe needs more love, or that love should be a universal state we all strive for, many might even assume I’m on drugs.

The same can be said for other aspects of humanity. For example, we know that people need health care. Lives are long, and often troubled. And when troubles occur, to our mental or physical states, we need help. So we can all agree that everyone, at some point or another, needs health care. 100% alignment on that. Now, if I say that everyone deserves health care, we begin to see a split because I just used a word that reminds some folks of “entitlement” and entitlement, to them, means lazy people get something for nothing. Furthermore, if I say there should be universal health care, that word “universal” throws a good third of the population into fiery fits.

I can take this a step further.

The modern world is all about money. There was a time when it was all about hunting and gathering. There was also a time when it was all about farming and craftsmanship and exchanging goods for goods (or services), but those days have passed. Some five centuries ago humans entered the age of capitalism. It’s a brilliant system that creates a physical or imaginary note (or nugget) of universal value. Instead of saying that my 10 goats are roughly equal to your 25 bushels, we can agree on a monetary value of each and I can go sell a chair to raise money to buy your bushels and still keep my goats.

So, it’s neat and nifty. And we can agree that, in the modern era, everyone needs money. Just like love and health, we need money. Here’s where the split begins again. If everyone needs money to get by in the world today, to pay for their food, their shelter, their clothing, and their Kings tickets, then everyone deserves some money. To say they don’t only invites the idea that not everyone deserves food, or shelter, or clothing, or Kings tickets. We could probably argue the absolute necessity of the human need for one of those, but not the other three.

So knowing that everyone needs money to exist in the modern era, and everyone deserves the rewards we can only purchase with money, I don’t think it’s too radical an idea to ensure a universal income for everyone.


The sick, the healthy, the hard-working, the lazy, the white, the black, the brown, the red, the princes, the paupers, the farmers, the hunters, the gatherers, the conservatives, the liberals, the Christians, the Muslims, me, you, mom, dad, the kids, and that weird cousin Freida, as well.

They all need love. They all need medicine. They all need money. And there’s plenty of it to go around. Plenty of love. Plenty of medicine. Plenty of money.

There wasn’t, always. But we live in an age of abundance. Modern science and modern technology have created the means with which we could wipe out things like famine and massive, society-slaying diseases. We can produce food like no other era in history. We can produce clothing like no other era in history. We can produce shelters like no other era in history.

There are still only so many Kings tickets, though. We’ll have to decide who gets those with a lottery.

The angriest among you right now are frothing. You can’t wait for the last words so you can tell me how it isn’t fair for the hardest workers to have to support the laziest ones, which I equate, by the way, to telling me that healthy people shouldn’t have to put up with sick people. Some folks get sick, sorry. Some folks work harder than others, sorry. You’re going to have to learn to love them all, universally.

Because the time is coming. We are entering an era of even greater abundance. Even greater technology. Within half a century the production cost of producing almost anything will essentially be zero. And when that happens we’re going to have to decide if that means that those with the most wealth simply get more of the most stuff, while those with the least wealth get even less, or if there’s a better way.

I think there’s a better way.

We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start. Knowing like we do that this era is coming, we can start now. We can ensure that everyone has enough to cover their basic human needs. We can ensure that everyone has health care. Everyone else has already done that last part, America.

The next part might be trickier. A universal basic income is still a bit radical, or perhaps premature, even by my standards. But there are still ways that we can revolutionize the system of distribution. In the most modern era, most of society’s gains have ended up in the hands of the few, by design. Trickle-down illusions trickled up, instead. Keynesian influences gave way to neoliberal deregulations. Unions shattered. Wages stagnated as corporate profits soared. We paid the price; they reaped the gains.

We can reverse a lot of that. This way of thinking, that somehow making the rich richer will make the poor richer, too, is an illusion of the past four decades alone. We saw the result. We’ve seen the outcome. No mas. We won’t be fooled again.

We’ve been fed a line of bull. We can’t afford universal health care, they say, even though we’re among the richest countries in the world, and the rest of the world is affording it just fine. There isn’t enough money to go around, they want us to believe. There is. We just distribute it badly.

It’s time to get radical now, people. To really think different. It’s time to think about all of us.

It’s time the idea of “everyone” had universal appeal.

29 thoughts on “Universal Ain’t Such a Bad Idea

  • This was the first post I’ve read today, Tom, and I predict everything else I read will pale in comparison. Just awesome! It made me think of a great old reggae song by Black Uhuru called Solidarity: “Everybody wants the same thing, don’t they? Everybody wants a happy end. They wanna see the game on Saturday. They want to be somebody’s friend. Everybody wants to work for a living. They want to keep their children warm. Everybody wants to be forgiven. They want a shelter from the storm.”

  • Excellent post, Tom! As a Canadian who has health care, it boggles my mind to know that there are people in your country who don’t. How is that even a thing? It is healthcare…everyone should have it. If people started seeing with their hearts a little more often, things might change…but, I know that is merely a dream.

    • Thank you, dreamer! On my FB feed, all day long, anti-universal people have been attacking me for this post; one guy even called me selfish for wanting what is best for everyone. 😂

      To a man, the American conservatives I know swear that universal health care is untenable. Can’t be done. Pipe dream. Even though every other country (such as your own) already does it. Changing the American mind, and heart, is hard, but I’ll keep trying. The dream is worth it.

      Thank you again for reading … glad you liked it!

      • Speaking from the perspective of someone who has worked in Healthcare for close to 20 years, I can tell you that universal healthcare with a single payer (i.e., healthcare services administered by, regulated by, and funded solely through the federal government) will not happen in our lifetime.

        It will not happen because we, or factions of us, are heartless, soulless, unemptatheitc monsters. It will not happen for a variety of reasons. Healthcare in the United States is approaching 20% of the total economy. That is a massive amount of public and private infrastructure, regulation, and a LOT of money. The most basic argument I can provide, without spinning off into an almost infinite amount of tangents, is that the system is too big to change based on moral or ethical grounds, or even common sense. This is not a cop-out, or an excuse for massively large Insurance Providers, or even larger and powerful pharmaceutical companies, or politicians.

        In my opinion, it will never happen because the people who are responsible for creating and implementing laws and regulations are not psychologically capable of creating or operating a system anywhere close to one in which we, the end user/consumer of healthcare goods and services expect or want. In large part based on how our politics works (lobbying, contributions, greed, coerscion, the insanely complicated task of overhauling the system combined with our inability to cooperate and take time to discuss, debate, and use discourse to solve problems) and also because we, the consumer/patient/end user, in many instances, have an unrealistic expectation of what we are to the system, and how we should interact with it. We are emotionally attached to the system. When we are emotionally attached and it is financially driven, it is a friction-filled scenario at best.

        Maybe someday there will be a goldilocks zone where public and private interests, political action, and economic necessity will converge to propel us into a new age of American healthcare that efficiently provides goods and services to consumers while operating in a framework that also holds ethical and commercial balance.

        Until then, we keep doing the work. We keep discussing. We keep talking. We keep working together.

        Thanks for being Tom, Tom!

        Love you!

        • Thank you, Dylan, for that thoroughly thought-provoking response to what is largely considered a dream proposal. I’m afraid you’re right, or at least seem to be. It’s very rare in America (or elsewhere?) that what is done is what is best for everyone. But, like the lady above, I am an incurable dreamer. I am a hopeless optimist. Regardless the odds of the battle, I fight. It’s what we need.

          And, to paint a little hope on the matter, Bernie has introduced his single-payer bill again and there’s a dozen senators on board. 5 years ago there was only one senator on board, Bernie himself. The idea is not dead. Universality can happen, despite the ignorance and greed of its dissenters.

          Love you, brother. Thanks again for reading and for the enlightening response. Tom’s the only thing I know how to be!

  • I enjoy reading your writing Tom! It is truly my honest opinion! (not because your are a very insightful commentator to my own writing, which you are, by the way.) Your communicate so many truths, you have the ability to write with both clarity and passion, logic and intensity, especially here, when “Universal” anything nowadays triggers people’s fight instincts. You managed to write with that calm voice even as you “riled” people up!

    I had a conversation the other day with a friend exactly about this topic! I kept telling her that I find it hard to fathom how people in the US do not have universal healthcare, especially now that I live in Germany, where everyone has healthcare. But she said most people, like her parents, “would never accept it”, they didn’t think it was fair that other people should profit from their hard-earned money, that they had saved for their own healthcare, it would, essentially, make their hardwork and sacrifice meaningless. in other words, they think the system is fair because they believe it rewards the sensible and hardworking, and an increase in taxes is never met with enthusiasm.

    Here in Germany, 46% of our income (in the highest tax bracket) goes into taxes! Can you imagine people accepting this in the US? My eyes went wide when I first realized how much I had to pay in taxes, back when I first arrived, I asked my husband questions based on the same reasoning my friends parents had: Why pay for someone else’s healthcare? His answer: Because you will need it yourself someday. You may be healthy now, but if you get sick, you may not have the money to pay for it. With the high cost of treatment, the likelihood is high that you will not be able to afford it on your own, someday that needy person will most likely be you. Universal healthcare also protects the most vulnerable: the children, people can argue left and right about fairness and compensation, but the ones that suffer the most when it comes to healthcare would be the children and with them, everyone’s future.

    • Thank you so much, M.P.! Those are incredible compliments from a truly incredible and expressive writer. I’m extremely touched!

      It’s unfathomable, I agree, that the United States has not joined the rest of the modern world in ensuring universal coverage. It’s a crime, to be honest.

      I hear the argument all the time: it’s not fair to take someone’s earnings and give it to someone else. But we already do. We take people’s earning and build roads and bridges, deliver mail to everyone, build bombs and planes that can deliver them, and we give money to everyone working in the public sector. A world without taxation wouldn’t be much of a world, at all.

      But I’ll take it a step further: no one earns their money alone. If someone has made a fortune that fortune was not built without others. It required many in society to help that person “achieve” their wealth. Workers, distributors, buyers. They all had to come together in agreement on the need for a product or service, and they all had to put in their time and money for it. So, a rich person didn’t just earn riches in a vacuum; all of society helped. To ask that person then to help society in return is not too much to ask. We are all in this together. Anyone who doesn’t want to participate is free to leave the planet. 😉

      Thank you, again! Really appreciate the input!

  • As a Canadian RN, who spent a few years working in an American system, I sing the praises of our universal health care system every chance I get. I’m a socialist which means I do believe on a social security net. Yes people take advantage of the system but I still believe in it because I’ve seen it help those who need it the most.

    I believe in your universal income, although I’m not sure those who have the power and resources to actually see something like that into fruition would ever support such a radical notion.

    The liberal ideal, survival of the fittest, is hampering us. It is time to understand that there are many roles to play in society. Not all pay well but we would not exist without them. Time to think radically…time for a change.

    Great post and awesomely written!

    • It’s great to hear all these comments from people living outside the United States! My biggest detractor, a very conservative-minded friend of mine, tells me all the time that folks in countries with universal health care universally hate their systems. My knowledge of health care systems in other countries (although limited) tells me differently. His take? He travels all the time and talks to people “over there” and they hate it!

      Clearly, not true.

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece. We can change the world. It does change. I believe that!

  • I wrote a paper in 8th or 9th grade – 16 years ago – about universal health care. If a 14 year-old could understand the need for change, you would think that those smart people we follow around would have some inkling of it. But here we are, 16 years later, in the same spot as before- a debate that seems never ending. I know that there are a lot of nuances and aspects that other countries aren’t satisfied with concerning their own implementation of their systems, but at least they took some steps forward. Why was I writing about this topic at 14?

    Because my mom was battling cancer and we were losing everything – not only her, but financial devastation She had worked her entire life (factory setting), many over time hours, for literally nothing at the young age of 44 (I believe she was 44, perhaps younger). AND she had insurance…in the beginning. Until she lost employment due to the illness. It still ignites anger in me to think about it – because her story is the same as so many others.

    • It’s insane to think that is allowed to happen, in the purported “greatest nation on the planet.” And it happens all too often.

      glimmer, I’m sorry you had to go through that; you were both so young. When we are still forming our opinions of the world it is easy to let something like that make us bitter, forever. I don’t sense that in you.

      The hardliners against universal healthcare may have never faced what you’ve been through, but empathy doesn’t have to be earned from bad experience, any more than hope can be sustained through it.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story and perspective. We deserve a better world than those “smart people we follow around” have given us.

      • Thank you for your kind words. My story is way to similar to others experiences. It does have a lot to do with the “universal” wordage. I think its time to consider a different label for it.

        • Very interesting. I understand the stigma attached to the word “free,” but thought of “universal” as a sort of friendlier euphemism. I mean, who can’t want what’s best for all? But you’ve given me food for thought on that one… 🤔… Thank you!

  • A thought provoking post. We have argued much about healthcare in this house. The trouble being that Ireland is following the USA regarding healthcare. If you haven’t got it then you will probably be dead before a consultant will see you. However we are rearing young adults who feel they are entitled to money, a house etc and all provided by the state. Oh yes I agree a sticky topic.

    • Incredibly so! Gosh, I feel bad for the youth today. I don’t know about Ireland (though I’d love to learn!) but here in the US the opportunity for the youth dwindles as wages stagnate, corporate profits soar, and the middle class gets squeezed out. Modernization, automation, globalization, and neoliberal policies of the last 40 years have hurt the common man while the elite class recognizes all the gains. It’s tough. As prices rise, wages fall, and the ol’ “American dream” turns ever more to nightmare, the young have to wonder “what share will be left for me?”

      Housing, money, health care, education … it’s all necessary, but harder and harder to get. It’s no wonder they cry out. What we see as entitlement might just be a cry for help.

      I hope we can help.

      Thank you for stopping by and reading! Love your site!

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