What is it about America and change?

I know this is a somewhat nebulous question, but I often wonder what is it about the United States and our citizens that make a large percentage of our nation so reluctant and resistant to change?

We are one of the very few industrialized nations without a universal healthcare system for our people, yet in both 1994 and today so many of our citizens are willing to go to what amounts to arguably “radical/extremist” measures to prevent a system intended to help millions less fortunate than many of us on this very forum.

We are also one of - if not the - only nation who uses a clearly inferior system of weights and measurements, but the mere mention of a metric conversion to some people comes off as both offensive and non-American.

Is this reticence born of our independence as a nation passed down for generations or is it an arrogance and entitlement that this not insignificant percentage of our populace embraces without reason?

I would prefer this not be a political discussion but more about ideologies… that said, we know how these things go. :smiley:

WAG: They’re human beings.

Beyond that, I don’t think there is a General Questions-type answer; and I don’t think you’ve established that Americans are more averse to change, on the whole than citizens of other countries.

Let’s move this to IMHO for now.

General Questions Moderator

Change is bad

Tradition is what makes America great

It’s those damn Puritan values so embedded in America.

I wonder how many centuries until it is wiped clean from society?

Any way, that’s my feeling.

Well, now that we’re in IMHO…

If Americans were really resistant to change, we’d still be watching all our movies on our VCRs and making all our phone calls on our rotary phones.

Change is often difficult and expensive and hard to get used to. If it’s not going to make my life better, why should I embrace it? The metric system may be a superior system (though I’m not convinced), but the average American has a hard time seeing how it would make his or her own life any better, in exchange for all the expense and mental adjustment of switching over.

As for universal health care, plenty of Americans do support it. Some of those who oppose it do so not because it’s intended to help those less fortunate, but because they’re worried that it won’t actually do what it is intended to do. Or, they’re satisfied with the way things are now, at least for themselves and their loved ones, and fear that a change would put them at risk. And, yes, there is a strong strain in American thought of not trusting the government to have too much power over people’s lives.

This is a joke, right? I’m new enough here that I still don’t get all the humor.

Something something avatars.

I feel like 92%* of the questions involving “why America”, these days, can be traced back to the mighty dollar and who stands to benefit. Money certainly is power anywhere else in the world, but it’s keenly true in this society, among those who truly influence decisions and direction. That’s my short answer, anyway.

From there, the process of indoctrinating people becomes more easy than it should be, with the way information is pushed or leveraged (which is unsettling, given we have more open access to information than ever). A large part of our culture and discourse has come down to finding reasons to oppose alternative ideas, including those which are seemingly benign or good in principle. I know you didn’t want to take it here, but I really don’t feel it’s a question answered, without addressing it; personally, I feel the above method of thinking has largely trickled down from the way we’ve handled the increasingly dirty side of politics, for decades. The same way politicians assassinate character, becomes the same way we assassinate other ideas, or what have you. Almost any major push gets caught up in some proxy of a political battle, and so we’ll go so far as to spite ourselves indirectly, if it means we think we’ve gained an advantage. The sad part is, while many people remain distracted by representing what they think is ideology, others in the republic are representing their careers and the power that money and influence provides them.

So why change? To maintain the status quo, at worst, is still a win.

*Completely made up the number for emphasis.

chargerrich, you could also have mentioned using cheques and not having chips on your plastic cards. :wink:

The shortest answer is that America is the greatest country on earth, so people are resistant to changing it.


See also: dollar coins, abolishing the penny, etc.

IMO, many Americans are emotionally attached to the symbolism of things (“the dollar bill is a symbol of America!”), and that trumps any rational discussion about such a change.

Also, there seems to be a segment of Americans who automatically bristle at the argument of “it’s worked well in other countries” – I don’t know if it’s that they take pride in not being like Europe or Canada, or feel elitist about how America does things, or what, but it definitely seems to be a factor.

Finally, I think people let themselves become convinced that the change will be more difficult, for much longer, than it might actually be, and that makes the pain of the change seem insurmountable.

I’d assume it’s somewhat to do with the individualism so celebrated in America - personal change and advancement is encouraged, but societal change is seen as a ‘socialist’ imposition.

Not when the other players are improving theirs.

Change is a hot button topic here because of the politics associated with the word. It’s because when Americans think of change they see it as a changing of the guard and this means white males losing their grip on power. Obama won the presidency by promoting change and hope so it really rankled up the old guard to see that actually happen because it is a definite sign that there days in power are numbered. They put up there best old guard white guys against him twice and lost big time; they are like an animal in a trap because of that and are willing to chew off their own leg to become relevant again. You think they are upset now, wait until they elect a woman to the presidency next time and then a Hispanic. They know this change is a domino effect and are fighting tooth and nail to hold onto power.

Americans long ago co opted what were in fact traditional native values, back in frontier times. Integrating the ‘lone wolf, one against the tide’ mentality into it’s birth myth. The embers have been fanned over a couple of hundred years of literature and fim, till it’s deeply seated in the American identity. It makes an, almost too convenient, string to pluck when opposing change, I think.

The issue of people’s reluctance to change and the US Healthcare non-system are only tangentially related.

People generally like comfortable patterns, it gives them a sense of security, and change brings uncertainty, people are adverse to that. Some people benefit greatly from a current system, and those in general are the ruling class, able to influence those beneath them that the current system benefits them too (even if that is untrue).

But for many change is the only way for things to get better, once people realize that, they are less likely to fall in line with the ruling class’ viewpoints.

I get the humor in it and even chuckled as I wrote it, feeling like some old man recalling the glory days of Big Bands and Malt Shops :smack: (for the record, I’ll take my Viking Death Metal thank you) :smiley:

But seriously, I think talking about healthcare and the metric system and more importantly how far some people will go to oppose it is a tad bit different than the evolution of technology (check writing, albums, VCRs and Blockbuster).

I mean I like to think I am as patriotic as they come, have a military lineage on my dad’s side and have so much respect for our service men. But can anyone say that Canada’s health system is not superior to what we have here? Why would we not want that in America?

Maybe it is ONLY issues that are political in nature where this shows its ugly head. Because lets face it, save for a few extremists, what is going on in Washington right now is not good for anyone, regardless of which side of the aisle you support.

in order to form a more perfect union…
You see, even the founding fathers couldn’t say there was anything wrong. They had to say we’re going to make this ‘more perfect’. It’s perfect now, but we’ll make it more perfect.

I think for a whole lot of people out there, it’s a combination of being relatively content with their current situation AND the potential that any proposed changes may upset their applecart for the worse.

Look at it this way- if you’re a couple in your late 50s, and you have your retirement plans all straightened out, and all of a sudden the government starts proposing changes that may increase your tax burden or change your investment plans, or health coverage or whatever, that stuff is very scary to you, even if that change may end up being beneficial overall.

That’s a lot of what happens with the universal health care concept; seniors and pre-seniors see it as something that may do a few things that are negative:

  1. Prevent them from seeing their own doctors, and/or force them to go to impersonal clinics.
  2. Increase already long wait times
  3. Prevent them from getting treatment they’re willing to pay for.
  4. Cost more money than they already pay for less (or that’s how it’s perceived).

Considering that those groups I mentioned are among the very most politically active, they hold a lot of sway.

There’s also a difference in fundamental tradition and outlook between the US and many other countries; in Europe, the working class and middle class tended to be allied against the nobility in most of the revolutions and social upheavals. I gather that there’s not nearly so much middle/working class friction as there is in the US.

In the US, the middle-class has traditionally been the largest single group, and there’s always been middle/working class friction, as the middle class doesn’t want to be lumped in with them, and consider the working class and poor as being people who didn’t plan or make the correct decisions and are in that group as a consequence.

Most proposals for social change tend to be perceived as taxing the middle and upper classes in order to provide the working class and poor some sort of benefit or service. In the case of healthcare, most middle class families have it taken care of more or less, and see universal healthcare as being a way to soak them for more money to throw at those who didn’t plan or make correct decisions. When looked at in that light, it’s easier to see why people would be much more resistant to change in terms of the healthcare system, especially considering that nameless people who live somewhere else hardly ping most people’s empathy meters.

Nobody gives a shit about the metric system anyway; for things where metric really provides an advantage, it’s already been metric-ified, and for the rest, like cans of beer, deli meat, etc… it just doesn’t matter whether I get a 12 oz can of beer or 355 ml of beer, or 1/4 lb of pastrami versus 113 grams of pastrami. So why change?