The people came first

None of the reformers I have described disputed the importance of research or any particular scientific findings. These neopopulists all admired modern medicine; they merely wanted it to be accessible to the lowliest members of society. Which is to say that these were battles of privilege versus equality.

‘The most important issue at stake in the battle between the Saskatchewan government and the doctors of that province is not medicare but democracy,’ declared the Toronto Globe and Mail a few weeks into the strike. ‘The professional, in whatever line, must always be subject, in the final analysis, to the laity, or democracy cannot function.’

This was exactly what was wrong with democracy, others screamed: it gave the unlettered ‘laity’ power over their betters. George Sokolsky, an American syndicated columnist, thundered his support for the striking doctors of Saskatchewan on the grounds that they were ‘fighting a battle for the professional men in this era of mobocracy’. Sokolsky, a ferocious anticommunist, saw the doctors struggling to keep their heads up as the rest of the world drowned beneath the waves of equality. ‘It used to be that human beings respected each other for their worth, but today the motto seems to be “I’m as good as you are”.’ This was a false and pernicious doctrine, the columnist raged. Everyone in a country like ours can speak their mind, but as the world grows more complicated, ‘only the expert can have an opinion on an increasing number of subjects.’