Talking Points for One Particular Left-Leaning Liberal

First of all, I guess you could get kind of crazy debating terms like “leftist,” “socialist,” “liberal,” “classical liberal,” and so on. And because of the risk of getting kind of crazy, I have no inclination to debate these terms. Let’s just say I believe in trying to make the world better by supporting things like accessible healthcare, accessible education, public libraries, maintained infrastructure, a habitable planet, and things of that nature. I try not to get freaked out by all the names thrown at people like me, and I try not to waste too much time trying to find the label that best fits.

But anyone would agree that I am not right-wing, conservative, alt-right, or any of that. So I think you’d say I’m on “the left” or “left of center.” What’s more, there are a few things I don’t like about the way other people on the left frame their debates. I wouldn’t dream of telling other people how to describe their own ideas, but I do dream of telling people how I like to describe my ideas, so here you go.

Free stuff—I don’t like all the talk about free stuff, whether it is education, healthcare, fire services, police protection, freeways, libraries, or air. Nothing is free, and we should all be able to agree on that. What I want is an equitable form of cost sharing. We all share the cost so that no one is left out. Why do I want my neighbor’s kids to get a free education, even if I don’t think I benefit directly? Because I want to live in a society where people are educated and empowered to share in the promotion of a functioning society. And I want their education to be useful beyond making them good employees.

Wealth distribution—Let’s face it, wealth is distributed. If wealth is going to exist at all, it will be distributed in some sort of pattern. It is absolutely pointless to say you are opposed to a patterned distribution of wealth. So you’re saying you’re actually just opposed to wealth re-distribution, which you imagine is a very different animal. You just don’t want your hard-earned money taken away through taxes to make someone better off. You can’t imagine that anyone else has done anything to make you better off, because you do not want to imagine that. Unlike some people on the left, I’m not saying rich people shouldn’t exist. I’m only saying that if rich people exist, poor people should not.

Market solutions—Some people anthropomorphize capital markets and claim they can fix all our problems. Sometimes entrepreneurs come up with some pretty good ideas, and that’s fine and dandy, but the people had good ideas, not the markets. Also, no markets are free. All markets are the products of the specific agreements various humans have put in place. Those agreements are constantly in flux and are subject to negotiation. “Free” markets do not exist. You will never find a market running wild in nature. I guess this is as good a place as any to say that I see no reason to completely eliminate private health insurance companies. It is only necessary to ensure that no one needs private health insurance.

Rights—to say everyone has a right to free speech is only to say I think society functions better when the government does not restrict speech in most cases. While some people believe “rights” come from God or nature or someplace else, you don’t have to believe that to use the word. It may annoy philosophers and political scientists, but a right is something someone thinks people should have. A “legal right” or “guaranteed right” is just something that was popular enough with people to be written in to law. Of course, it’s your right to believe whatever you want.

You might be thinking I should have some sort of summary conclusion or something, but I can assure you that I do not, so that’s that.

Essay: Some Conflicts of Interest Have Little Conflict

Let’s say you make a lot of money in some industry or another, and you’re lucky enough to get an appointment to an agency that regulates that very same industry. Your regulatory decisions could affect your bottom line, and so you have a conflict of interest and you should either be forced to give up your job as a regulator or get rid of all your financial interests in the industry with the provision that you may never acquire financial assets in the industry again. And if you’re a doctor on the payroll of a pharma company, your employment status most definitely affects your medical decisions.

That’s a pretty simple and obvious concept to anyone who doesn’t work in industry. People who work in any given industry tend to think “outsiders” wouldn’t know enough about the industry to regulate it, so of course you’d need someone with major conflicts to understand what really needs to be done. And so it goes.

But other people are described as being conflicted when they really don’t have any conflicts at all. Let’s say you are a researcher, and you apply to a corporation for funding for your research. Congratulations, you now have a huge grant from Megacorp Inc. to fund your lab, materials, research assistants, etc. in hopes of developing new products. You are now just a handsomely rewarded employee of Megacorp Inc. Your only interest is in developing new products for them.

It’s true that some will describe you as conflicted because they think you should be looking out for the public good, but that really isn’t in your job description. You’re just developing products.

And this is why we need public funding for research. So we can demand that researchers we are paying work for the public good and not in the interest of for-profit corporations.

man next to doctor
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Don’t bother saving the world

In the grand scheme of things, worlds, suns, and other fabulous celestial bodies come and go all the time, so the loss of one more wouldn’t really make any difference at all, so you can relax. And, the Earth isn’t really under any serious existential threat at the moment, anyway. I mean, it’s getting warmer, but planets do that from time to time. It quite literally is not the end of the world. Hear George Carlin explain here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNxNgfVzAvo&w=560&h=315]The world will go on for some time, I would imagine, unless it collides with something or some other heretofore unimagined accident occurs. I mean, I guess it is possible the Earth will spontaneously break up into tiny particles and become another ring around Saturn, but the chances of that seem infinitesimally small.

But you’re still worried about the state of the world (aren’t you?) because you’re selfish. Only you don’t think you’re being selfish. You’re just worried about all the pretty flowers, the coral reefs, the poor people in other countries, and the cute animals that will disappear, severely affecting your enjoyment of travel documentaries. To be fair, if the plants and animals on the Earth are capable of wishing anything about you at all, I’m sure they do wish you would either go away or at least clean up your mess, so the anti-litter campaign is probably well received by the non-human inhabitants of the planet.

Somewhere deep down, you must fear that if the world ends, or even just changes slightly, you might also end and leave the world to fight for itself, which it could certainly do better without you, anyway. So, let’s face it, you’re really just fighting for your own survival. Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Humans always seem to find a solution to every problem.

Most inhabitants of the Earth are congregated near large bodies of water such as oceans. If the sea levels rise, you’re thinking you may have to move further inland. It might help a little. The folks who already live inland will most likely welcome you with open arms and give you plenty of food and fresh water as most people have already proven to be extremely concerned about the plight of immigrants and refugees.

Your arrival in the new place isn’t likely to cause too much disruption. They may have to expand the hospital a little, but it shouldn’t take too long. Tax revenue is sure to be increasing, so building more roads, schools, power plants, water processing centers, and so on will be easy enough.

As people like yourself travel around, you will carry germs with you. Things you may have become accustomed to may or may not cause problems for your new neighbors. It’s possible everyone will stay healthy. Of course, animals will also be moving and changing their migration patterns, but that should be all right. It’s not like anyone has ever gotten a serious disease from animals. I mean, whoever heard of bird flu or pig flu or anything like that? It’s absurd.

And no one worries about plagues, anymore, because they haven’t happened in a long time. The viruses that caused great epidemics in the past are long dormant. Who could imagine them being reintroduced into human society as a result of thawing ice or something? Preposterous. New bacteria aren’t likely to emerge, either, as we’ve already dealt with them. Scientists these days develop vaccines and new antibiotics at the drop of a hat. Infectious diseases are simply no longer a matter of concern. It’s hard to imagine a pandemic wiping out billions of people, certainly. That kind of thing doesn’t happen where you’ll be living.

As you travel, you may meet fellow travelers moving away from wildfires, drought, inland flooding, failed crops, and so on. Everyone will be understanding and work together to divide the available food as equitably as possible. The police and military might be called in to help smooth over any disagreements. You may see a few skirmishes crossing borders and so forth, but new drones and fortified structures will offer substantial protection to the good immigrants, like yourself. The people who die in conflict should have been more careful.

It’s possible extreme conditions could lead to occasional power failures, which might impact travel and communication. Some flights may be grounded. Some traffic signals might not work as expected. I guess there is a slight chance it will affect rail transportation. Navigation might be a little difficult. If you have a good signal, you can upload a funny meme about it. I mean, really, global warming shouldn’t affect satellite communication, should it? It’s not like airport runways could get too hot for planes to land, rail could warp under extreme heat, or roads could become impassable from melting or buckling. That kind of thing only happens in movies.

So don’t worry about the old Earth. She’ll keep spinning as long as she is destined to, with or without you. And don’t be too concerned about yourself, either. You’ve survived this far. Surely your good luck will continue. It’s a shame about the animals going extinct, though, and the poor people who have lost their homes. And you’ll always have your memories of how things were.

 

Democracy Died (#poem)

woman holding protest sign
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Democracy died in the Senate chamber
When Supreme Court justice was never heard
Through a guileless force of legal obstruction.
Respect for law fell like old holiday garland.
A complacent nation did not demur,
Thinking true fascism could not recur,
Power transferred to a political poseur.
A complacent nation watched it’s legal destruction
And Democracy died.
They quickly forgot what they once were,
A nation of laws designed to deter
A tyrant seeking freedom’s complete destruction.
As the confident joked about his linguistic aberrations,
They let the unthinkable occur
And Democracy died.

Things People Know About Marxism (#poem #NaPoWriMo)

marx_head_3The prompt for Day 9 of NaPoWriMo is to write a list poem. I decided to write a list of things people know about Marxism.

Most people seem to know
That Marxism has something
To do with seizing
The means of production.

They seem unclear about
Who seizes it or what they
Do with it once seized,
But I guess it’s a start.

Oh, and they know
That Marxism means
Taking according to ability
And giving according to need.

Most people assume that
Means taking from good people
Like themselves and giving
To the undeserving poor.

They forget, I suppose,
That they may have needs
As well and that life is luck,
But what can you do?

Oh, and finally, people know
That Marxism means gulags
For their type, so they are
Afraid of democratic socialists.

Growing Demons in the Garden (#poem)

They hate him but everyday say his name.trump rally

The insults and mocking are more powerful

Than the most potent growth hormones.

As he grows, he bellows, drawing

Minion demons near, frightening the herd.

Luckily, it seems, the demons are weak

And easily defeated, but each

Lopped off head seems to summon

Ten, 100, or 1000 more automata

Bringing the battle to their betters.

Perhaps someone should have built a wall.

Perhaps someone should have built an entire house.

While flailing at a dust devil in the desert,

The hordes, who previously had little to do,

Were stirred to action—to destruction.

Perhaps it is time to turn away from spectacle

And focus on preservation or even flourishing.

The jokes have grown repetitive, anyway,

And the audience is weary of laughing desperation.

Just say you want to do good, you know what is good,

And you love the others.

Set your shoulder to the stone,

Dig in your heels,

And push.

If Sisyphus can do it,

I’m sure you will be at the crest soon.

The Kids are Proper Communists (#poem)

(Note: This poem is about the younger generation in general and not about specific individuals.)

I’ve always supported freedom and equalityScreenshot 2019-02-18 at 09.28.18

I wanted minorities to have equal opportunity.

I believed in promoting a liberal social order,

Showing non-aggression and peace at the border.

I wanted to teach the world to live in perfect harmony,

So that our new Utopia would all be down to me,

But my kids are proper communists,

They want to overthrow the state.

They will give everyone what they need,

And take whatever the wealthy can pay.

Workers will take the means of production,

And profit will be a thing of the past.

Even if there’s no greed reduction,

The billionaire power will never last.

They’ve declared private property a lie,

And reliance on investment income will die.

The worker and his value no longer alienated.

The greed of the bourgeoisie no longer sated.

My kids are proper communists,

Syndicalism will arrive any day.

My kids are proper communists.

You better get the hell out of the way.

Corporatocracy and Me

The East India Company was the first modern corporation,

And it is credited with introducing the world to markets that are free,

But it brought the free market enforced by the world’s largest standing army.

It was the beginning of colonialism, imperialism, and Corporatocracy.

The EIC introduced the world to spices, tea, and global slavery.

Some in the United States rebelled with a giant tea party,

It set off a revolution but didn’t bring down corporate rule,

The robber baron bosses soon controlled trade, news, and even schools.

We may think their practices went against the principles of enlightenment.

But the EIC employed such men as John Locke, JS Mill, and Jeremy Bentham.

So the first corporation took control of public attitudes and education.

Promulgating equality for all European, land-owning men.

While denying rights to all those considered less than human.

When the US tried to recognise non-white men with an amendment

Giving them equal protection from abuse and harassment,

The railroad said, “Hey, corporations are people, too,”

And the courts went along as they always do.

 

Well, what’s past is past, and now it’s all good.

We’ve grown used to the idea of corporate personhood.

Citizens United taught us money is speech

You have a voice, but Exxon’s has more reach.

And Monsanto, now Bayer, wants to feed the entire globe,

By controlling food, seeds, farming, drugs, and microbes.

You have no other choice than to just trust them,

As manufacturers lead us on a race to the bottom.

Apple computers are built in factories with suicide nets.

Because conditions are so bad workers prefer death.

Our clothes are made in sweatshops where workers burn.

We’ve no choice to buy them is all that we’ve learned.

In 2007, the financial sector destroyed the economy,

But workers bailed them out with hard-earned money.

Now we’ve cut funding for public education.

Replacing it with the public/private partnership.

Giving business control of science, arts, and research.

IF you want unbiased info, you’re left in the lurch.

But what about corporations great philanthropy?

Don’t They give developmental aid from sense of charity?

No, They buy up or steal resources and flood markets with free food,

Destroying the economy and local businesses for good.

You can scream about Trump or any other entity,

But corporations are your true enemy.

 

In US, Illness is Financial Anxiety

In August 2016, I moved from Texas to the northwest of England. Last summer, I while walking in the local park I slipped on a stepping stone and sprained my ankle. As the pain pulsed through my body and my ankle began to swell, I began to wonder whether I needed an ambulance, an x-ray, or possibly even surgery.

I did not think about the cost of an ambulance or whether my insurance might refuse to pay for it, the cost of an x-ray if needed, the price of surgery, or even co-pays for medication or any possible treatments. I was worried only about my condition and getting better.

I enjoy hiking, cycling, dirt bike riding and other sports with risk of injury, so I’m not unaccustomed to dealing with the occasional injury. With similar injuries in the United States, though, I always thought immediately of the cost. Mind you, I was never uninsured, but even with insurance proved by the college where I taught, a shattered tibial plateau in 2001 that required two surgeries and months of physical therapy left me with surmountable but daunting bills long after I had recovered. Since 2001, prices have risen dramatically along with higher deductibles, narrower networks, and higher copays for treatment.

In the United States, illness or injury means an immediate calculation of costs and threats to financial security even for working people securely in the middle class. For others, the situation is much worse. Of course, long-term illness or injury can throw middle-class workers out of work, which means they will lose their insurance, unless they can afford COBRA payments to maintain their insurance for a limited time after employment. In my experience, COBRA payments are much higher than people expect or are able to pay.

As a student in medical humanities, I read many narratives of illness. They all focused on suffering from the condition, facing mortality, finding or making meaning in the face of prolonged pain, but not so much about what truly horrifies Americans when they fall ill. Illness or injury should be a time to focus on healing, if possible, or confronting or preparing for prolonged pain in the case of a chronic condition, or to prepare for death in the case of terminal illnesses. It should not be a time to worry about financial ruin for oneself and one’s family.

The study of medical ethics offers many opportunities to contemplate challenging philosophical problems with rich and varied intellectual interest. However, access to healthcare is by far the most pressing problem in the United States. Anyone concerned about illness, suffering, and medicine must assume the obligation to relieve the suffering created by unaffordable healthcare.