0 comments Thursday, August 27, 2009

Melissa and I recently did a 20-mile bike ride that included parts of downtown Fort Worth. It's a beautiful city in many ways, if you've never had a chance to see it.

We mostly rode along the Trinity River, and took a short break at the Water Gardens.

I thought downtown Fort Worth was a pretty fun place to ride in traffic, but hopefully it's about to get better. The city is proposing several bike-friendly improvements that it hopes will encourage both commuting and recreational biking.

1 comments Friday, August 14, 2009

I wanted to post a link to the article that Dan referred to in his last comment. I read it just yesterday and it's chock full of good ideas. It's an op-ed in the WSJ by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. (Seriously, though, I've got to get off politics and back to baby pictures pretty soon, this stuff just weighs on you after a while...)

I think Mackey highlights the philosophical underpinnings of the health care debate when he says:

Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America.

That's the widely-held view of the American right, and I certainly understand it and mostly agree with it. But I also understand why not everyone does. Here's an op-ed by British columnist Ian Dunt that expressed the opposite view:

Besides, basic human decency makes a debate over 'socialised healthcare', as the American right calls it, utterly irrelevant. If healthcare isn't a right - rather than a privilege – then I don't know what is. Healthcare isn't a Turkish delight chocolate bar, or a Jacuzzi. Healthcare is life.

That's an interesting point. Is health care life? Are food and shelter? The Declaration of Independence claims we have a right to life, along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Does a right to life imply a right to food, shelter, and health care?

I don't know which side I come down on. But I do agree with something Dunt says later:

We live in a mixed economy. We aim to have enough free market to control the state, and provide the things we want. But we also need enough socialism to ensure we do not live like savages, the weakest amongst us starving to death on the street while a rich woman buys a Gucci handbag. Socialism without capitalism turns to tyranny. Capitalism without socialism turns to barbarism.

There is no getting around this. We are already socialist. We have "socialized safety" in our police, fire, and military protections. Socialism is not a bad thing at all. We just want to come up with the best mix of capitalism and socialism that prevents either big government or big business from gaining too much power and taking away our freedoms.

I don't know whether health care is a privilege or a right, or whether it's best provided by the free market or the government. But I don't trust either implicitly enough to make a decision on ideological grounds. I'm not willing to hold the default position that deregulation is always best, that everything works better in the private sector. The last twelve months have shown that big companies will screw us all over given half the chance.

We know that our politicians lie to us, but we need to remember that private companies do to. They invented advertising, after all. We know that the government can be slow and inefficient, but we need to remember that it wasn't government producing crappy cars in the 70s and 80s, it's not government keeping us waiting on the tarmac for hours at a time, and it's not government denying our legitimate insurance claims based on technicalities. Without the government our paint would be full of lead and out prospectuses empty of material information. We need to be skeptical of both, and figure out a balance between the two that will keep them both in check.