Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Anomalies In The News

Not So Free Enterprise
If we elect a hippie president, can she force us to buy marijuana? The Supreme Court is currently considering a similar question: can the government make us buy a product that’s as illegal in the first world as smoke is here?
Toke on this: it’s unlawful to sell basic health care for profit in just about every country whose citizens wear shoes most of the time.
It’s verboten because health is a right. Turning it into a business is a crime because it would deny care to those who can’t afford the product. Since the goal is having a healthy, long-lived population at a reasonable cost to society, the most humane, economical and efficient way to achieve that goal is to make health care a public service like fire or police protection. Or so modern capitalist countries agreed decades and decades ago.
In the U.S., which has resigned from the first world, health is a hugely profitable business. The most lucrative part of it consists of financial companies who do no health care themselves but merely broker its provision.
After secretly consulting with its obscenely remunerated executives, the Obama administration promoted a law guaranteeing the vast profits of these financial companies by obliging citizens to buy their overpriced products. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of this giveaway. Odds on, it will give the big money crowd what it wants. But you never know. One or two of those irascible reactionaries on the court may really believe in free markets. Meanwhile, people living in the first world will be taking summer vacations on the money they saved by way of publicly-financed health care.

Rome In Havana
On arriving at Havana, the pope urged Cuba to “strive to build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity, and which better reflects the goodness of God.”
That, to be sure, is a worthy goal for every polity. But Cubans could hardly be blamed for treating that message as ironical rather than inspirational. A very well educated people, particularly on their history with the Roman church, they were aware that those words were uttered by one of the most reactionary and secretive of the modern popes. That history told them that when Cuba was under Spain up until 1898, “priests were immune from prosecution in civil court, church buildings were erected and clergy members were paid partly out of state coffers. The Church's authority was backed by the might of the state and the force of law, and the profession of other religions in the colonies was illegal. Furthermore, until the 1880s, there was no marriage other than the canonical”
At the least, Joseph Ratzinger’s pontificate represents nostalgia for those good old days, if not worse. Another irony: though they approach it from different sides of history, the medieval pope and the Marxist Castro tend to agree on the excesses of capitalism.