2.27.2011

A More Perfect Union

I enjoy studying the perspective of our little blog clutch even if I don't always agree. Reading and rereading one of our local friends blog post on government I realize that I have a very different take on the matter.
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My government does not trust me. I have never taken a penny that didn’t belong to me. I try to live an ethical life. My days are filled with regulations and oversights that mostly make my job a lot less pleasant. On those days when I become most frustrated with this state of affairs, I retire to our ample home library and seek out one particular case of books. Seven shelves floor to ceiling in a four foot section of the collection. Every one of the books in this section reminds me why all these annoying regulations are absolutely necessary. This section is on the excesses of medicine, religion, and business (and government). Many are more than excesses - they are evil. Not all are the Nazi doctor evil. Some are the Tuskegee experiment kind of evil. Poor black men exposed to Syphilis when it could be treated so that American doctors could watch the natural history of the disease. An evil exposed during the lifetimes of most who read this. The main difference is that the perpetrators of Tuskegee weren’t hanged at Nuremberg. Faces and names of people harmed by medical experiments run by people who cared nothing for the humans they mistreated in order to conduct their research. People like Henrietta Lacks. Cancer cells harvested without her permission or knowledge became the first sustainable culture line of human cells (HeLa) and led to some of the greatest achievements in modern medicine and our understanding of cell biology ( I once worked in a lab that used this line of cells in its research. The donor’s name was misidentified as Helen Lane for decades.) Billions have been made on patented cell products derived from her cells, while her family cannot afford medical care and mostly live in poverty. Henrietta’s own cells experimentally injected into healthy poor prisoners and women without their knowledge.

Ground water contaminated drilling for natural gas. Gasoline refined from oil purchased at lower prices before the troubles in Libya, is being sold at inflated prices because of the increased price of oil. No doubt more record breaking quarterly earnings are in store for big oil. The disparity between the salaries of workers and their executives has grown exponentially. Pharma shifting sales of questionable products overseas at the first sign of trouble.

Actions conducted by men and women who did not think themselves greedy or evil. And so I am required to provide informed consent to my patients. Expected to document the reasoning for my actions. Required to respect their autonomy. Not because of my profession’s ethical codes but because of government. My government does not trust me. History provides abundant reasons why it can’t afford to. This nation was founded in order to form a more perfect union. Not a perfect one. Just better than religion, science, business, and professionals could be trusted to create without we the people asking a lot of hard questions and looking over their shoulders. Our security is costly. Social safety nets are expensive. Just like liberty and justice and national defense. Business, and special interests do not care a damn about we the people. For that we only have the annoying, distrusting, and expensive hand of we the people. Weaken that at our peril. Our government is wildly imperfect - except in comparison with any of our other institutions. Science can provide the needed answers to many of our questions, but democracy protects the people.

7 comments:

Michael Lockridge said...

Sounds a lot like what I posted. Hmmm. Well, the theme does, at any rate. Medicine is often poison administered under supervision to try to gain some improvement. Government can be like that.

I worked in government. Very low in government. I was paid to hold people prisoner. It is somewhat like surgery. Violence to accomplish good. I saw good government people, and bad.

Life between anarchy and tyranny. How much freedom is security worth? What is the value of freedom if you are poor and lack resources?

We don't do too badly. We don't do very well. I don't really have much in the way of solutions. I don't much trust those who say they do.

Fortunately, sunrises, sunsets, and glorious vistas are not particularly expensive, nor exclusive. Not that someone wouldn't either regulate them or try to gain a monopoly on them and charge me a fee, if they could. But they can't. I will continue to enjoy these, as I always have.

Continue striving for good. Kill the enemy gently.

Harvey said...

It has been said (I parapharse)that "Democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by Man, except for all the others." And, "In our form of Democracy, we usually elect the quality of Government we deserve."

Since both the form of government and those elected to administer it are, by definition, less than perfect, it should be no surprise that those of us under its benevolent control (hopefully self imposed)must be overseen and directed in our daily lives. When those endeavors include sanctioned behaviors (i.e. Medicine, Airlines, etc.) which carry a high potential for harm to other citizens, I suppose that it is not a bad thing that our government does not "trust" us to behave as we should at every opportunity. As a physician, I understand only too well what Pliny points out here. Organized Medicine in the U.S. has a less than stellar record in policing itself.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Placing power in the hands of Government is often dangerous - placing it in the hands of individuals always is. That is why I feel so strongly about opposing what the right is trying to accomplish. weaken government and labor. Two imperfect solutions to problems that the predecessors of those who fund the right's assault created in the first place. Billionaires funding efforts to weaken oversights that they claim impair them? How many billions is enough? Government may be misguided at times but business is always about money and power. Yes we need strong business but by grinding up workers as its grist to fund bigger payouts to people already wealthy.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Micheal I think we have touched again on that most fundamental difference between a reasoned conservative and a reasoned liberal (as opposed to zealots): the conservative distrusts government more than they distrust individuals and private interests, whereas the liberal mistrusts private interests and individuals more than they do the government.

My tendency toward the liberal side is because I see that many of the power interests looking to reduce oversight are the very ones most likely to greatly profit from it.

Michael Lockridge said...

I don't understand the quest for power, or the quest for wealth. I usually just want enough to get by. Then again, I tend to be a minimalist in most things. Adequatitude. Enough is enough. More is too much.

I just don't like regulation for regulation's sake. The confinement of individuals to a pre-established pattern. I love the social fringes because they are interesting. They tend to be regulated out of existence because they are seen as threatening.

Strange attitude for a man who held people prisoner on behalf of the state for over twenty years, isn't it?

Harry C Pharisee said...

An honest utilitarian argument for government's necessity.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Mike, I don't think the social fringes are where the threats really come from. The threats are usually the old fashioned ones from antiquity - greed, power lust, and inhumanity to man. The power brokers try to pull the bait and switch to make the marginal types look like the problem, but it's always to hide their old dirty tricks.