Thursday, March 6. 2008
Noticed this in the Wichita Eagle this morning: Kathleen Hennessey: Vegas clinic may have sickened thousands:
A day or two ago there was another story about people who had dental fixtures (crowns, bridges) installed that turned out to be tainted with lead. Last year there was a scandal in Kansas City where a hard-pressed pharmacist was trying to squeeze some profits by diluting chemo treatments. These stories remind one how utterly dependent we are on our ability to trust businesses to provide professional quality goods and services. We have no way to check up on every such detail, and most of us wouldn't even think of such matters -- without trust there is literally no end to our consumption by paranoia.
On the other hand, it is plain that businesses have incentives to cut costs and scrape profits any way they can get away with. Their opportunities to do so increase when we cut back government regulation and inspections, and when we limit the opportunities for injured parties to sue for malfeasance -- trends that have been amply supported by propaganda from right-wing think tanks and acts and legislation from the Bush administration. But more damaging still has been the propagation of the "greed is good" attitude, which urges everyone to look out for themselves, and blames those who fall victim for failing to take responsibility for their own fates. As this attitude takes over, we will sink ever deeper into a Hobbesian war of all against all. That this hasn't happened thus far is because most workers and more than a few businessmen still have some sense of professional ethics, but these examples show how those ethics are eroding.
On the same page was an article about how 5 million elderly Americans are now at risk of starvation. This again reflects the right-wing's "personal responsibility" propaganda: blame those who are unable to cope with the system, in many cases people who have merely suffered personal misfortune that hardly anyone could have anticipated and prevented -- a neat way to excuse the fortunate from the shame they should feel over the plight of their fellow citizens. This article could also have pointed out that we normally associate stories of starvation with third world countries. That this is happening here is one more proof that the United States is becoming one.
The lead article on the same page was about Bush endorsing McCain for president. The baton passes. The legacy continues.