Nothing in the Constitution makes the market sacrosanct. The Constitution does not forbid an array of public policies designed to maximize training and educational opportunities for those who have insufficient means of acquiring them. The Constitution does not prohibit an array of redistributionist policies in the form of progressive income and estate taxes and social welfare programs. Whether such initiatives are wise or not is the ultimate political question. It is difficult to argue, however, that the Constitution elliptically prevents Congress from softening the hardships produced by a strictly competitive system. To say that the Constitution removes such choices from popular government imparts inflexibility to our entire social system and exacerbates the edges of class divisions. Of course, a real danger exists that political intervention may destroy, for a time, the health and vitality of the market. However, the political constraints on market activity can be loosened and relaxed if conditions become too discouraging and too devoid of incentive for too many Americans.
(J. Harvie Wilkinson III, "The Dimensions of American Constitutional Equality," Law and Contemporary Problems 55 [winter 1992]: 235-51, at 250)
Regarding your editorial "The Megrahi Prognosis" (May 22) and comments about Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's "end-stage" health care and comparing different health-care systems: Lacking in the discussion is quality of life in the latter stages of a person's life. Is merely prolonging life the goal of a health-care system?
Are there not consequences for the public when limited health resources are used solely to prolong a rapidly declining life? Is there not an impact on the rising premium costs to any health-care system when extreme life-extending measures are made? Who absorbs the costs for those decisions? I, for one, would much rather channel health-care dollars into preventive programs for youth than funnel them into the hospital bed of a slowly dying man.
John Burk, D.M.D.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Note from KBJ: What we don't want is bureaucrats making quality-of-life determinations.
After many years of searching for the perfect conservative periodical, I finally found it: Claremont Review of Books. I've been a subscriber for one year (it's a quarterly) and just renewed for three more years at $55.95 (which comes to $4.66 per issue). I read every word of every issue, and always learn something from each essay or review. Check it out.
With a background possibly nautical and even piratical, Hugh Glass had come to the frontier by way of a Pawnee village where he learned wilderness skills. His exploits justified the appraisal of one who trapped with him: "In point of adventures dangers & narrow escapes & capacity for endurance, & the sufferings which befel him, this man was preeminent—He was bold, daring, reckless & eccentric to a high degree; but was nevertheless a man of great talents & intellectual as well as bodily power—But his bravery was conspicuous beyond all his other qualities for the perilous life he led."
Proceeding apart from the column as his defiant independence usually dictated, Glass and another man, Moses "Black" Harris, entered a thicket and surprised a grizzly sow and her cubs. The bear reared on her hind feet to attack as Glass sent a rifle ball into her chest. The wound proved fatal, but not quickly enough. As Glass clambered up a tree, she seized him and threw him to the ground, lacerating him from head to foot with two swipes of the razorlike talons of her paws. Pursued by one of the yearling cubs, Harris ran from the thicket, then turned and brought down the smaller animal. [Andrew] Henry's men raced to the scene. The sow sprawled dead atop Glass. They pulled off the carcass. He lay on his back, bleeding from gashes in his scalp, face, chest, back, shoulder, arm, hand, and thigh. With each gasp, blood bubbled from a puncture in his throat. As Daniel Potts remarked, Hugh Glass had been "tore nearly to peases."
He should have been dead by now. The men bandaged his wounds but could do little else. By the next morning he still had not died. Henry could tarry no longer. At any moment he could encounter Arikaras. Fashioning a crude litter, the men hoisted Glass on their shoulders and resumed the march. They made agonizingly slow progress. Finally, after several days, Henry resolved that he could no longer risk the entire party for a man certain to die. He offered an enticing sum to anyone who would volunteer to stay behind and care for Glass until he died. John S. Fitzgerald and nineteen-year-old Jim Bridger stepped forward.
Shortly after Henry reached his fort, Fitzgerald and Bridger came in with Glass's rifle and other possessions and reported him dead and buried. He was not. Though feverish and prostrated, he burned with a will to live and seek vengeance on the men who had abandoned him. He could not walk, but he could crawl. Berries and a torpid rattlesnake smashed with a stone provided his first nourishment. The Grand River supplied water. He dug edible roots with a sharp rock. Chance turned up a dead buffalo with marrow still rich in the bones. Later wolves brought down a buffalo calf that he succeeded in seizing. In a six-week demonstration of incredible strength, fortitude, luck, and determination, Glass crawled back to Fort Kiowa, nearly two hundred miles. He then set forth to track down those who had deserted him.
While world leaders debate whether Syria has violated international law or a cease-fire agreement, and the United Nations Security Council issues a condemnation, murderous thugs in Syria continue to slaughter innocent men, women and children.
I implore these leaders to stop the debates and follow humane law, the law of morality that dictates that world leaders do not stand by while the killing of countless people continues day after day. Real leadership does not allow anything this horrific, or let it continue.
JANICE L. WINCHESTER Seattle, May 29, 2012
Note from KBJ: How much do you want to bet that Janice Winchester opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003? Wasn't Saddam Hussein as bad as, or worse than, Bashar al-Assad? Consistency, please.
As many of you know, I ride my bike once a week—on Saturdays. If there's a rally, I do the rally; if there's no rally, I go out on my own or with friends. Years ago, when I was gung-ho about cycling, I rode at least twice a week and often three times. It's the only way to improve. Although I run during the week, and have for years, it's not the same. You use different muscles while running. Aerobically, running helps my cycling; but it doesn't give me any leg strength.
Today, to change the pace, I drove 7.5 miles to River Legacy Parks in Arlington and rode my bike 24 miles. There's a wide path alongside Green Oaks Boulevard. I went out and back on this path and then rode in the park for a while. It was peaceful, since most people are working. There must have been a storm overnight, because there were many leaves and limbs on the paths. I kept a close eye out for snakes. My friend Phil calls the wooded route "snake alley," since he sees snakes on almost every ride. Some of them (copperheads and cottonmouths, for example) are poisonous. I have a healthy respect for snakes. I have no desire to harm them, but that doesn't mean I want to interact with them!
My average speed for the 24.02 miles was 17.61 miles per hour. (Elapsed time = 1:21:48.) I burned 1,407 calories. My average heart rate was 116 and my maximum 138. The course is flat, so my maximum speed was only 23.0 miles per hour. River Legacy Park is beautiful. Now that I know I can get a good workout without too much inconvenience, I may ride there every Wednesday.
My idea of a perfect day: reading in the morning; exercising at midday; working at the computer and watching a baseball game (on television) in the evening. Don't hate me because I have this life. I paid for it.
Yesterday evening (Memorial Day), Katherine and I attended our sixth Texas Rangers game of the season. Although it was hot (95º) during the day, it wasn't half bad in the ballpark. We were in the shade by the time the game started (at 7:05), and a steady breeze kept us cool throughout. We arrived early to get a good parking spot (for $12) and spent an hour tailgating with Chipotle burritos. Take my word for it: It doesn't get any better.
Although the Seattle Mariners jumped out to an early lead, the Rangers tied it in the second on a home run by Nelson Cruz. There it stayed until the sixth inning, when Mike Napoli slashed a three-run home run to right field. The Mariners scored a run in the eighth to close it to 4-2, but Joe Nathan saved the game in the ninth. Texas 4, Seattle 2. Matt Harrison pitched eight strong innings for the locals, giving up only two runs on seven hits (with no walks). Josh Hamilton took the night off with a respiratory infection.
The game lasted 2:33, which is short by today's standards. We were home by 10:15. Not long after we got home, rain began to fall. Some 41,384 people attended the game. Katherine and I are 3-3 on games attended this season. The Rangers are 31-18 overall, which is the best record in the American League. Anyone who hopes to make it to the World Series must go through us.
Among the attendees were George W. and Laura Bush. They sat with Nolan and Ruth Ryan near the Rangers dugout. I looked at them with binoculars from time to time. Dubya chomped away on peanuts and appeared to be having a great time. Laura and Ruth kept up a steady banter. It must be nice to have been the most powerful person in the world for eight years and have the rest of your life ahead of you. Dubya looks like he's in great physical shape, the product, no doubt, of many miles on the bicycle. Dubya needs to get Nolan out on the bike.
The reason Social Security and Medicare are called “entitlements” is that people are entitled to them: they’ve worked and paid for them.
The idea of a means test, which in effect this article proposes, violates the very spirit of the programs.
To “save” Social Security, all that is needed is the removal of the cap on earnings taxable for Social Security, something that Barack Obama the candidate said he’d consider but that President Obama, alas, has not actively pursued.
Let those who earn more, pay more. No more free rides for the upper strata.
BEATRICE WILLIAMS-RUDE New York, May 21, 2012
To the Editor:
Ezekiel J. Emanuel’s prescription for reforming Social Security would more likely be a prescription for ending Social Security. If upper-income workers feel that their Social Security benefits could be delayed based on lifetime income, then they would likely not support the program at all.
The beauty of Social Security, as envisioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was that everyone paid in and everyone had a stake in the system. Take that underpinning of almost universal support away and the program would disintegrate, affecting most the lower-income recipients who don’t have assets to live on.
GUTHRIE ALBERTS White Plains, May 21, 2012
To the Editor:
Ezekiel J. Emanuel claims that under his Social Security reform proposal, higher earners would have an incentive to save and those who frittered away their incomes would have to work longer. Both claims are problematic.
Dr. Emanuel is effectively proposing a benefit cut for higher earners while holding lower earners harmless. But penalizing higher earners would reduce their work incentives. And if high earners fritter away their incomes and arrive at retirement with insufficient resources and the inability to work longer, would the government be able to credibly tell them to deal with it? I have my doubts.
JAGADEESH GOKHALE Washington, May 21, 2012
The writer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a member of the Social Security Advisory Board.
To the Editor:
Although I agree with Ezekiel J. Emanuel that linking eligibility for Social Security and Medicare to age and lifetime income levels makes financial sense and can be considered fair, I believe that he misses an essential point: Americans don’t just disagree about details when it comes to entitlements, but fundamentally disagree about the meaning of fairness.
Should fairness be based on need or on recouping what was contributed? The latter definition of fair is held intuitively by a large number of Americans.
Much has been said and written the last few years about fairness and “paying your fair share,” but the conversation is just prattle until we get down to a frank conversation about what fairness means.
THOMAS J. FAMULARO Long Valley, N.J., May 21, 2012
Mark Spahn sent a link to this blog post about the New York Times. You're probably wondering why I read the Times online every day. I do so not to become informed, because I no longer trust the Times to provide accurate information. I do so because the newspaper provides a daily example of bias, both in its "news" stories and in its editorial opinions. (The op-ed columnists aren't worth reading.) I'm a philosopher, remember. My job is to uncover hidden assumptions in arguments, detect fallacies, and dispel confusions. I could teach an entire Critical Thinking course using material from the Times.