Maybe it is the system after all

This is a totally NONscientific post.

My late father and his brother had the classic liberal conservative argument for the 60 years or so I was intellectually conscious enough to register it (and probably longer). His brother would say ‘it’s the system’ – all we have to do is change it and things would be better. My father would say people will corrupt any system.

Our family was full of people of the left, and my mother recalls someone arguing in all seriousness that Finland had attacked Russia in WWII. I can well recall the gloom pervading a family gathering after Eisenhower beat Stevenson, and the imprecations of disaster to follow.

Based on decades of medical practice, I tended to agree with my father. Now I’m not so sure.

But first 3 examples:

The Veteran’s Administration system: The original impetus for a system was to care for injured soldiers in peacetime. Who could possibly object to that. Yet as a resident in the 70’s our acute ward was so filled with very chronic patients (20 year paraplegics) that we had to turn away the truly acutely ill. We also had one paraplegic young man shot while robbing a convenience store (he was on active duty at the time, so this was considered service connected). I’m not even mentioning the current scandal about falsified wait times, while those in charge gave themselves performance awards.

Workman’s compensation: Who could argue with compensating an honest workman for a disabling injury suffered on the job? Read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair about life in the Chicago Stockyards a century ago if you don’t agree. Then there was the Rerat law firm (no kidding) specializing in suing the Burlington Northern Railway for injuries. This leads into example #3

Disability: Disabled people should be supported by the society at large. Who would disagree. I got an early taste in the service from ’68 – ’70 doing medical boards. No problem for the war injured to get disability. But then there were the general officers about to retire, whom the system somehow found barely able to function. Then look at the scandal at the Long Island Railroad, where for a time, a corrupt group of union officials and docs made sure nearly 100% of retirees were 100% disabled. See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/nyregion/21lirr.html?_r=0

The real problem is with Social Security Disability payments. Here the frauds and grafters were basically stealing from my disabled MS, muscular dystrophy, stroke patients. These are people who truly need the money. I thought the system would bankrupt from them. But apparently it hasn’t.

There are 3 excellent systemic ideas which have been significantly corrupted by the people using it.

So my dad was right and my uncle, a man of the Left was wrong.

They’re both gone now, my dad at 100, my uncle at 94. Uncle Irv wouldn’t like why I’m now coming around to his position — it is the system (at least in some cases).

What changed my mind? Venezuela. This is a country sitting on the largest proven reserves of oil, which has begun to import oil. It should be fabulously rich, now that the leader is ruling by decree for the poor and downtrodden. It is one of 3 countries in the world rationing food. There is no excuse for this — no US embargo (Cuba), no war fought on its soil in the past 100 years (North Korea).

It must be the system there. Sorry uncle Irv, it’s your system not dad’s.

Conservatives sometimes bash the left for being unpatriotic. Not uncle Irv — he was at the battle of Kasserine pass in North Africa, and the battle of the Bulge in Europe, and is at rest in a military cemetery.

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Comments

  • Curious Wavefunction  On November 10, 2014 at 2:04 am

    Liberals and conservatives both have their sacred values: For liberals it’s equality. For conservatives it’s God and country.

    Read Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy for superb accounts of Kasserine Pass, the Bulge and many others. Perhaps the finest storyteller of the American experience in WW2 since Cornelius Ryan.

  • Rhenium  On November 12, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I only just saw this post. Being at both Kasserine and the Bulge, two of the big battles where the if the German Army had not been so degraded the result might have been quite different.

    As for the issue of people corrupting systems, it is inevitable, that’s what people tend to do. Take a structure and take advantage of it, penalties act as a stick, but often are not enough.

  • luysii  On November 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Rhenium: My uncle was a medical officer in both battles. He thought Montomery was a jerk, and told me to suspect history as written by the victors. In particular, the allied generals there were petrified of Rommel and had no idea where he was until the battle.

    • Rhenium  On November 13, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      luysii: Yes, he was a jerk, but being from the Commonwealth he was “our” jerk, and just like Patton or MacArthur was “their” jerk. It’s rare to see such so many supreme ego’s strutting the world’s stage at one time. Must have been the zeitgeist…

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