I awoke this morning and realized what we all face. The coronavirus. But: shall we live while thinking only of ourselves, without caring for others? Or shall we do our best for others as well as ourselves?
I think that the coronavirus is teaching us that distinction. We are relearning the lesson that we should have learned from the 1947 smallpox scare. Back then, after two people in New York City contracted the disease, “[t]he New York City Health Commissioner . . . recommended immunization of all New Yorkers who had not received smallpox vaccine since early childhood. Vaccine was supplied free of charge to clinics set up all over the city, and to private physicians. When a second person died from the disease on April 13, the Mayor asked all 7.8 million New Yorkers to be vaccinated. At this announcement, the city shifted into crisis mode, with contributions by police, fire, health departments, and hospitals. The campaign slogan was “Be sure, be safe, get vaccinated!””
Almost 6 million were vaccinated in several weeks. This worked because both the vaccine and the vaccination were provided free of charge to the public.
What would have happened if people would have had to pay right then? Much fewer would have been vaccinated, and, as result, many more would have gotten the disease. This is a prime example of how “coming together” provides a good result, whereas insisting that individuals protect themselves at their own cost provides a bad one.
In our present pandemic, there is no vaccine, but there is a need for the population to be tested, so that those who might have the disease can be isolated. The 1947 method should be adopted. In other words, the virus test kit should be made easily available, paid for by the society. This doesn’t mean that individuals won’t pay eventually. They will, through taxation. But it’s always better to pay for a service collectively and then afterwards pay your fair share through a taxation system that determines the cost to you by a measurement of your ability to pay.
The system of government which Bernie Sanders wants adopts this thesis. Services needed by the entire society are paid collectively by the society. We pay individually our share for those services determined by our ability to share in the cost.
Take roads, take public education, take environment. Take the armed services, or healthcare, or the fire department or . . . Well, realistically, take practically anything that we need or enjoy.
You can have public libraries. Or you can have private libraries, in which members of the public can enter but must pay. Which would be better? If it’s a public library, many more people will make use of it. And that’s a good thing, because libraries—shared reading—lead to public education. Think of how much more reading there would be if the public reading could be done for free on the internet. Of course, that would mean that hardly any books would be published in print. Yet, after all, who needs a print book? If you want one, you can borrow it from the public library. Or you can go online.
How do you pay the writers? The good writers you pay with a public salary. And you give out prizes to celebrate their talent. The people who publish—publishers, editors, and the like—still are needed.
Of course, many more people might want to be writers if it were easy to be hired for a decent salary. But there is a limit to how many writers we need, and meanwhile we need everything from lawyers to garbage collectors. In order to work well, a society needs willing workers, as well as fair access to what the society produces, at a fair price of all. The society should be liberal with its praise, so that everyone wants to work.
Compare this sort of society with the one that we have now: the society where greed and corruption is the norm. Take Apple: “Many customers had long suspected that Apple slowed down older iPhones to encourage people to upgrade when a new one was released.
“In 2017, the company confirmed it did slow down some models as they aged, but not to encourage people to upgrade.
“It said the lithium-ion batteries in the devices became less capable of supplying peak current demands, as they aged over time.”
After investigation by the authorities, Apple’s story was not believed. So Apple was fined heavily.
Why should we have a society where a successful business, like Apple, feels it is necessary to cheat in order to keep its business successful? Instead of spending time and energy learning how to cheat, Apple should be concentrating on improving its product. This is an example of how the capitalistic society encourages anti-social practices instead of practices that better the society.
The goal for everyone should be to better society, however and whatever they can contribute. When President Trump speaks about a social problem, does he suggest a solution that will better the society or not? When Senator Bernie Sanders speaks about a social problem, does he speak of a solution that will better society or not? We want our leaders to encourage practices that better the society, not ones that will make it worse. All of us should be striving for a better society as our goal in life.