Route 1

The wind is playing whirlies with the couple of inches of powdery snow that slanted out of the sky yesterday.  Funny how the wind feels steady to our cheek or mind’s eye, but when it is made visible by the snow in the pasture or smoke from some chimney, it clearly abandons itself to swirls and twists – the wind as dancer, arms up and pirouetting.  Not so true on the sea, where there are no obstacles to start the process, or surely I would feel such spirals in my sails.  I must take a smoke bomb out on the boat and test that theory.

But not for a while: The snow ushered in a cold front, and we gulp mercury each time we step outside. Snow covers everything, and the cove is next to iced up in the silent nights, but is churned into whitecaps with this northwest, an ungloved hand goes stiff in minutes.  No boat, not even a rowboat, until these storms are gone and the icicles are off the dock.

Our turkeys have already started to slim down – fat and happy around Thanksgiving and Christmas, tempting a 12-gauge surprise (but we couldn’t) – they have now lost a few pounds as well as their caution: Where they once stood proud and circumspect at the edge of the woods, they now scratch the snow to bare earth under the bird feeder, beat their wings to knock the last of the old red bush berries off the top, and approach the deck deigning to beg ‘Please, please’.  Winter is an economic recession for anyone who doesn’t hibernate.

Suckers for animals, we give them whatever we have.  This morning we are cleaning out the drawers, and they get the rest of a tin of tired chocolate-covered almonds.  Normally I might fret about giving them something so exotic to their native diet, but they have no such compunction, and it’s a flurry of red-heads pecking like an old typewriter.

They and the cove and the overturned boats will have to fend for themselves for a bit as we step outside with the suitcases, eyes watering as we shoulder them into the trunk.

Leaving my house for a trip, as I do often, it’s a short run from the cove up a barely two-lane blacktop to the old school and the little golf course (more snow whirlies) onto the state road to town, which has had its kinks straightened out over my 60 years of making the trip.  At my age, I am nostalgic for the old meandering tar through the woods and over the ledges, but after a few delighted wanders, I would be loathe to have it remain the old half-hour drive to town.

Likewise Route 1 down to Portland has been shaved, widened, and now it’s interstate from Brunswick on down – again, soulless linear concrete, and again a great convenience when you have the bumpkin’s hankering for chu-toro or a good movie.

Motoring along brings me to Obama’s first year, the State of the Union, and the role of government.  Readers of these pages can be forgiven for thinking they are reading the rantings of a liberal, but actually these are the rantings of a radical conservative.  I believe, along with the neo-cons and Thomas Jefferson, in a small government with a limited role that leaves the individual free.  Because of my study of chaos and wiki-mathematics, I believe in the power of the unfettered marketplace to produce human benefit beyond the planned economies of Russia and Red China past.  Even Cuba, limned as a success in ‘Sicko’ and certainly communism’s longest running movie in spite of the sanctions …well, we’re all hungry to visit, but would you really want to live there?

The trouble comes in the word ‘unfettered’. I was and am for Obama because I believe he is a conservative (in the constitutional sense of the word) and because the last lot failed so miserably at being conservative.  Profligate in committing us to war, liberal in dispensing socialism to the rich and powerful, they created the fascist ‘bubble’ of too-big-to-fail privatization.  If an institution is too big to fail, then it should be owned by the people and managed by their government. Where would we be now if Bush had succeeded in sticking Social Security in the stock market?  If an institution is not too big to fail, then it should not be bailed out – let the market handle these large blips as it does small ones – rationally and without favor or prejudice.  Otherwise, we have a situation where the profits go to the profiteers, but the losses are borne by the taxpayer and little guy – as manifestly unfair and illogical as such systems get.

So if the government should have only a limited role, it needs to be confined to those areas where the market will not work to provide such benefits.  The road I am driving on was built with government money – the old one under the Democrat Roosevelt, the interstate under the Republican Nixon – both were ‘make-work’ projects to supply jobs and political favor, but both have opened up the Maine Coast to further prosperity, joining the rest of the country (for better or worse), and promoted diversity and understanding, if that’s not too grand.  I am fine for money to be invested in the aging roads and bridges to help my poorer neightbours through this hard time.  I hope also to see some money going into building our electronic infrastructure and cheap green energy, the golden keys to the 21st century.

Private enterprise would not build these roads, private enterprise would not build good schools in inner city neighbourhoods, and private enterprise will not do a good job (witness Blackwater) of defending the country.  These are government tasks for this very reason.

You can certainly ask – the country is asking itself now, however jaggedly – whether private enterprise could build a better health care system than the government.  Both have earned our suspicion in my lifetime.  Before you say, “But the private system clearly isn’t working”, please note that the current system is a mish-mash of private and public – in my state, the sole company is given a monopoly, competition exempted by government regulation, a recipe for the rising costs and lowered benefits we receive.  What if the private market were really unencumbered?

But it will not be and cannot be in political reality, so the alternative must be that the government takes over the basics of health care – if not now, then 20 or 40 years from now – leaving private enterprise to put the frosting on the top for the fortunate.

I agree with Rush & Fox Noise that health care is not a right.  Neither are highways or education.  The question is:  if we are rich enough to spend billions replacing Saddam or smoking out bin Laden, are we now a rich enough society to care for all our children?  I believe the answer is yes, which is why I will continue to push for the otherwise ‘socialist’ idea of a single-payer system.


One Response to “Route 1”

  1. male extra Says:

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title . Thanks for informatory article.

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