But first . . .


Joel Wesson: ‘As for fear of riding in semi-trailer traffic with one of [those little 158-mpg VWs you wrote about last Thursday], cars and car traffic in the US are really amazingly safe. You can expect (on average) to travel over 67 million miles in a car before being killed in an accident. It works out that the life expectancy of car passengers is longer than the average life expectancy in the U.S. – 67 million miles works out to 127 years at 60 mph, 24 hours per day. You could probably risk it in that little VW, even with NO airbags. A bicycle is only expected to travel 3 or 4 million miles per fatality in the US (merely 300 years at 2 hours per day). However, there are also substantial health benefits to cycling. People are afraid of many things that generally don’t kill them.’


Gary Diehl: ‘Only 158 MPG? Look into the Aptera. The prototype got 230 MPG and the hybrid model is expected to clear north of 300 MPG. The composite chassis will do far better in a crash and it’s not something you might accidentally run over while talking on your cell.’


Piet Bach: ‘One other major (?) openly gay political player you forgot to mention Wednesday: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland.’


Bob Ceremsak: ‘If you haven’t watched PBS’s National Parks documentary by Ken Burns, I recommend it. It has softened my libertarian views regarding the national government.’


Marissa Hendrickson, M.D.: ‘Thanks for the link to the National Physicians Alliance. I hadn’t heard about them before, but they look like just the antidote to the undertone of greed that has kept me out of the AMA. I just joined the NPA, and I’m really excited about it.’

And now . . .


Kevin Clark: ‘I guess I’m incapable of logical, critical thinking, but why can’t someone be both a socialist and a fascist? The Nazis were the National Socialist party. Were they not socialists or not fascists? Or could you be both in the 30’s but not today? Or maybe they’re not “pretty much polar opposites,” as you put it. Maybe they both want to pretty much control your life but, to paraphrase Ralph, it’s important to remember that the socialists mean well? Personally I don’t find that all that comforting.’

☞ Hmmm. I’m clearly no political scientist; and “fascism” is not as easily defined as socialism (and is, in any event, less about economics than about tyranny). So, for starters, I’d acknowledge the pretty much in my “pretty much polar opposites.”

That said, I think one commonly accepted meaning of fascism is an authoritarian corporate-government symbiosis and dictatorship. That’s pretty different from socialism, the main point of which is to provide strong social services and safety nets even if it means restraints on corporate power.

And where the primary feature of fascism it seems to me is tyranny, the primary feature of socialism, I think, is concern for the common good.

We’re all for the common good, of course. The legitimate debate is in what balance to strike. Go too far in “mandating” the common good and you can get a nightmare of tyranny and repression. That’s certainly what happened in Russia and China. But few, I think, would call today’s America in any way “Soviet” or “Maoist” for our system of public education or our social safety net (unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, disaster relief) or even our minimum wage or earned income credit.

Some do oppose these things (Ronald Reagan fought Medicare tooth and nail; Republicans always fight the minimum wage). But our current economics, it seems to me, is more “socially enlightened” than any kind of socialism that goes “too far” – that stifles liberty and kills the incentive to excel; that makes it impossible to grow rich or impedes the freedom to chart one’s own life.

In that last regard it might be noted that universal health insurance frees individuals to switch jobs, start businesses, take chances. It enhances liberty.

Have a great weekend.


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