All Commentary
Saturday, February 1, 1992

Perspective: Socialized Medicine

Some years ago, I sat in on a discussion the late Dr. Ben Rogge was having with some college stu dents. He was then professor of economics at Wabash College in Indiana.

A student asked, “Dr. Rogge, don’t you believe we should have a national health-service program of some sort?”

Rogge smiled and asked the student, “What do you have against sick people? Would you visit on them the same quality of services we have seen come from other government-run programs or systems?”

He mentioned a few of the more glaring examples of waste and inefficiencies at that time.

Rogge’s point should be easy enough for everyone to understand, whether it be applied to medicine or any other service in our life for which we rely upon good, competent, efficient people.

—Dan Ost, writing in the

September 25, 1991, issue of the

Reading Times, Reading, Pennsylvania

Flight Canceled

A few years ago, at the Western Reserve Historical Society Aviation Hall of Fame, Elbert Rutan, designer of the famous plane that circled the earth nonstop was honored, as were his brother Richard, who flew the plane, and Jeana Yeager, also of the crew.

Elbert Rutan made a charming, short acceptance speech. After describing the efforts to design the plane and to complete the world flight, he made observations that deeply stirred me. He said that many airplane manufacturing companies wanted him to work for them. He considered it. He visited these companies and studied the conditions under which they worked. He, as a creative designer, decided that he couldn’t work under the conditions in these factories. Rules, regulations, laws, and limitations would make it impossible for him to remain creative. Thus he decided to go it alone where he could follow his enthusiasms, his imagination, his inventiveness, without limits.

! began to speculate on what would have happened in the days of the aircraft pioneers if they had been working under the conditions that exist today. I pictured that foggy morning at Kitty Hawk when the Wright brothers stood ready to fly after years of hard work. Orville Wright is just about to step into the plane to make the first flight. An inspector steps up. “Mr. Wright, you are violating the law. We forbid this flight; you don’t have a pilot’s license.”

Then I pictured the Ryan Airlines plant. They worked day and night to complete Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis in 60 days. A remarkable achievement. An inspector steps up. “Mr. Ryan, you are violating the law. We will have to close the plant. You are paying your office boy less than the minimum wage. You refuse to pay overtime.”

And then I pictured the morning in New York when the Spirit of St. Louis stood fueled and ready for the famous flight to Paris. The last weather report is in—Lindbergh is just climbing into the plane—an inspector steps up—this flight is canceled. “Mr. Lindbergh, you are violating Rule 7102. You are overloaded.”

Can it be that Mr. Rutan has put his finger on one of the reasons why American leadership is slipping? And why America finds it hard to compete? It is worth thinking about.

—Frederick C. Crawford, Founder and

Honorary Chairman, TRW inc.

But I Like Oat Flakes!

I was standing in my local grocery store, which displayed shelf after shelf of various breakfast cereals, looking for my favorite.

At first I was annoyed because I was in a hurry and I couldn’t find it. Then my reaction turned to amazement as I realized how many different kinds of cereals they had: There were hot cereals, cold cereals, cereals made of corn, of wheat, of rice, of oats, sometimes combinations, some with added dried fruits, some with nuts. There were balls and flakes and bite-sized biscuits. Then nearly all of these were duplicated, in some fashion, by different companies. I fleetingly wondered why they carried so many.

Then I was struck by the humor of it—with all this to choose from, I couldn’t find the one I wanted. I wanted oats. I wanted flakes. I wanted the ones put out by a certain company. I liked them better than any other cereal. Still, it seemed downright silly that, with so many to choose from, I wasn’t satisfied.

My mind flipped suddenly from those laden shelves to pictures of shelves I had seen in Russia—empty shelves, and I was transported to what I imagined might be the complaint department in a Communist country.

“I would like this brand of oat flakes.”

“No oats. We got some barley, and next month our allotment calls for some ground wheat, but the shipment might be held up.”

“But I want oats. Oat flakes.”

Narrowing eyes. A scowl. “Are you a trouble maker? No oats. I’ve never heard of oat flakes . . .”

The reverie was broken as my cart reached the cash register. The clerk didn’t wear a commissar’s uniform, just a red apron, and a tag that said, “Manager.” He smiled, “Yep, a little short-handed today, so here I am.”

“Well, I’m glad you are the manager. I was disappointed that you are out of oat flakes. I really like those oat flakes you usually have.”

The pad and pencil came out. “We are! Well, we’ll fix that. Let’s see: oat flakes. Now which brand did you say? Yes ma’am! We’ll fix that?

I smiled as I loaded my groceries. I don’t get to be queen very often, but, as a consumer there, that’s what I was—even if just for a moment.

—Donnis Stark Thompson

Kenai, Alaska

Cultural and Economic Goods

It is a mistake to make a categorical division between cultural and economic goods. All economic goods are in essence cultural goods. Animals and savages have no knowledge of anything remotely like the trading activity of a civilized society. A book, a record, the performance of a symphony, a religious sermon, the services of a lawyer, the baker’s bread—these are all to various degrees goods achieved by societies with a high cultural level, but at the same time with a high economic level, since they are all for the service of others.

—Meir Zylberberg

Buenos Aires, Argentina