Monday, March 21, 2005

Elsewhere (with Mark Kleiman)

Mark Kleiman has two interesting articles up.

Schiavo, Hudson, and Nikolouzos:

Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child .

Where, I would ask, is the outrage? In particular, where is the outrage from those like Tom DeLay, who referred to the withdrawal of Terry Schiavo's life support as "murder"? If it's appropriate to Federalize the Schiavo case, what about the people being terminated simply because their cases are hopeless and their bank accounts empty?

and What's so great about the work ethic?:

But why should it be considered desirable for the people who live in the richest country in the world to have less time to devote to themselves, their families, and their communities in return for having more material goods? If everyone in the top three-fifths of the U.S. income distribution worked 10% fewer hours and had 10% less income, wouldn't that make the overwhelming majority of them healthier, happier, and better parents and neighbors? (Yes, some of us get intense satisfaction from our work and believe that it does important good in the world; I'm thinking about the other 95% of the population.)
4. Yes, many people can't fill the leisure they now have with anything they actually enjoy. That's what keeps the networks and cable companies in business. Perhaps that would be less true if we didn't think about our educational system primarily in terms of preparing people for the workforce.[ed - emphasis mine]

Both interesting articles. I think the question worth asking on the work ethics article is whether the system in the "richest country in the world" is at all setup to allow people to work 10% less for 10% less income. My feeling is that it is not. What employers give you a true graduated option of working the desired amount of time that is a true proportion of full-time income potential (i.e. 90% work - 90% income, 75% work - 75% income)? While very few do offer options of flex-time - like working 10 hours a day for 4 days a week, this is not really flexible. People still cannot go on the 50% work/pay basis, for example, for 3 months and then come back. In fact, even "socialist" countries in Europe do not give true flex-time capabilities either. Working a shorter week for less pay is good for leisure time, but is not a true choice. After all, people do not get to work an even shorter week, or work longer for more full-time-off vacation time. More on this later.

ps. is anyone else tired of US being called "richest country in the world" ? Does average GDP per capita is really that indicative of personal wealth? Should not it be at least adjusted for GINI or cost-of-living? Some other measures of quality of life? I think it is pretty obvious that substantial numbers of people in the US would be much better off living in Europe or [perhaps] Canada.


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