Monday, March 26, 2007

What We Take for Granted

It can be tempting to measure societal progress against a utopian standard instead of considering reality. There are exceptions, of course, but, lest we always consider the glass to be half empty, I've assembled some assumptions that people living in free and developed nations can safely make. They are reminders of the vast amount of care and work that goes into an advanced society.
  • The police are not criminals and are subject to various legal restraints and independent oversight. They are also trained professionals.
  • There is an independent judiciary that strives to be impartial.
  • If the fire department comes to your house, the firefighters do not walk away with your possessions.
  • If you need emergency medical care, you can use a reliable telephone service to summon it and help will arrive within minutes.
  • If you turn on the tap, water will emerge and it will be safe to drink.
  • You can have electricity 24 hours a day.
  • State-of-the-art in-door plumbing is not unusual.
  • City officials will not require bribes before issuing permits and you don't need to be a relative or supporter of the mayor in order to get a city job.
  • You can travel without having to bribe a collection of airport and customs employees to perform their basic duties.
  • Public sanitation needs are routinely and effectively handled and people don't have to burn trash in the streets.
  • Your local hospital has a highly educated medical staff that doesn't supplement its salary by selling the hospital's drugs.
  • Large segments of the population are not automatically excluded from employment because of sex, race, religion, color, national origin, or disability.
  • You can own private property and pass it on to your children. If you develop the land, it will not be seized by some greedy tribal or national leader.
  • A huge pothole on the highway will be repaired within hours and not within months or years.
  • You can safely drive between most of the major cities in your country.
  • Money allocated for a public project cannot be stolen and the project never completed without anyone uttering a word of protest.
  • If you go to a hospital, once you have recovered you will not be held prisoner there until you or your friends or relatives have paid your bill.
  • The press is not controlled by the government.
  • Food is so inexpensive that obesity is even a problem for the poor.
  • You can speak out against government policies without fearing a midnight visit from the secret police.
  • If you are arrested for a crime your relatives and friends will not be subject to arrest simply because they are your relatives and friends.
  • You can practice any religion - or your choice not to believe - without retribution.
  • If a train schedule says the train will depart on Tuesday at 9:00 AM, it will usually leave at that time and not days later when the crew decides to go.
  • Your local restaurant receives thorough health inspections.
  • The military is under civilian control and is respectful of the citizens.
  • You have the right to travel.
  • You can listen to radio and television broadcasts and watch films and read books that are critical of the government.
  • You have a substantial opportunity to succeed or fail depending upon your own efforts.


Matthew said...

A huge pothole on the highway will be repaired within hours and not within months or years.


As long as you don't live in North Carolina. :(

pawnking said...

How about:
If you are a woman, you can marry almost anyone you choose, generally without much objection from your family, and almost never causing them to consider you dead as a consequence of your choice.

You can choose to be faithful to your husband because you love him, not because you fear being pressed to death by stones if you are not.

If your father is a collector of garbage or a mortician, you can still marry a banker without being a social outcast.

You don't have to subject your daughter to being circumcized.

Michael Wade said...


For some reason, I overlooked the North Carolina Highway Exception.


Good additions. To paraphrase an old line, many parts of the world are always the equivalent of a rough neighborhood at 2AM.