Monday, September 16, 2013

Canada, Show Us the Way

Two news accounts in recent days—on the surface entirely unrelated—have given me an insight into things. The first of these concerns changes in the definition of drunkenness in British Columbia; the other is continuing public resistance to Obama Care in the United States.

The new British Columbia law, passed in 2010, redefined the definition of driving under the influence of alcohol. To be in that state meant having a blood-alcohol level is .05 rather than .08 percent, the definition of drunken driving. Police testing people may impound the car of the person who fails the new, lower test limit for a three-day period; and the license is revoked. In my opinion, it is this last provision of the new law—not the percentage change—that has had a dramatic consequence: a 55 percent reduction in alcohol-related fatalities in two years.

This result also reminded us of our visit to East Germany—back when it was separate communist country. The law there promised draconian punishment for driving under the influence—and so wide-spread was this knowledge that the “driver,” on any one occasion, never even dreamt of touching even a glass of wine.

Simple laws with direct, immediate, and entirely predictable consequences still work just fine. And that explains to me why Obama Care is problematical—at least in the eyes of many, many people who answer polling questions. On the new Aljazeera’s news program the Business section is presented by one Ali Velshi. In one of his promotionals he shows us the 800 pages of the Affordable Care Act, promising to make sense of it for us. Thus far the segments doing that explanation have left us as confused as ever.

Alas. An existing health law is better than none, I suppose. But good law it is not. If Obama Care simply expanded Medicare to the entire population—so that people could ask their elders what they thought about it—Obama Care would be a very simple shoo-in. Not so 800 pages and a jungle-like complexity in which too many cooks are needed who merely spoil the broth.

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