Category Archives: Albert Schweitzer

The Pencil Today:


“This preposterous idea, that things must pay their way or be dispensed with, is perhaps the most intractable legacy of the Thatcher years, so much so that it has become received wisdom even among many liberals. But when you think about it even for a nanosecond, it is perfectly obvious that most worthwhile things don’t begin to pay for themselves. If you followed this absurd logic any distance at all, you would have to get rid of traffic lights, schools, drains, national parks, museums, universities, old people and much else besides.” — Bill Bryson


I ran the above quote the day I ranted and raved about Margaret Thatcher, who was the British bête noire analog to this holy land’s Saint Ronald Reagan.

The world that Thatcher and Reagan have wrought is an ugly place. The two Tory-ists created a global playpen for the most acquisitive, aggressive, ferocious, and predatory among us. Greed not only became good, it became sacred.

Greed Is Better Than Good

We live in a world of financial smoke and mirrors, where wealth is built on phoney-baloney projections, salesmanship, and transaction fees. Our bubble economy pops every few years now, maiming the general populace but never, ever scuffing the shoes of the plutocracy.

This is the world of the Profit Kings. No item, product, or service — soon, perhaps, not even the very air we breathe — is worth anything unless it generates a profit.

I think of this because NPR ran a report this morning on ambulance services in sparsely populated and rural sections of the country.

As you know, since the 2008 financial catastrophe, municipalities, counties, and states have been slashing services left and right because their investments turned out to be no more tangible than soap suds.

EMS services have suffered mightily in places like Colorado where one representative ambulance service answers an average six calls a day. The private companies and government agencies that run similar ambulance operations find the business of saving lives to be a lousy one.

Bad Business

The private companies aren’t able to bill Medicare or Medicaid enough to recoup their operating costs and the government agencies claim they just can’t see their way clear to footing the bill for a handful of daily runs.

So, more and more ambulance services are being cut back or eliminated entirely.

See, everything must make a profit. Or at the very, very, very least, pay for itself.

But, as Bryson points out in the quote, the gang of us humans have a desperate need to do things for each other that won’t make us scads of dough. Like putting up stoplights at intersections or even providing a home for the US Constitution — the piece of paper, that is, not the fever dream Bible-like concept that Ron Paul and Sarah Palin blather about.

Throw That Thing Out; It Costs Too Much To Keep Up

Funny thing is, for all the talk about NPR being such a liberal tool, nowhere in the report is it mentioned that the idea that ambulance service should make a profit or even pay for itself is, well, just nuts.

Even the liberals have bought into the Thatcher/Reagan Profit King world.

When I was a kid, I used to hear about a fellow named Albert Schweitzer as the paragon of humanity, a guy who lived among the poor and barefoot, who espoused a universal reverence for life, who agitated for peace, who brought advanced medical care to pre-technological societies. I don’t recall ever hearing about how profitable Schweitzer’s operations were.

Albert Schweitzer

His work was a cash sink. Albert Schweitzer was a very bad businessman indeed.

Now there have been criticisms of Schweitzer, his methods and aspects of his philosophy, in the ensuing years. I won’t argue for or against them here. I’ll only say my image of Schweitzer, flawed as it may have been, was of a man who gave of himself without concern for cost.

He wasn’t in it for a buck.

In fact, his outfit lost dough.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan would have been very disappointed.