Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hospice - Of Books and Men

In this blog, I shall deviate from my usual practice of talking about health care innovation and reform.

I shall talk of books and men. I am selling part of my personal library of 5000 books on It is a surprisingly gratifying experience. I can review where I’ve been and where I am intellectually, I can talk to buyers, and I can see what interests the book-buying public.

Today I received two requests for books.

Self-Consciousness: Memoirs, 1989, by John Updike. Updike died on January 27 at age 76 of lung cancer in a hospice. He was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. He received two Pulitzer Prizes for his Rabbit series (Run Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit at Rest, and Rabbit Remembered.) He described his subject matter as “the American small town, Protestant middle class.” He described the foibles and pressures of the middle class. I have always found his writing too clever by half and too cryptic. That is undoubtedly due to my intellectual deficit, not Updike’s. He was tremendously productive, extremely learned and creative in many fields, and widely admired for his more than 25 novels, countless short stories and reviews. His passing reminds me the American middle class is under extreme stress to pay for health care. How we are going to make health care affordable and still fit within the confines of America’s culture continues to elude me, as well as practically everybody else.

The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, 2003, by William Greider. Greider is based in Washington, D.C., and writes mostly about economics. He is national correspondent for The Nation, a liberal political weekly. He is unabashedly pro-government. He maintains unfettered American capitalism lacks a soul and is designed to crush the middle and lower classes. He is for national health insurance and says the U.S. has plenty of money to finance comfortable retirements and high-quality health care for all citizens. He a former reporter and editor for the Washington Post. He asserts the current bailout is a sham, rewarding only the capitalists, and is critical of politicians of all stripes. His belief can be summed up with this quote,” The world system, led by the U.S., has pursued what is really a utopian idea – the idea that self-regulating markets, cut free from any moderating controls and regulations, will always correct themselves. “ He believes in “socially responsible investing” and believes that must occur within capitalism. How this differs from socialism escapes me. Nevertheless, this is a timely book on a burning issue.

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