You and Me


Me and You This morning has brought a series of reminders about the interrelationship between economic institutions, government and me (you too). The op ed page of the NYTimes carries an article by Roger Cohen about defining human communities and expelling those who do not fit in the definition. In the Middle East this is becoming painfully obvious with the fleeing of Christian and Muslim communities from their 2000 year old historical homes.

Another by Jim Estes is about the fees state governments collect from the sale of tobacco products. The author says that very little of this money has gone into tobacco prevention as intended and most into public projects. In the process, the funds pass through financial institutions that manage innovative ways of sticking their own fees on this money.

Finally, for our purposes, there is Joe Nocera on California’s effort to help poor families save for their children’s education . If parents decide to participate, the state will establish bank accounts with $50 in them for their children in kindergarten. Parents are shown how they can contribute through these accounts. In this story, one single mother has contributed over $700.

Here we are individuals in communities. In the Middle East, the situation has changed very little throughout its human history with groups organizing into states and moving to include or exclude other groups. The article about tobacco shows private financiers arranging to have my group money stick to their hands. Finally, states are shown trying to help parents with few financial resources think about how they can further their children’s education toward a better life. And, Nocera points out that this is one among several state efforts to promote education.

So, here am I, wrapped in my self identity as one in control of his life, forced to see myself as I really am, a member of a community moving in a direction over which I essentially have little to no control. Fortunately, in the United States, we have all been born into a community of inclusion that has access to physical resources that allow most of us to think we do have control over our lives if we contribute to the good of the community.

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