What Does the Fly Know?

On the East Coast, the debate went way past the bedtime of my children. Nevertheless, my kids caught the first thirty minutes of the exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence. My daughter was asking me before the debate if this was of historical significance, if her future children would ask her what she was doing at this time. Without doubt, the discussion could be certainly educational. It would have been a battle between two ideas. On one side, there would be a government that would rein in health care, carbon dioxide emissions, and systemic racism, while on the other side, only free market forces would be expected to shape our future. Unfortunately, the debate did not materialize as a battle between these two. Instead, as my two children noticed, there were distortions of facts. My children went to sleep before the debate ended so they did not get to see the fly on Mike Pence's head, a fly that seemed to know a lot about what was being said.

A week after the election, the Supreme Court will decide the fate of the current health care program of the federal government. The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, which prevents insurers from discriminating consumers based on pre-existing conditions, can be struck down by the highest court in one decision. Children, 26 years old or younger, who have remained under the protection of their parents' insurance, stand to lose their health care. Health care is precisely one issue where market forces could not be reliable. And indeed, the argument for free market cannot provide a defense or even an alternative. All it could offer is a vague wishful thinking wrapped in an executive order that obviously does not have any teeth to be enforced. 

In the middle of this debate between a government that must take action and a government that simply relies on market forces is science. Science can a guide  a government that wishes to be pro-active. The market is sometimes unpredictable and cutting corners to minimize costs and maximize profits may look good in the short term, but may fail miserably in the long run. Dissolving the pandemic team, for instance, can save money, but when a real pandemic hits, the costs are far more severe. Continuing to subsidize fossil fuels may look good for a few years. In a few decades, continuing to bring carbon dioxide into our atmosphere may well be catastrophic. I was impressed that when Vice President Pence talked about natural gas as a response to reducing carbon dioxide emission, my son knew that natural gas was also carbon based, and thus, would still produce carbon dioxide. 

My children did not get to see the fly, nor hear the arguments on systemic racism and mail-in voting, but they heard enough. This election is quite unique as two science publications have voiced their opinion. Both Scientific American and the New England Journal of Medicine have asked us to consider facts. My children are not voting yet. That is why it is even more important that we cast our vote with their future in mind.