Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Religious Philadelphia
William Penn wanted a colony with religious freedom. A considerable number, if not the majority, of American religious denominations were founded in this city. The main misconception about religious Philadelphia is that it is Quaker-dominated. But the broader misconception is that it is not Quaker-dominated.

Customs, Culture and Traditions
Abundant seafood made it easy to settle here. Agriculture takes longer.

Right Angle Club 2009
The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

A Just Society

Recently, Chip Kelly prodded us into trying something new; it was a straight-faced rise-from-your chair discussion of the meaning of a just society. Perhaps that should be capitalized: A Just Society.

It could be that the club has for so long adopted a habit of fixed presentations, that members begin to look around for a mechanism, any mechanism, to create a general conversation among a group of fellows who have grown to know each other very well. But the tone of the ensuing remarks suggests something more is afoot, very likely growing out of the current economic Recession, with the new President calling for disruptive Change of a redistributionist sort. The old saw has it that politics and religion are best avoided in conversations among friends, but once every eighty years cannot do much damage.

{Bill of Rights}
Bill of Rights

Allusions to the Marxist doctrine of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" were actually offered, and praise was openly made of the Chinese Communist system. To which were rejoined remarks about the 40 million Chinese who died in the Cultural Revolution, and the apparent effort to add a new right to the Bill of Rights, this one called the right to a job. This suggested right implies that people have a right to insist that someone else start a business; that's not how businesses have been started in the past. That such a broad new entitlement could be suggested at a time when the nation is plainly unable to afford the existing health and retirement entitlements -- makes it clear this discussion is not entirely about economics. People in the general public are tentatively feeling each other out on these sensitive subjects, and not always pleased with what they discover. Although the demeanor is invariably civil and tentative, one has to worry that hot words are not far away.

{Bill of Rights}

Even more remarkably, a lawyer stood to warn against excessive lawyering; the physician who followed him pointed out that all Utopias since Plato's have suggested that physicians should run any utopia -- a questionable notion in view of the examples of Che Guevara, or Assad the current dictator of Syria, or the behavior of German doctors under the Nazi regime. In fact, the behavior of medical students has traditionally been rowdy. It isn't the training that makes the characteristic personality of a physician, it is the experience of practice. Put all doctors on salary, and you may not get the same result.

Originally published: Saturday, May 09, 2009; most-recently modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2019