[political] Conditioning for Death Panels in the 1950s

Published Date Author: , February 26th, 2012

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Jack E. Kemp

When I was a kid in the 1950s, there was an old semi-employed socialist who wore rumpled clothes and used to walk around our neighborhood, talking to people, including my ten year old self. He even tried to sell mutual funds to people, referring to it as “people’s capitalism” because the opportunity for wealth accumulation was possible for the regular working person. Today, for some reason, I remember his words about a trick question.

Mr. X. used to ask everyone only one question from the U.S. Postal Exam. Simply stated, it was that if a police car, a fire truck, an ambulance and a Post Office truck were coming to an intersection or a curve, who would have the legal Right of Way on the road? Most people, including myself, answered ambulance because we had a concern for the assumed sick person inside. Mr. X. gladly told us we were wrong and the correct answer was the Post Office truck because it was a Federal vehicle. Mind you, this wasn’t a military jeep or a tank in a national emergency or a war, but an everyday Post Office truck that was rushing to make the “speedy deliveries” the Post Office is so well known for. I would guess, in real life, a number of Postal truck drivers would give the ambulance the Right of Way, despite their legal authority.

Now if the person in the ambulance had a heart attack or a gunshot wound and the delay for the Postal truck cost them their life, we would have a de facto Death Panel at work. In fact, the exam question, if it could also be found in a test preparation book, was a teaching tool for citizens to learn that their mundane lives were potentially less important than the delivery of their TV Guide (this was the 1950s) or their phone bill. And Mr. X wanted everyone to know the rule in case they somehow got the foolish notion that their life was more important than seeing what Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were up this week.

Mr. X was kind of a squirrely guy, but then again so are many statist self-important officials, both petty and major. But in terms of indifference to the public’s needs, you could say he was ahead of his time. By about fifty-five years.



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