If you’ve been a tourist or business traveler recently in Kenya, India, Guatemala or any other developing country, you probably saw uniformed guards in the stores and offices you visited or hotels where you slept. The sight of these guards is so common that their presence most likely faded into the background. But they are emblematic of a massive social transformation that is passing unnoticed: Throughout the developing world, public justice systems are being replaced with private systems of security and dispute resolution. The implications for the world’s poorest people are devastating.
Businesses and economic elites in developing countries left frustrated by incompetent police, clogged courts and hopelessly overburdened judges and prosecutors are increasingly circumventing these systems and buying their own protection. In India in late 2010 the private security industry already employed more than 5.5 million people — roughly four times the size of the entire Indian police force. A 2009 World Bank report showed roughly the same ratio in Kenya. The largest employer in all of Africa is a private security firm, Group4Securicor, and in Guatemala, private security forces outnumber public police 7 to 1.
The repercussions extend far beyond the elites and businesses that buy safety: When protection must be purchased, the poorest are left with nothing to shield them from violence. In many developing countries, if you want to be safe, you pay to be safe. And if you can’t pay to be safe — you aren’t.
First, this morning, President Obama signed the health care bill into law. Here’s the video of his pre-signing address:
And on to the links and information. I’ve been saturating Facebook with links because there’s a lot to know and get informed on–anything as substantial as health care reform is going to be complicated. Here’s a mini-compendium of links from the last day or so:
Ezra Klein gets Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt’s thoughts. (I actually quoted Reinhardt in a paper I wrote at Fuller a year ago, entitled “Initiating a Christian Conversation About Health Care Reform.” I may put it up for download–for posterity’s sake–soon.)
And a note left by Patrick Kennedy at his late father Ted’s gravesite: “Dad, the unfinished business is done.”
We’ll finish with a couple quotes. First, from James Fallows, writing in The Atlantic:
For now, the significance of the vote is moving the United States FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)… TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.
And second, thanks from President Obama to all of you–to all of us–who kept the faith:
It is because of you that we did not quit. It’s because of you that Congress did not quit. It’s because of you that I did not quit. It’s because of you.
From what I saw, far too many were trotting out tired old talking points, talking at each other rather than with each other, trying to score political points or to posture for their viewing audience. The President was at his community-organizer-best, trying to find common ground, trying to get people to cooperate and coordinate their efforts. But I have a feeling that, even though there is much in the present bill that Republicans agree upon, they’ve dug themselves into their positions to such an extent–both sides have, actually–that it’s too difficult to climb out and work together. And that’s one of the things that frustrates me about politics.
Anyway, it seems that the President has set an Easter deadline (or target, depending on how you want to look at it) for health care reform to pass. Which means we have four weeks to get this thing done. What happens if nothing gets passed? I dunno … the millions of people without health insurance will continue to go without health insurance, insurance premiums will continue to go up, health care spending will continue to explode our deficit, and America will continue to be the only industrialized country where people can go bankrupt because they got sick.
From Foolocracy: "Rush Limbaugh praised the American health care system while in a Hawaiian hospital for a couple of days during the last week. What he did not mention is that Hawaii has the most socialized system of any of the 50 states and, with its near universal healthcare, resembles the Obama health care plan."