Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

June 27, 2013

Vitamins and aspirin

I enjoy making analogies, especially when they are not the obvious ones, so that a reader can think about local public questions in a new way.

Perhaps by thinking in a new way, the community can improve itself over time. The analogy I offer is simply an invitation to innovate, an open door for creative ideas.

This week, consider the difference between vitamins and aspirin. Aspirin promises to make you feel better fairly quickly about some ailment or complaint you are having, such as a headache or muscle soreness. It is a temporary response to an undesirable condition.

Vitamins taken by themselves rarely make you feel better, certainly not in the short term. And they are not necessarily taken in response to any particular complaint. Instead, you take them routinely to prevent something from developing later, just as I take Lutein because I’m supposedly susceptible to macular degeneration.

Here then is the analogy. Some political action is more like an aspirin, and some is more like vitamins. Sure, in both cases the ultimate health and well-being of the community is the objective, but political “aspirin” is an attempt to alleviate a felt problem that needs to get better soon, whereas political “vitamins” are ongoing practices that prevent conditions from getting worse. Need examples?

In Hampton Roads, interstate 64 between Williamsburg and Newport News is routinely congested. Two lanes going each direction is simply not enough to handle the volume of traffic, and the situation is worse now when families are traveling on vacation. Not infrequently, traffic comes to a standstill.

The congestion cries out for an aspirin, and even though experts disagree on the best remedy, they all understand the nature of the problem and seek some kind of alleviation. And so, like physicians deliberating which medicine to prescribe, the experts talk about charging tolls, paving over green space, and building special through-lanes for cars with more than one person.

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