Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thought for the Day

I managed to reference a lot of the stories on the show today and, of course, received the usual feedback I get every time I mention how old I am. This is what I presented at BBC Radio Bristol this morning, amidst tears of laughter for reasons not entirely unrelated to Noel Edmonds telephoning cats:

Today's starter question. In a mature society, what should we pay for? What should be free?

Jesus told his disciples that there was no point gaining the whole world and losing your soul. And he told them if they wanted to follow him to take up their cross. Souls valuable; bodies expendable, we conclude. Tough challenge.

Having time to kill in a big city recently I went into a museum. I was encouraged to make a donation but I didn't need to. It was free.

Wandering around I felt the first twinges of toothache. My thoughts moved quite quickly from the pain and inconvenience to 'I'm glad I pay for a dental plan.'

Museums free.

Dentistry costs.

Nailsea is the first place I've ever lived where town centre car-parking is free. I've reached that peculiarly arbitrary age where prescriptions are free and I can get discounts on travel costs.

Meanwhile people are having to find huge amounts of money to pay for a university education, which I got free, and some have found that it's cheaper to go to the United States to get a degree.

Tax credits have been a brave attempt to make sure that work always pays - perhaps making the point in the process that nothing comes for free.

Meanwhile repairing acts of vandalism is expensive for our city.

So, what should be free? Education? Prescriptions? Dentistry? Museums? Transport? Basic benefits? None of the above?

The job of politics is to work out how to organise services into free, subsidised and fully-charged stuff. The work of the faith community is to remind everyone what is of real value.

A relationship with God has no price tag. It's a free gift. But it has very costly implications.

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