Friday, June 22, 2007

Re: Blair's Britain   [Mark Steyn]

I don't have much to add to Jonah's and Iain's posts, but hey, that's never stopped me before. So let me just say that I think socialized health care is the single biggest factor in transforming the relationship of the individual to the state. In fact, once it's introduced it becomes very hard to have genuinely conservative government - certainly, not genuinely small government. I think I say in my book that in Continental cabinets (and in Canada) the Defense ministry is somewhere you pass through en route to a really important portfolio like Health. Election campaigns become devoted to competing pledges about "fixing" health care, even though by definition it never can be.

In a public health care system, the doctors, nurses, janitors and administrators all need to be paid every Friday so the only point at which costs can be controlled is through the patient, by restricting access. If you go to an American doctor with a monstrous lump on your shoulder, it's in his economic interest to find out what it is and get it whipped off as soon as possible. If you go to a British or Canadian doctor, it's in the system's economic interest to postpone it as long as possible. And because the public will only sit around on waiting lists for two or three years, eventually in order to control costs you have to claw it out of other budgets - like Defense. Socialized health care is the biggest cause not just of the infantilization of the citizenry but of the state.

On the former point, the unloveliness of any British city after six in the evening - the dolly birds staggering around paralytic, the pools of "pavement pizza", the baying yobboes gagging for a shag and hurling bollards through the bus shelters to impress the crumpet - is a natural consequence of what happens when the state relieves the citizen of primal responsibilities.

As for the fact that 50% of people outside London are either on the dole or working for the government, I'd bet it's even higher in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If I were a Londoner, I'd be in favor of seceding from the United Kingdom and going it alone as the Hong Kong of Europe.


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