Sick o' Socialism

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In the Wall Street Journal is an article that attacks the central theme of Sicko, namely the idea that socialized medicine will actually benefit patients. Although I would prefer to see, in addition, a little indignation at the idea that physicians deserve slavery for all their trouble along with a rousing defense of individual rights, the article does at least offer some food for thought. New to me was how common privatization has become in Europe:

Market reforms are catching on in Britain, too. For six decades, its socialist Labour Party scoffed at the very idea of private medicine, dismissing it as "Americanization." Today Labour favors privatization, promising to triple the number of private-sector surgical procedures provided within two years. The Labour government aspires to give patients a choice of four providers for surgeries, at least one of them private, and recently considered the contracting out of some primary-care services--perhaps even to American companies.

Other European countries follow this same path. In Sweden, after the latest privatizations, the government will contract out some 80% of Stockholm's primary care and 40% of total health services, including Stockholm's largest hospital. Beginning before the election of the new conservative chancellor, Germany enhanced insurance competition and turned state enterprises over to the private sector (including the majority of public hospitals). Even in Slovakia, a former Marxist country, privatizations are actively debated.
Although it is important to remember that such moves may fail -- because they are not necessarily moves toward actual capitalism -- the take-home message is unmistakable: If socialized medicine is so great, why are Europeans fleeing "paradise" in droves?

This will not save us in the long run. An uncompromising and proud stand for the individual rights of physicians and patients will ultimately be required for that. But such arguments might at least buy us some time to make the better ones that will carry the day.

-- CAV


: Corrected a typo.


Sid said...

You'll see the Scandinavian model -- private entrepreneurship with a welfare state -- being praised all over the Internet. What they do not tell you is that they are slowly moving away from it towards a freer market, and for good reason.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for that second link, Sid. For other readers, a quote:

"Where will all this leave the much-trumpeted Swedish model? Most Swedes are weary of listening to foreign claims about the perfection of their society. Mr Lindbeck suggests that, where it does have economic strengths, they are of an essentially Anglo-American, market variety. Johnny Munkhammar, who runs a pro-market think-tank, Timbro, argues similarly that history shows Sweden's economy to have flourished when it has been more liberal and low-tax—and to have gone off the rails when higher taxes and more regulation have been imposed."

Jim May said...

If socialized medicine is so great, why are Europeans fleeing "paradise" in droves?

I saw that exact same point made clear to me in the early 90's, when I was still living in Canada; I grew up in the 70's hearing about Americans desperately trying to sneak into our wonderful, "free" system.

But then, in the early 90's, MRI clinics in New York State started buying radio ads on US radio in Buffalo NY, specifically targeted to Canadian listeners across the border. I thought to myself, if our system is so damn good like I've been told all my life, what sense does it make for a paid service to advertise to the customers of a "free" competitor?

The answer was that the chickens were coming home to roost all over Canada by then, with MRI backlogs and waiting lists.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for posting that vignette, Jim. To the extent that Michael Moore is able to pull a snow job on reasonable, but uninformed people, stories (and questions) like yours in the right hands can help undo the damage.