Wednesday, August 13, 2008
An aspect of modern culture I find extremely revolting is the banal negative connotation attached to such terms as "reality". It is as if simply by repeating the lie that that life is inherently unpleasant, one is being unusually perceptive -- ripping the veil of ignorance from the eyes of his audience. For the second-hand mental pygmies of the modern era, it's to metaphysics what wearing a rubber band on one's wrist is to morality: a way to show everyone that you're hip without having to risk making your head hurt by thinking too much.
Libby Purves, writing in The Times of London ("NHS rationing is a reality we should deal with"), assumes this annoying air as she basically tells a nation victimized by socialized medicine that they've no choice but to meekly accept rationing of medical care by the government, along with any life-threatening pettiness it may imply. Not only that, she even verges on reveling in delivering the bad news. (Where have I seen such spiritual indecency before?)
So there is already rationing in the NHS. Oh yes, there is, and it isn't going to stop under any government. Some local health trusts won't give you a new knee if you're fat, or IVF if you smoke, or liver transplants if you drink. Others will. Some defy guidance and go for the latest cancer drugs, yet have woeful mental health services; some run model services for the elderly but refuse to countenance stomach stapling, or minor cosmetic procedures for patients tormented by their sticking-out ears. As to less visible decisions, GPs - now made strongly aware of economics by the fundholding system - make judgments every day: based on age, usefulness, even likeability. [bold and link added]Her excuse for telling people to put up and shut up is the brilliant observation that -- surprise! -- there aren't enough resources to treat everyone for everything. (Rhetorical question: Why is it that socialists always say this after they've ignored warnings to this effect by capitalists, thereby chopping everyone down to the lowest common denominator?)
The assumption hidden in plain sight here is that the resources taken by the government of Britain for the alleged purpose of providing "everyone" with "free" medical care ever belonged to anyone but those who produced them.
Were individual citizens expected to pay for their own medical care, many, without the illusion of a safety net, would behave much more responsibly about their own health to begin with. Were they allowed to do so, they could decide for themselves whether to prolong their lives past 85 if able. And if they were not able to do so, they would not impose on anyone else unable or unwilling to do so, removing from public debate the obscene question of whether such individuals are useful-enough state property to maintain past that point.
Many people in America are foolishly backing plans to socialize medicine here, based on the mistaken belief that the government will end all scarcity in medical care, and based on a naive belief that their own benevolence towards others will not only be empowered with funding, but will somehow thrive in the setting of a government bureaucracy. They are wrong on both counts, as Ms. Purves unwittingly warns them.
Purves is right that resources for medical care -- like all resources -- are limited, but she is grotesquely wrong that human beings basically being put down like farm animals due to obesity, old age, or "even likeability" is "a reality we should deal with". We still can (and should) choose the option of being limited only by our ability and desire to pay for good medical care from doctors motivated by profit. We can choose to respect the property and lives of others in return for others respecting ours, and having the government protect those rights rather than violate them, as the British NHS routinely does to the British.