When questioning modern myths, one feels like Don Quixote charging the windmills. Nonetheless it’s time to demythologize the British National Health Service, which evidently serves as a model for some of President Obama’s more imprudent ideas. Britain does have a few things worth imitating, Mr. President, but the NHS isn’t one of them.
This gigantic organization has used every trick to create a saintly aura around itself. Many brainwashed Englishmen seem to honestly believe that using private medicine, even if it means salvation from misery or death, is an act of moral turpitude and treason. If medical care isn’t free, claim these sorely misguided individuals, poor people will be dying in the street like stray dogs.
But the term “free medical care” is mendacious. To a semantic rigorist, “free” used to mean something for which one didn’t have to pay. To NHS champions, it means something different. If pressed, they’d admit reluctantly that of course somebody has to pay for all those MRI and PET scans. Such things are expensive, and the more inefficiently they are provided, the dearer they get. If patients don’t pay for them directly, the payment comes from the government, which can only make money the old-fashioned way: from taxes or “quantitative easing” (“queasing” for short?).
Thus, “free medicine” really means that the transfer of money from patient to hospital is mediated by the state acting in the role of a megalomaniacal general contractor. But governments are less efficient, more cumbersome, and usually more corrupt than private enterprise. So we can assume that mastectomies will be more expensive when one pays for them through the government, whether one needs them or not, than they would be if one paid for them directly and only when needed.
But when today’s Englishmen pay for state medicine, they don’t only pay for mastectomies and scans. An ever-growing proportion of their money supports the mushrooming state bureaucracy administering “free” medical care, something for which we’d pay less if medical care weren’t “free.”
Yet the British don’t mind paying taxes, or at least they claim they don’t—just as Soviet people used to claim they didn’t mind donating, on pain of imprisonment, huge amounts to government bonds that never paid up. True enough, it’s a patriotic duty to pay taxes, but only to a government that pursues patriotic ends. Otherwise it’s our moral duty to avoid taxes as an act of civil disobedience.
Steady growth of nationalized medicine is tantamount to the state extorting ever-larger sums from the people. In the process, “free” medical care places an increasing proportion of the nation’s finances and labor force under state control, thus increasing the state’s power over the individual. The NHS already employs more than three times as many people as Europe’s largest private employer.
In other words, “free,” as translated from the modern cant, means “serving the state, not the citizen, and therefore being more expensive and less efficient than it otherwise would be.”
The fact that medical care can be used as an instrument of tyranny has been demonstrated by every unsavory modern state, not least by Nazi Germany. Firm believers in state medicine, the Nazis showed how it could be used for crowd control. Like our bureaucrats today, they emphasized prevention, with proper nutrition featuring prominently in their health propaganda. Every German had a duty, according to the Nazis, to look after himself in order to prolong the state-serving part of his life.
Likewise, in today’s state medicine, the need to relieve pressures on the state’s purse can be neatly converted into nannying. Conditioned to accept the state’s dictates, Europeans don’t cringe upon hearing from yet another health official yet another admonishment on their dietary habits.
The Nazis waged an anti-smoking campaign that would be the envy of today’s EU or USA. Like today’s bureaucrats, the Nazis promoted vegetarianism (practiced by Hitler, Hess, and many others) and opposed medical experiments on animals. Since the Nazis were godless, animals to them weren’t principally different from humans and were in fact superior to some. Hitler seemed to love his German Shepherd Blondi more than any woman in his life. In today’s Britain, veterinary medicine seems to be organized considerably better than human care.
Nazi physicians were also involved in less benign pastimes such as eugenics and enforced euthanasia. It’s comforting to observe how medicine in today’s West is inching in the same direction. With its abject submission to state power, euthanasia is custom-made for the modern world. One cannot open the papers these days without reading a thinly veiled lament about the burden an aging population places on state medicine’s fragile shoulders. Euthanasia is steadily moving toward the forefront of potential remedies.
At present, the Swiss permit euthanasia as an expensive optional service, but the time may not be far away when our governments will make it compulsory. This is a paradox, for the government’s tireless propaganda of healthier “lifestyles,” coupled with advances in pharmaceuticals and hygiene, is designed to help people live longer. This creates yet another vicious circle of modernity: The state uses medicine to increase its own power but also hurts itself by engendering a multitude of wrinkly freeloaders who do nothing but sap the state’s resources.
The British, who are unhappy about the potentially deadly waiting lists at hospitals caused by a chronic shortage of hospital beds, miss the point. State medicine doesn’t need hospital beds to achieve its principal objective: power over people’s lives.
To make this point, NHS hospitals shed medical jobs while swelling their staffs with administrative personnel bearing New Age titles such as Director of Diversity. The numbers are telling: St. George’s Hospital in Tooting has sacked 500 jobs, while London’s venerable St. Bartholomew’s and St. Thomas’s cut 630 jobs between them—with a corresponding reduction of 100 hospital beds.
Unfortunately, even expert critics of the NHS refuse to acknowledge that it’s so inefficient not because it’s run in a flawed way but because it’s based on a flawed idea. Thus, medical care remains free—and extremely dear at the price.
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