Leave it to the committed socialists to destroy their flagship socialist program. The socialists in this case are Britain's Labour Party and its not-so-inspiring leader, Gordon Brown. The flagship socialist program is Britain's universal health care, administered through its National Health Service (NHS).
Since the NHS was created in post WWII Britain, health care has been distributed upon a simple contract - an individual and his employer pay an annual tax for which the government covenants to provide "free healthcare for all." Or as Karl Marx would have described it, from each according to his means, to each according to his needs. It is socialist utopianism.
Now sixty years after it was first formed, the NHS is ailing. It is not quite yet broken, but it has very significant problems with the quality and timeliness of care. And to add to those woes, the NHS is coming under an ever increasing funding strain. The father of modern capitalism, Britain's Adam Smith, would no doubt suggest building market reforms into the system that would allow it to function more efficiently.
Unfortunately, Adam Smith was followed in the pantheon of influential philosophers by Karl Marx. And it is to Marx that our modern socialists defer. The Marxian solution to such a problem as the NHS now faces is, to borrow George Orwell's imagery, to make some animals on the farm more equal than others. No longer is health care to be doled out on the basis of need, but rather on the basis of social acceptabity as determined by the central government.
This today from the Telegraph:
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, Gordon Brown plans to introduce a "constitution" setting out the rights and responsibilities of our healthcare system.
What this seems to amount to in practice are the Government's rights to refuse treatment, and the patient's responsibilities to live up to what the state decides are model standards.
There is apparently to be a clear warning that those who adhere to unhealthy habits such as smoking or failing to take regular exercise may be refused NHS care.
This threat is morally outrageous and legally dubious: if lung cancer victims are really to be left to die without medical care because they are smokers, or heart disease sufferers turned away because they have not succeeded in losing weight, this will make a mockery of the principle of universal healthcare free at the point of need.
. . . If a private insurance company to which people had been paying premiums over a lifetime were to declare retrospectively that it would not cover treatment for smokers or the overweight, its customers could rightly sue for breach of contract.
Bizarrely, while more is to be expected of patients by way of self-reliance in terms of taking responsibility for their own treatment - thus helping to defray NHS costs - they will still be forbidden the most obvious form of self-help, which is to pay for some supplemental treatment (which would help even more substantially to reduce NHS costs).
So there are likely to be more cases of cancer patients being told that they will be cast out of NHS care altogether if they purchase drug treatment with their own funds which their hospital trusts would not provide.
The inadequacy of our healthcare model has led us to a senseless (and heartless) contradictory position: the Department of Health states categorically that "co-payment" is unacceptable because it would result in an unequal system in which better-off patients would have advantages that poorer ones do not.
But it now plans to refuse care to people whose unhealthy lifestyles are usually associated with poverty and deprivation.
The extraordinary high-handedness of these proposals is symptomatic of all that is wrong with a tax-funded monopoly health system run by central government: ordinary people are encouraged to think of healthcare as a gift of the state. . .
Read the entire article here. The history of our world is that capitalism and market based solutions are always the most effective and efficient long term solutions to economic questions. Socialism is not really an economic philosophy as much as it is a populist political philosophy that exalts the government technocrat over the individual. Socialism attempts to micromanage the unmanagable, and it is typified by invasive social engineering based on the technocrat's personal belief of how each individual should act.
It may well be that we are inevitably headed in the U.S. towards a system of universal health care. At the risk of having my conservative credentials revoked, I do not think that necessarily a bad thing. But it must be a system that minimizes government influence and relies, to the maximum extent possible, on market forces. The socialist solution will never work in the long run. If you need proof, just keep a close eye on our socialist cousins across the pond.