Image via WikipediaSome Thoughts on Health Care by Scott Johnston
Well here I am at seventy seven, a British citizen, trained in his youth to fight in Korea, but sent instead to do his bit as a NATO soldier in Germany to defend us from the Red Army menacing us all these decades from no great distance,just across the Iron Curtain, who paid his taxes, brought up his family, stayed in work, and who, to end a working life of honest if undistinguished effort, got involved in re-establishing democratic institutions in Eastern Europe after the Commies fell from power.
Anyway, it pleases me to think I generally did my bit - nothing special, but not too much, I hope, to be ashamed of either
But it takes the debate on Obama’s health care bill to open my eyes to how I’ve been taken for a sucker all these years. I read, according to Republican dogma, that I am the victim of a tyrannical socialist system with the government dominating my life, the slave of a “European Nanny State”.
I’d never have thought it.
Here was me thinking I lived in a good and civilised sort of country, a , country which refused to let my first son die of acute asthma in his teens, a country that picked my wife up after tripping last year in the streets of Edinburgh, and gave her a new hip within twenty four hours with full after-care back up – and never asked for a credit card or enquired about her bank balance.
Free? Of course not. You can’t get this for nothing, and I’ve been paying for it all my life through my taxes. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I can’t be alone in this either. It would be suicide for any political party in Britain to advocate any weakening of the National Health Service – to want to interfere with the principle of a state funded service free at the point of delivery for those in need.
Plenty of debate – of course –about the organisation and efficiency of the NHS. Plenty of horror stories of human error and neglect. That makes news. But plenty of praise for it too. My experience has been wholly good. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.
But no-one I have ever met would want to contemplate any interference with the principle fought for and established in 1948 with the Utopian but reasonable vision of creating after World War 2 a better society than it had been the lot of most people in the twenties and thirties to experience when governments and the way the economy had been organised manifestly failed to meet their reasonable expectations.
Socialism – or the sort of Christian Socialist thinking that dominated Western European in the early post war years - seemed eminently preferable to the shambles that the unrestricted play of market forces had made of so many people’s lives, denying them the means to provide themselves with the basic things needed to lead the good life.
So, socialism? Really? Depends on what you imagine socialism is. I don’t back away from it. But it’s just a simple term of abuse, it seems, in the USA, needing no explanation
But hang on! Margaret Thatcher must have been a socialist too. Maybe her good buddy Reagan just never noticed. Certainly the Iron Lady smashed down many of the works of previous Labour governments, and the two of them let the financial services markets rip, both sides of the Atlantic.
But she would never, ever, have dared to dismantle the NHS.
Odd that the ideological debates – socialism against capitalism (though the choices in main stream British politics were never presented so starkly) have given way in the UK to a broad measure of consensus about the role of the state in the economy, in particular with regard to health. Now politics is about management and personalities. And to some extent about whether the UK (not all that much older than the USA) can hang together for all that much longer.
But opposite trends seem to be emerging in America. Ideological divisions have emerged between Democrats and Republicans where they were scarcely visible before to the foreign observer. And the tone of political discourse in the States seems to have grown ugly, and threatening, and (to this observer anyway), troubling to those who care about the future of democratic institutions.
OK, I am by conviction a woolly sort of liberal. But I kind of think that a lot of people died to defend the sort of tolerant, easy going, kind of society that liberals like to believe in. It’s the only one I’d die for, anyway – and might just think the sacrifice to be worthwhile.
So, back to health, where all this chain of thought began.
To us – victims of socialist tyranny - it is beyond all comprehension why there is any debate, at all, in the richest country in the world, about organising matters to ensure that health care is available to all, as of right.
It is something that seems as self evident as the other sacred truths which Americans are taught to hold so dear.
But the USA is not my country, and my understanding of it is very partial indeed. I just wanted to say, though, that if this is victim hood that I’m suffering where I am right now, then give me more of it, please.
And by the way, nothing to stop me buying health in Britain too, if I want it. I’ve done that too.