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Socialized vs. Free Market
[COMMENT: Actually, the title should read fully
socialized vs. half socialized, but the real point is the comparison between
freemarket and socialized and/or fascist medical care.
D o w n s i z e r - D i s p a t c h
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Quote of the Day:
"One death is a tragedy. Six million is a statistic."
Subject: Death by government
-- attributed to Joseph Stalin
When real market prices are unavailable to balance supply and demand in the
health care sector -- when prices are set by government decree, or distorted by
government funding -- the consequence can be death.
It's easy to miss this truth if we only focus on anecdotal personal testimony.
Talk to people from Canada and the U.K. and you're likely to hear glowing praise
for their national health services. Alas, there are fundamental problems with
this kind of testimony . . .
Michael Moore, in his film "Sicko," makes dramatic use of horrifying anecdotes
of failure in the American system. We say, "Good for him!" We too reject
America's current system, precisely because it is already half-way to the type
of system Moore advocates. We applaud him for exposing the failures of America's
half-socialized system, but . . .
- People living under national health services have little or nothing to
compare them to.
- Small medical problems, easily fixed, are far more common than those
that are life threatening -- thus, most personal testimony tells us little
about how well major procedures are handled.
- Patients that survive major medical problems in such systems tend to
assume the system works.
- While those who die because of the system's failure are unavailable to
- This is the familiar economic problem of the "seen and the unseen" --
the successes are seen, walking among us, while the failures lie buried,
unseen and silent.
We must criticize him for not telling the whole story. If you watch another
movie, "Dead Meat," you'll hear equally horrifying anecdotes about the fully
socialized Canadian system, which is the kind of system Moore wants for America.
Though Moore favors the French socialist system, future messages will show that
there is really no fundamental difference between France and Canada. For now we
just want to compare movie-anecdote to move-anecdote, and "Dead Meat" is about
Canada . . .
- A Canadian woman waited TWO YEARS for "free" cancer
surgery, only to have her appointments canceled, twice. Death came before
her surgery did.
- A Calgary woman was in excruciating pain from worn-out knee cartilage.
She had to wait 16 months for her "free" surgery. It took so long that she
became addicted to "free" Oxycontin. The result? More time on another long
list, waiting for "free" drug rehab.
Moore doesn't really cover the anecdotal horrors of the various socialist
systems, even though there are plenty of such stories available.
- Another man needed urgent neck surgery. His "free" doctor told him there
was a TWO-YEAR WAIT for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION!
But if both sides in a controversy can each produce horrifying anecdotes, then
what have we really learned? How can we choose between the competing stories to
arrive at an optimal policy? We would submit that anecdotes can tell us little
more than this . . .
But what the anecdotes can't tell us is how the half-socialized American system
compares to the fully socialized foreign systems, or how either approach would
compare to a totally free market system.
- The American system of half-socialized medicine has big problems
- Foreign systems of fully-socialized medicine also have big problems
What we need instead of anecdotes is statistical information that can give us a
well-rounded picture. Statistics may lack the emotional impact to get your blood
pumping, but they could provide the crucial evidence you need to KEEP
your blood pumping. We're talking about statistics likes these . . .
- British colon cancer patients had to wait so long for medical attention
that 20 percent of the cases considered curable at the time of diagnosis,
were incurable by the time of treatment. (Source: Anthony Browne, London
Observer, December 16, 2001)
- 71 patients in Ontario, Canada died while waiting for bypass surgery,
and another 121 had to wait so long there was no longer any point in
operating. (Richard F. Davis, Canadian Medical Association Journal 160, no.
10, May 18, 1999)
- In Britain, on an annual basis, waiting lists cause a denial of
treatment to 9,000 people for renal dialysis, 15,000 for cancer
chemotherapy, and 17,000 for coronary artery surgery. (Source: Henry J.
Aaron and William B. Schwartz, "The Painful Prescription: Rationing Hospital
Care," the Brookings Institution, 1984).
This is death by waiting list. Death by rationing. Death by
But how does the U.S. system of half-socialized medicine compare? The available
statistics are so abundant, and so in favor of America's half-messed-up system
that it's hard to pick what to show in this short message, but for just a taste
of the available data, consider these comparisons of where we have been in
comparison to Britain and Canada, and where we still are . . .
But have things changed over the years? Are government systems responsive to
their deficiencies? The answer is no.
- Back in 1978 the U.S. rate for pacemaker implants was more than four
times higher than that of Britain, and 20 times that of Canada, plus the
U.S. has three times more CAT scanners available per capita than Canada, and
six times more than Britain. (Source: Mary-Ann Rozbicki, "Rationing British
Health Care: The Cost/Benefit Approach,) Executive Seminar in National and
International Affairs (U.S. Department of State, April 1978)
Or how about this . . .
- Today, Britain still has only half as many CT and MRI scanners per
capita as the U.S., and the disparity with Canada is similar, not only with
regard to scanners but numerous other treatments and diagnostic tools.
Things really haven't changed much over the years -- national health
services continue to lag behind in almost every category. (I've provide more
detail and sources below my signature.)
In 2001, how many patients had to wait more than 4 months for surgery? The
answer is . . .
(Source: "Comparison of Health Care System Views and Experiences in Five
Nations," Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief, May, 2002)
- 36% in Britain's fully socialized system
- 27% in Canada's fully socialized system
- 26% in New Zealand's fully socialized system
- 23% in Australia's fully socialized system
- And . . . drum roll . . . only 5% in America's half-socialized system
What a difference just half as much socialism can make.
If the statistics show the fully socialized systems to be so much worse than
America's half-socialized system, isn't it at least worth considering that we
might solve many of America's remaining health care problems by going even more
in the direction of the free market?
These are just a few snap-shots of what the statistical studies show, in
comparison to mere anecdotes. There are many more such studies, tending strongly
toward the same conclusion . . .
"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. TANSTAFL!"
TANSTAFL is a pithy way of saying that if you don't pay a real free market price
for health care, supply will fall short of demand, and so you will pay in
another way . . . with waiting lists that could kill you.
Plus, you'll also pay BIG TAXES for your supposedly
FREE system, on top of the potentially deadly waiting lists, and you'll
lose the power of free market competition to keep prices down (all of these
things are already big problems in America).
But the prospect of what we face in America is even worse than the harm
countries like Britain and Canada have done to themselves with socialized
medicine. Our country, if the trend continues, is much more likely to adopt a
fascist, rather than socialist model of state health care.
This will involve a lot of corporate welfare, monopoly partnerships between
corporations and the state, with prices and terms of treatment set in
consultation with corporate lobbyists. Or, in a word, fascism.
Please, please, please, let us not do this. Because once it happens it
will be nearly impossible to reverse.
What should we do instead? It's a big subject, and we will get to it, but the
right place to start is where the physicians start, "First, do no harm."
Even if you think some kind of increased government involvement is needed in
American health care, do not let it come at the federal level.
Please send a message to
Congress opposing any further funding of personal health care expenses at the
federal level. Please cut and paste some of the above statistics (or those
below) into your personal comments to Congress. If you've already sent a message
on this issue, using the statistics justifies sending another one.
And please, please, please, help us spread the word about the above facts,
stories, and arguments, to counter the current drumbeat for federally funded
health care. Please forward this message to other people. And if you received
this message because someone forwarded it to you, please do the same and forward
it to someone else. Spread the word!
Thank you for your time and attention. Thank you to those of you who are DC
Downsizers. And if possible,
please make a contribution to further our work.
PS: Our thanks to the Cato Institute and the Independent Institute for
accumulating the studies used in this message.
Additional stats and sources . . .
- Britain has only half the number of CT scanners as the U.S. Source:
Anderson, Reinhardt, Hussey, and Petrosyan, "It's the Prices Stupid," pages
- Britain also has half as many MRI scanners per capita as the U.S.
Source: "National Service Framework for Health," UK Department of Health,
- For an extensive list of Canadian deficiencies in treatments and
diagnostic tools see "Canada's System Lacks Many Bells and Whistles," by Tom
Arnold, National Post, November 17, 2001
- Also, see the Canadian Medical Association Journal 165, no. 4, August
21, 2001, 421-25
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