It’s in the shaman’s vested interests

by
23 September 2009

US health is another victim of capitalist propaganda, says Alan Storkey

IT IS NOT just individuals, but also countries that can go stark, staring mad, and, from the other side of the pond, it seems that the United States has gone catatonic over medical reform. Let us begin with a sober assessment. The US spends more than 15 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on health care, compared with, for example, 8.5 per cent for the UK.

Since the US is a richer country, this is a vastly greater cost — about $7500 per person each year. Yet a World Health Organisation study ranks the overall performance of US health services at 37th in the world, and the overall level of health at 72nd. Cuba is better.

These figures reflect a private, indulgent system that runs on vast profit-taking for the hospitals and senior medical staff, and poor diet, pharmaceutical dependencies, and an over-consuming lifestyle. It is medical capitalism, made worse by large differences in levels of wealth and family breakdown.

It also reflects, even more intensely than British medicine, the over-inflated belief in health care and drugs. Much of the time, health is a matter of good diet, exercise, cleanliness, work, rest, care, good family life, and safety. Road accidents, drug misuse, obesity, smoking, alcohol, family breakdown, stress, promiscuity, pollution of food and air, and poor sanitation explain most sickness — in the US and elsewhere.

The system of health-preservation and repair which God has created in our bodies over­whelmingly explains good health, and most of the time what doctors are really saying is: “Go away, and wait until you get better.” Yet, especially in the US, doctors, drugs companies, research institutes, cosmetic surgeons, and hospitals claim: “We will cure you.” The old pitch of the shaman — “Pay me, and I will make you better” — is driving the system.

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President Obama’s attempts at reform are therefore the obvious response to an unfair system. Debate about reform is necessary, of course; yet this is not debate, but the protection of a gravy train.

Nor it is just the medics who are to blame. It is estimated that something like one third of all tests and procedures carried out in the US are undertaken not because they are deemed neces­sary, but because of the fear of tort and legal fees for things that go wrong. Lawyers, too, have their noses in the trough.

But when capitalism is attacked, it fights back. Since expenditure of more than $2 trillion each year goes to the vast medical establishment, it can afford the odd billion or two to defend its patch. And this is the problem. Many people imbibe from Fox News and other sources the idea that public medicine is communistic.

It was no accident that the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was transported over to Fox, to proclaim that the NHS was a “60-year mistake”, and to talk of elderly patients “left starving on wards”.

But when capitalism is attacked, it fights back. Since expenditure of more than $2 trillion each year goes to the vast medical establishment, it can afford the odd billion or two to defend its patch. And this is the problem. Many people imbibe from Fox News and other sources the idea that public medicine is communistic.

It was no accident that the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was transported over to Fox, to proclaim that the NHS was a “60-year mistake”, and to talk of elderly patients “left starving on wards”.

Voters are too gullible, and too malleable, to weigh against the vested interests. These always win. That is why global warming cannot be tackled, and why the military-industrial complex gets its way. In the US, and perhaps in the UK, too, the mass of voters have become putty in the hands of capitalist propaganda.

Dr Alan Storkey is the author of Jesus and Politics (Baker Book House, 2005).

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