Yay for the NHS!

by Richard on June 29, 2009

I was watching Pat Robertson on the 700 Club the other night. They were discussing Obama’s health care reforms, and I heard from Mr Robertson that same sneer that I’ve sometimes heard from other Americans about “socialized medicine”. The comment went something like (I’m paraphrasing from memory) ‘Forcing people to stand in line - it’s terrible!’ And then he added, as if this would make any further comment impossible, ‘Socialism’.

But PamBG, who unfortunately for British Methodism will soon be returning to her native US, has good reason to thank God for the horror that is British socialism.

At about 3:00, Wonderful Husband rings from work to say that he’s seeing ‘flashing lights and black spots’ and he’s booked a check-up at the Optometrist after work. Immediately, I’m thinking ‘detached retina’. … I told him I’d be happier if he went straight to A&E. Which he did. … Anyway, they found that he had a tear in his retina and they have performed laser surgery and sent him home. He can see; his eye isn’t bandaged and there is no worry about driving or travelling.

Modern medical technology is amazing, and it must have been a huge relief to ‘Mr Pam’ to have his eye attended to so swiftly.

And I can’t help pointing out that in this instance, there was no ’standing in line’. Medical emergency, you see. If he’d been the other side of the Atlantic his treatment would have depended upon proof of an ability to pay. And that, as I’m sure I’ve said before, can’t be right.

I’d never claim that NHS is perfect. There’s always going to be things that could be done better. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it beats the alternatives hands down.

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 06.29.09 at 5:37 pm

To give Einstein’s famous saying about humans some specificity: Two things are infinite - the universe and Pat Robertson’s stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

2

PamBG 06.29.09 at 10:16 pm

From a Christian perspective the commandment to ‘love one’s neighbour as oneself’ includes the principle of community responsibility for one another. Therefore, I find it amazing when Christians buy into the prevailing American cultural value of ‘If you can’t afford healthcare, you can’t have it - just like any other consumer good.’

But I’m not so silly as to believe that governments are run on Christian principles. Looking at it purely from a self-serving, pragmatic point of view, a healthy working man was prevented from the very real possibility of going blind in one eye and all the consequences that would entail by a procedure that took less than half an hour. Why would any society choose to let healthy working people become disabled - even if only partly disabled?

3

Earl 06.30.09 at 12:08 am

It is wonderful that this man’s vision was preserved. Hopefully he will enjoy a lifetime of good health. His particular experience is irrelevant in a discussion of nationalized healthcare. One might just as easily present examples of instances when persons were not well served by a nationalized healthcare system.

Following WWII England made a decision to adopt a welfare-state economic model. As in this instance, there have been some benefits.
But the cost in taxation and loss of economic opportunities is very real. From a free-market perspective, such a loss is not worth any possible gain that might be offered by socialism.

Healthcare is merely a service. Like any other service, someone has to pay for it. It may be that some think everyone should have access to comprehensive healthcare. It must be said that there are at least as many who do not consider such a service worth the cost involved. But ultimately it is only a service. If someone wants it, they have the option of buying it. But if someone considers it a waste of their money, there is no reason they should be compelled to purchase it. As with any other service, healthcare is a choice and not a fundamental moral imperative.

4

Richard 06.30.09 at 1:15 am

>> “His particular experience is irrelevant in a discussion of nationalized healthcare.”

No it isn’t. It illustrates perfectly what I see as the overriding benefit of the NHS, namely that care is delivered to those who need it according to their need rather than their ability to pay.

>> “Healthcare is merely a service”

There we fundamentally disagree. That’s just so wrong-headed I don’t know where to begin to argue with you at this hour.

5

Wood 06.30.09 at 8:37 am

“As in this instance, there have been some benefits.
But the cost in taxation and loss of economic opportunities is very real. From a free-market perspective, such a loss is not worth any possible gain that might be offered by socialism.”

Good thing a moral and/or Christian perspective ignores the free-market, then.

You put people’s welfare and health behind blank profit? That’s monstrous. Or at the very least utterly amoral.

6

Beth 06.30.09 at 8:55 am

The problem, as I see it, is that the NHS is moving to a model where only emergency treatment is given any kind of priority. Anything else is delayed or withheld from those who cannot pay for it. Expensive treatments are rationed or refused, even when they would be by far the best option for the patient, and vital operations can take years to perform, allowing significant degeneration, pain, and loss of opportunity in the meantime.

“Why would any society choose to let healthy working people become disabled”? Pam asks. But we do. We leave people with reversible physical conditions that prohibit them from working, keeping them out of work and on benefits (if they’re “lucky” enough to be able to get the benefits).

So, yes, the NHS may beat the American model. But the fact that it sometimes does what it’s meant to do isn’t really an occasion for celebration. It served Mr. Pam well - as it was meant to do. And it fails, day after day, to improve countless people’s quality of life. Huge inefficiency is at fault here, and until we can get over our national addiction to bureacracy we’ll never have a health system that is worthy of the name.

7

Chris Pritchard 06.30.09 at 11:19 am

“Healthcare is merely a service”
Sorry Earl but that is utter rubbish it like saying Education is a service that people should by or not and if you choose not to purchase you don’t recieve! Also please not the the United Kingdom or Britain got the NHS not just England.

Beth
“And it fails, day after day, to improve countless people’s quality of life. Huge inefficiency is at fault here, and until we can get over our national addiction to bureacracy we’ll never have a health system that is worthy of the name.”

I am told regularly the NHS has huge inefficiencies what are they?

Surely the real issue is that we have a finite pot of money which can be spent on the NHS and it needs to be spent wisely often the choice comes down to this.

8

Tony Buglass 06.30.09 at 11:52 am

I was a hospital chaplain during the early 1980s, when Mrs Thatcher’s spending cuts were chopping at all kinds of services. Wards were closing, staff were being made redundant, and waiting lists were growing (unless patients had the money to queue-jump - ie go private). All of which may illustrate Chris’ point that there is only a finite pot.

Except that there was obviously enough money for the bureaucrats. The path lab was ordered to cut £10K from its operating budget. Not the staff budget, but the operating budget. This was the lab which received biopsies, froze, thin-sliced and analysed them, so that they could inform surgeons what they actually had while the patient was still asleep and open on the table: it was acknowledged to be one of the best in the country. The bean-counters insisted that £10K (a huge amount back then) could and should be cut - and to oversee and enable the process, they appointed an assistant treasurer to do the necessary accounting. His salary was about £10K, when a Methodist minister’s stipend it the time was just over £5K. So in order to make real savings, the lab would have had to find enough money from their operating budget to pay the sipends of 4 Methodist ministers.

That’s the “addiction to bureaucracy” that Beth has spotted. OK, that was 25 years ago - I bet it hasn’t changed much.

9

PamBG 06.30.09 at 1:53 pm

“Healthcare is merely a service. Like any other service, someone has to pay for it.”

I wonder what Christian theological principles come into play in the above statement. Yes, someone has to pay for it. But what is Christian about the principle that each person fends for him or herself?

Also, whilst I agree that my husband’s experience isn’t relevant to the issue of whether or not universal healthcare is a good thing, it most certainly IS relevant to the frequently-cited arguments by Americans (see Ship of Fools thread on the subject) that nationalised healthcare means that individuals won’t have prompt access to help in the event of an emergency.

10

PamBG 06.30.09 at 2:04 pm

Beth and Tony: Two issues here, perhaps?

First issue: If the NHS is ‘addicted to bureaucracy’, then by all means we should be trying to make it more efficient.

The other issue is the one current in the US where many people have a strong attitude that healthcare is a service and consumer good rather than something that society should try to provide.

A short story. My father built a rather large small business, made more money in his lifetime than any of us will ever make - indeed, than most people will make. The cost of my parents’ every-day care, plus medical expenses, plus health insurance will likely leave them with nothing in ten years’ time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried that I should have an inheritance; what worries me is that *I* won’t be able to either care for them or pay for them if their money runs out.

I think that many middle-class Americans take the ‘I’m alright Jack’ approach to this. ‘I’m middle-class, I can afford health insurance, those people over there haven’t worked and can’t afford it; it’s their problem.’ Whilst I think that there are much better theological reasons for national healthcare than simply the pragmatic reasons, these people have no idea how much it actually costs to be old and infirm. And once you’re off your company’s group health policy, the insurance companies are happy to drop you like a stone the minute someone in your family gets ill. You’re insurable until you need the insurance.

11

Richard 06.30.09 at 2:14 pm

There is a lot of bureaucracy in the NHS. People say there’s too much, and I’m inclined to agree with them. But I also think that the bureacrats are a soft target. Doctors and nurses, everyone loves. But it’s hard to feel affection for a ‘pen pusher’. However, it’s those pen pushers that get the supplies delivered to the right place at the right time, sort out the pay roll, organise the waiting lists, and all the myriad other administrative tasks that have to be done. And while I’m sure that there are ways the NHS’s bureaucracy could be managed more efficiently (not by me!), I’m far from convinced that the healthcare system in the US system is any less bureaucratic than ours. That private systems operate more efficiently than publically-owned ones is a matter of faith, not invariable fact.

Beth - of course you’re right. There are people waiting for treatment in the NHS whose lives would be improved immeasurably if non-emergency treatment could be delivered more quickly. We should do all we can to improve this, and this is one area where the NHS has undoubtedly improved. But the choice is not between a privately-funded system that delivers treatment immediately and a public one that makes you wait. The options are a private system that will treat you if you can pay and a public one that will treat you if you need it.

12

Kim 06.30.09 at 3:17 pm

Many thanks to Earl for his reductio ad absurdum of the libertarian tradition with its valorisation of the market, its demonisation of taxation (apart, of course, from military expenditure), its mind-numbing mantra of choice, and its ultimate commercialisation of the whole of life. As has often been observed, this traditon lacks any concept of the common good - which makes it instrinsically un-Christian.

Until quite recently, libertarians like Reagan and Thatcher, neo-capitalist disciples of the Adam Smith, argued with a straight face the case of “the invisible hand”, viz. that the common good would be assured as long as each of us rigorously pursued our own self-interest. In this post-enlightenment tradition there is a nominal, rhetorical appeal to the providence of God; alas, however, the good Lord has bugger-all to do - “nature” does it all. Of course we now know, quite empirically, that the “hand” is not invisible, it is non-existent, and that the so-called trickle-down effect is sheer ideological bullshit.

Less hypocritical and more candid libertarians admit that the only way to bridge the self and the social is via charity. But then the common good becomes a matter of, er, choice, rather than the telos of social ethics. By sheer coincidence, it is a choice that some rich folk make; tax breaks, of course, let alone knighthoods, have nothing to do with such self-sacrificial generosity.

And in a late capitalist culture in which everything that moves is commodified, including the family, education - and health care; a quite vulgar culture in which if you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they don’t reply with a profession like a nurse or a teacher, but with the adjective “famous”; an essentially inhuman culture in which social relationships are not mediated but negotiated via mechanisms of purchase and exchange …

Well, what I am suggesting is that in nations where there is no living ethic of the common good - radically in the US, more moderately in the UK, but rapidly vanishing even here with the demise of socialist traditions (there is a connection, by the way, between New Labour’s smoke-and-mirrors adoption of Thatcherism and its mendacious engineering of the invasion of Iraq) - in such contexts a National Health Service cannot take root (the US), and if planted (the UK) cannot long survive. I am not sanguine.

13

PamBG 06.30.09 at 4:12 pm

‘Wot Kim said’.

Richard: ‘ I’m far from convinced that the healthcare system in the US system is any less bureaucratic than ours.’

I’m not either. I’m willing to bet that the people employed by health insurance firms in the US is greater than the people employed by the NHS to provide it with services and with record-keeping. But, of course, the insurance companies are private and operating for their own profit - that’s alright, then. *rolls eyes*

14

Wood 06.30.09 at 7:19 pm

Kim, I am proud to have you as a friend.

That is all.

15

Earl 06.30.09 at 7:36 pm

If allowed, responding in order:

Christian faith does not ignore reality any more than it ignores the law of gravity. Christian faith acts altruistically in spite of market realities. Such a choice is not free. In a pluralistic secular society, it is not monstrous or amoral for citizens to not agree with our priorities in faith.
The less than stellar quality of NHS patient satisfaction is well explained by Beth. No model is perfect. NHS is burdened by the same cost driven concerns as a for-profit model. A for-profit model produces innovation not found in NHS models.
“England…” was not used pejoratively any more than one might use the term, “the States.” Perhaps “United Kingdom” or “Great Britian” are more commonly used in Europe. Healthcare is a service. In a market with many suppliers, cost are moderated by competition. In a NHS model, there is no moderation by competition. Cost are rather constrained by the limits of the pot. The inequities of the NHS after which you inquire are indicated in degree by Beth. Research would allow one to uncover more. The limited pot of money allocated for healthcare in a social welfare state does mean hard choices have to be made. It is unjust for anyone to be required to pay for a service yet then denied treatment while someone else who might pay nothing is afforded care. It may be charity, but it is not just or equitable.
From a Christian perspective, Paul writes that a man is to work for what he needs, that if he will not work, he should not expect to eat. Again, Paul states that a man is supposed to take care of his family. Failure to do so ranks him as no better than an infidel. These points are not independent of the N.T., but they neither can they be ignored by those who would equate Christian faith with a social welfare state or the more extreme workers paradise of communism..
That Pam’s husband received effective emergency treatment is to be applauded. Organized to provide such care, the NHS must then either spend more money or cut back on more routine responsibilities.
If NHS suffers bureaucratic addition, it is only in the same boat as any other government agency. It has to produce no product. It has no competition. It has not incentive to improve.
For boomers who prize independence elder care is a ticking time-bomb due to explode hopes and dreams for creative retirement. It is an issue for which family members are responsible. This reflects the reality of many persons with aged parents and siblings.
No system is self-managing. Administration is a legitimate cost of healthcare. But efficiency in delivery of services is not the general product of a non-competitive system. A profit driven private enterprise system has incentives for efficiency administratively and service delivery that is absent in a NHS model.
The above is certainly reflects market realities to which response is appropriate. When it comes to commonwealth issues, other than for significant national interest (such as national defense, roads, etc.), skepticism of taxation as a policy, preference for personal freedom and embracing the dynamic of community as exchanged based have been demonstrated to be far more effective and for that reason far more preferable to any alternative of dependence. Such is in no way hostile to Christian faith.
In the twilight of empire, England emerged from the experience of the 1930 economic crisis and the trauma of WWII committed to what became a program of social welfare. In a increasingly competitive international market, that structure has failed. GDP for England now places it slightly ahead of Italy, California, France and Russia.
Hatred of reality is not a workable means of dealing constructively with life. Reagan and Thatcher worked remarkable benefits not replicated by their counterparts in other nations. If one does not like ones circumstances, one can choose to change. But apart from venting ones spleen, nothing is accomplished vilifying those who have positively improved the lives and opportunities of individuals and national systems. If one is not inclined to appreciate those positive changes, then rather than shaking ones fist in the face of God one might be better advised to actually seek His gracious direction and blessing. If one however has a preference for bovine alternatives, then one might better slip on a pair of “wellingtons.”
As once was said, “Love is all we need.” But you can not command it. You can not earn it. You can only give it. Any other basis is a temporary construct no more durable than a building constructed on beach sand.
There is nothing inhuman about society valuing the worth or lack of goods and services. It is part of the critical judgment that is the social equivalent of Darwinism. It may be that some think there are goods or services, etc., that should not be valued. It may be that some will value what others despise. But that is for society as a whole to decide. If society values a comfortable collective ethic of commonwealth, then it will be willing to pay the price.

16

DH 06.30.09 at 7:51 pm

Earl, excellent response. I would love to see you respond in the future. You give some awesome insight into things that show you DO come from a Christian perspective no matter what “ad hominim” statements others might make toward you.

17

DH 06.30.09 at 7:57 pm

Pam says this “Looking at it purely from a self-serving, pragmatic point of view, a healthy working man was prevented from the very real possibility of going blind in one eye and all the consequences that would entail by a procedure that took less than half an hour. Why would any society choose to let healthy working people become disabled - even if only partly disabled?”

What is so “self-serving” about that? It seems to show a lack of care for the guy to call it “self-serving”, etc. In America no one is “denied care” they may receive a bill if they do not have heal insurance but no one is denied care. I have said this many many times, people who make below a certain amount get their health care taken care of by Medicare and Medicaid. Just because some healthcare is not taken care of at a Federal level doesn’t mean that it isn’t taken care of.

18

Wood 06.30.09 at 8:05 pm

“Reagan and Thatcher worked remarkable benefits”?

You evidently didn’t grow up poor in Britain in the 1980s.

19

Earl 06.30.09 at 8:24 pm

When it comes to dealing with “‘ad hominim’ statements ” I have the advantage of having learned how to get along in a shipyard where the sharp end of a bottle was often someones idea of a conversation starter and finishing standing up was of paramount importance. I’ve often thought that those four years were as important to my educational process as anything that I received in the classroom.

As regards Reagan and Thatcher, I did not grow up in England during the 1980’s. But I grew up in America during the late 1970’s and pounded the streets of New Orleans looking for employment in 1979. I am well acquainted with the taste of beans and crackers. As a young married couple, my wife and I found was to celebrate our lives and ministry in spite of our less than affluent circumstances.

20

Earl 06.30.09 at 8:44 pm

Excuse me. Above I intended to type, “… I have the advantage of having learned how to get along in a shipyard where the sharp end of a broken bottle was often someones idea of a conversation starter and finishing such conversations standing up was of paramount importance.”

21

DH 06.30.09 at 9:08 pm

Wood, I DID grow up poor in the US at least for the first two years and we didn’t demand anything from the government other than address the highest inflation we ever had and to prevent the things that Carter did which led to the problems going into Reagans administration. Do you remember “double digit” inflation and “double digit” unemployment that began in 1978 and was solved post-1982? I’m sure the same thing occurred in the UK.

Reagan DID work remarkable benefits more people had jobs when leaving office than when he first came to office.

Reagan went into a situation where the US had double digit inflation. We had mortgage rates in the upper teens and prices for good like food were higher for poor people yet. When he left office any economist would attest that Reagan oversaw ONE OF the greatest economic expansions America ever had. In the end more people had jobs then when he came into office and people paid less for goods than when Reagan left office.
http://www.miseryindex.us/irbyyear.asp

What more did you want Reagan to do for people to keep them out of poverty and to prevent people for paying too much for goods?

Again I remember living poor in the late 70’s and early 80’s with everybody feeling terrible for the high price of goods and having more people unemployed as a percentage than even now. For our family 1980-81 was when my dad got a job and for a year or two it was hard because my dad didn’t get as high of pay. I remember my brother and I having to search for our piggy banks to celebrate dad getting a new job because my family didn’t have enough money to celebrate. That was how bad it was. After 1981-82 he was able to get more pay due to the level of sales he was making and the rest was history. The fact remains it was Reagan who oversaw this great expansion and who took America from the terrible economy of Carter with high inflation to where inflation is not an issue and left office with much lower unemployment.

No meed for “revisionist” history when one observes the economic situation under Reagan.

22

Richard 06.30.09 at 9:40 pm

DH said: “In America no one is “denied care” they may receive a bill if they do not have heal insurance but no one is denied care.”

You’re conveniently ignoring the fact that I have seen with my own eyes someone being denied care for a serious injury. You may choose not to believe me, but facts are facts. I’ve also been in a position where it was made absolutely clear that I would receive no medical treatment until my insurance had been verified, and spoken to enough other people who’ve been in the same position, and so I know for sure that ability to pay does at least on some occasions determine whether you’ll receive treatment or not.

Earl: I still barely know where to start. I’m a bit surprised by the ad hominem claim. I can’t say I’ve read anything I’d put into that category. We recognize that you did not use ‘England’ pejoratively: it’s a question of accuracy. Many Brits, especially the Welsh and the Scots, find it irritating when ‘England’ is used as a synonym for Britain.

‘The Market’ is not the reality you claim it to be. It does have a certain reality, of course, but it is not in the same category as gravity. Not at all.Gravity, we’re stuck with. Markets can be manipulated, distorted and created. Can? No, that’s wrong. ‘Are’ would be better. To suggest that The Market has some fundamental reality is a kind of idolatry.

Your claim for the administrative superiority of the US healthcare system over the British NHS isn’t something I’ve seen any evidence for. Simple illustrative example: a friend who had surgery while on holiday in the States was still receiving bills for different aspects of her care months after returning to the UK. That’s hardly a model of efficiency.

There’s more to be said, but I’m falling asleep at my keyboard. Time to call it a night.

23

PamBG 06.30.09 at 10:03 pm

I’ve seen both systems in action being both American and British, and I’m not convinced that the NHS is more bureaucratic than the US system. It’s simply a question of ‘In which sector do we place the bureaucracy?’ I wouldn’t be surprised if the private sector surrounding the US healthcare system is actually more bureaucratic than the NHS bureaucracy although that does not detract from Beth’s point of ‘could do better’.

It seems to me Earl’s argument is that competition always results in the best care and the best choices but I would suggest that principle is a matter of faith. (I’d point out that ‘competition’ - actually probably a price-fixing oligarchy - has not stopped pharmaceutical companies making 20% to 30% net profit margins after research and development.)

And I don’t believe for a minute that my husband would have got state-of-the-art laser surgery in the space of 4 hours in the US without health insurance. I doubt he’d have got it that quick WITH health insurance.

My larger point still stands about my folks, to which I think Earl and DH will simply say ‘Tough luck’. (BTW, Early, I AM actually going back to the States after 20 years in the UK in order to make sure my parents are properly looked after and have a decent quality of life, so sarcastic comments about selfish baby boomers don’t apply here.)

24

PamBG 06.30.09 at 10:06 pm

My larger point still stands about my folks, to which I think Earl and DH will simply say ‘Tough luck’. (BTW, Early, I AM actually going back to the States after 20 years in the UK in order to make sure my parents are properly looked after and have a decent quality of life, so sarcastic comments about selfish baby boomers don’t apply here.)

I wanted to add what I think is the main point from the point of view of US society at large:

If my parents cannot afford to take care of their healthcare in old age, it means that well over 50% of the US population - if not more - won’t be able to do so either. Better hope you get hit by a bus while you’re still healthy, folks. That’s what I’m hoping for.

25

Tony Buglass 06.30.09 at 10:54 pm

DH: ” Do you remember “double digit” inflation and “double digit” unemployment that began in 1978 and was solved post-1982? I’m sure the same thing occurred in the UK.”

Well, I left school in 1972, spent 6 months living on unemployment benefit, and then got a job as a clerical assistant. I went to Bible college in 1974, against a background of 20-25% inflation and booming unemployment - most of which was the result of the Arab oil price increases in 1973. You can blame Carter and laud Reagan as much as you like, both made mistakes, and both were trying to deal with massive world-wide issues. But this is in danger of sliding into a Monty Python sketch, and I can always say my cardboard box was poorer than yours it makes little difference to the case in question: private health insurance necessarily excludes those who cannot afford it. Public health care in principle is obeying Jesus’ second commandment: you must love your brother as yourself.

Of course it costs. Of course governments and institutions make mistakes. But the principle behind the NHS is fundamentally more Christian than that of privatised care, never mind the appeal to Paul’s eschatological ethic.

26

Beth 06.30.09 at 11:05 pm

If you want to read about NHS bureaucracy, you can do no better than start subscribing to Private Eye. The situation Richard outlined - “we need to cut money; let’s pay someone a huge salary to tell us how to do it” - is ubiquitous. I have friends who are medics or nurses, and I have a huge amount of respect for them and the job they do. They’re not helped in any way by the ridiculous amount of inefficient crap that the government shoves at them. They’re also not helped by being sued every five minutes by litigious idiots who think their loved ones have a right to defy death at any and every opportunity (another wonderful gift for which we can thank our American cousins.)

Here’s the thing: if someone’s sick, society as a whole needs to pay for them to get better. That’s the founding principle here, and I adhere to it absolutely. How we make that work, I don’t know. I wonder how many more disabilities, redundancies, wasted lives, and even deaths are actually caused by the American system as opposed to the NHS?

But when it comes down to it, I’d feel safer getting meningitis or having a car accident in Britain than I would in the States.

27

Kim 07.01.09 at 12:02 am

Is the Reagan that DH (and Earl) are talking about the same Reagan that Andrew Bacevich (in The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism) refers to as “the modern prophet of profligacy, the politician who gave moral sanction to the empire of consumption,” who “added to America’s civic religion two crucial beliefs: Credit has no limits, and the bills will never come due” (and Bacevich was writing before the crash of 2008)? The same Reagan under whose watch the rich got stinkin’ and the poor got shafted; budget deficits averaged over $210 billion per annum (almost four times the deficits under Carter); federal bureauacracy grew by almost 5%; and military spending, amidst tax cuts no less, mushroomed into the trillions of dollars (billions of which went - wait for it - to supporting the Afghan mujahideen and - you guessed it - Saddam Hussein)?

Yet again, DH is wee-weeing in our ears and telling us it’s raining.

28

Earl 07.01.09 at 12:15 am

After 20 years abroad, it is a fortunate thing that one is able to return to the United States to care for ones parents. On the issue of independence, if the boomer shoe fits, then one will just have to put on a sock and wear it.

When it comes to retirement and healthcare, reality can really bite. Booming domestic and international markets gave many cause to suppose they would have a difference sort of retirement than will be their actual experience. Our parents are going to likely need our help. It may very well be that we will need the help of our children. But then, not so many years ago, families assumed they would take care of one another. Being on “public assistance” was considered shameful. Perhaps many will in the coming years rediscover the economies of an extended family structure.

A program of nationalized healthcare cannot be considered obedience to Jesus command to love our neighbor. It is only a politically driven response to a perceived need. For it to be remotely considered obedience to Christ, one would have to suppose that the entire administration had come to Christ as Savior and Lord. No, nationalized healthcare is only a political decision, nothing more. If one is pleased to pretend otherwise, then close ones eyes and play whatever mind game entertains you. But a NHS or any other program of nationalized healthcare is no more rooted in Christian faith or practice than is a house of ill-repute a means of practicing Christian hospitality.

When it comes to end of life care, a NHS may very well face problems. After all, when persons look across to a system of private care and see the options available to persons in a private system of healthcare, they cannot be blamed when they see inequity in the failure of their nationalized healthcare system to provide the same options.

When someone is sick, they need to take steps to see to their own care. If that means the need to see a doctor, etc., then that is their responsibility. Only with imagination on the order of Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom could anyone advance the idea that nationalized healthcare is any founding principle in the United States or in England. Such a position is a fairy tale as far beyond belief as any of the wild tales of Aladdin. Those who put their faith in such myths will still be standing on the magic carpet waiting for it to lift off when everyone else has gotten in their car and moved on.

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PamBG 07.01.09 at 7:44 am

Only with imagination on the order of Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom could anyone advance the idea that nationalized healthcare is any founding principle in the United States or in England.

This is a very colourful way to put your view across. Shame there is neither fact nor reasoning in it, however.

When it comes to end of life care, a NHS may very well face problems. After all, when persons look across to a system of private care and see the options available to persons in a private system of healthcare, they cannot be blamed when they see inequity in the failure of their nationalized healthcare system to provide the same options.

If you are looking to live in a care facility, have long-term physical therapy, fund your drugs and your health insurance, you are easily looking at costs $5000+ a month in today’s dollars. At a practical level, what you are saying is that options for the rich are more important than any care at all for the majority.

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Earl 07.01.09 at 10:01 am

In a black and white world, color gets attention. In a black and white world, color is what one remembers. If one wants to communicate, use a rich verbal palate. For instance, if the proverbial picture speaks louder than a 1,000 words, then it would appear that by the mere mention of Mickey Mouse a word picture has been created that can be seen and heard all the way from the New World to the Old World.

There is a very workable alternative to warehousing the elderly. It’s call home care by an extended family. That was the norm before the development of the “nursing home industry.” The idea that a family would rely on its extended relationships to care for one another is Biblical. Reliance on such extended relationships places primary responsibility for care on the family. Of course that means that one must depend upon ones family rather than the tender mercies of a welfare state. Reliance on such extended relationships for elder care is certainly more humane than warding them off in dead-end hallways. Reliance on such extended relationship means that adult family members as well as youth and children are confronted with the realities of the end state of life rather than being insulated by a clinical antiseptic program of maintenance and managed closure. Primary reliance upon elder care provided by extended family is to be preferred to any program of long-term care administered by a state or federal government. Such care might be necessary for remarkable instances, but it certainly need not be the norm. For boomers the fly in the ointment is that they will have to put their much prized independence in the attic so that they may make room in the house for a elderly parent, spouse or sibling.

I once saw a sign hanging near the door of a shop that offered repair services for home owners. It read, “A failure of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.” That bit of biting wit speaks to the issue of nationalized healthcare and elder care/end of life care. First, fundamentally and unequivocally, individuals are responsible for themselves. That there is any role for a program of nationalized healthcare, etc., is very much debatable. But there is no logical basis by which to argue that first responsibility for these needs lies with the individual.

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Tony Buglass 07.01.09 at 10:59 am

“First, fundamentally and unequivocally, individuals are responsible for themselves. ”

Where in the teaching of Jesus do you justify that? My understanding of biblical teaching is that fundamentally we are responsible for each other. The Bible does not have the underlying concept of the individual in the same way as modern thinking: the Hebrew mind conceived of the person as part of the community and family - in a similar way to your illustration of the extended family, but further. The individualism of later thought owes more to Greek thinking than to biblical understandings, especially in the emphasis on religion as the saving of souls. It has become a layer of Christian tradition, largely because of patristic and medieval thought which is now embedded in the European world-view, but it isn’t biblical.

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Beth 07.01.09 at 11:35 am

If one wants to communicate, one should also learn the rules of English grammar, Earl. Talking sense rather than building up strange flights of content-free rhetoric would help, too.

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Kim 07.01.09 at 12:02 pm

Hi Earl,

Your point about “home care by an extended family” is excellent. Indeed, were the common good an economic norm rather than an ethical fiction, care for the elderly should/would be further broadened, viz. to the neighbourhood. Such extended domestic units are what the sociologist Mary Howell calls “open families”. But viable extended and open families are eccentric in contemporary American and north European society. And why? What your libertarian analysis and proposal fail to comprehend, such that you are sawing off the branch you are sitting on, is that the culprit that is responsible for the dysfunction of the modern family and the breakdown of social solidarity is - the hegemony of neo-capitalism! That is to say, the market economy that you valorise and “the individual” that you privilege combine to undermine the very household that you endorse, and, further, stimulate the prolifertaion of the dismal nursing home industry that you lament. As the ethicist David Matzko McCarthy observes in his groundbreaking Sex and Love in the Home: A Theology of the Household (second edition, 2004): “In effect, the needs of the market and contractual individualism, like the language of family values, undercut the socially interdependent household as an economically and socially reproductive place. Through the family, consumer capitalism and nation-state individualism are reproduced.”

The church in its social teaching should, of course, swim against this cultural stream. But it’s now such a torrent that the large raft a National Health Service is absolutely essential.

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PamBG 07.01.09 at 12:45 pm

In a black and white world, color gets attention.

Yes, that’s the problem. Colourful language doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to accord with the experience of the people of the UK that the NHS has served us well.

I always find it amazing how people in the US are such authorities on how bad the NHS is. It’s comparable to the British people over here who are absolutely certain that there is a high risk of being shot with a gun on a US sidewalk.

There is a very workable alternative to warehousing the elderly. It’s call home care by an extended family.

A number of people try to care for two very disabled elderly parents with significant on-going medical and mobility needs that are way above and beyond room and board. You are fooling yourself about the cost. I hope you don’t have to experience this for yourself. Just keep on chanting ‘It won’t happen to me.’

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DH 07.01.09 at 4:39 pm

Pam, and we can say the same thing about you in the UK regarding are healthcare system when you don’t know enough about it to say it is bad, worse or indifferent, etc.

Kim you say “The same Reagan under whose watch the rich got stinkin’ and the poor got shafted.” How can you say this when the amount of poor people were reduced by having more people employed, higher pay for all those who were working AND lower prices for goods that ALL people pay INCLUDING THE POOR. Reagan helped the poor by LOWERING inflation. The poor (let alone all people in the US) paid MORE for goods under Carter than under REagan. True the deficit increased under Reagan but you forget that we were under an extreme recession that began with hyperinflation starting in 1978 under Carter. Any economist or any person looking at the sheer facts would understand that under Reagan the economic system was WAY much better under Reagan than under Carter.

Kim, if we had your economic proposal during Reagan time more people would have been out of a job, people (more importantly poor people) would have paid MORE for goods.

If you want to get into a discussion about Reagan one on;y has to look at the fall of the Soviet Union. The military spending by America was such that the Soviets couldn’t keep up and which led to a situation to the fall of the Soviet Union. Also would you desire the Soviets controlling Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan? Wouldn’t that have been a WORSE situation than otherwise with no hint of an opportunity for the Soviet regime to ever be eliminated due to the dramtic economic resources obtained by controlling Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Everyone still doesn’t understand that no one is denied healthcare in the US. Earl is really giving a brilliant analysis. Earl please give further detail into the biblical basis you are describing. It seems others are “missing the point” or have “predispostions” which are clouding the full biblical understanding.

In conclusion I would rather not be deluded to think that higher employment and lower prices for basic goods and not good for ALL people. It seems Andrew is promoting the very thing that was a problem under Carter. I find that very odd and shows a lack of economic understanding of the situations during the Carter through Reagan era. This analysis comes from myself who has an MBA (Masters Degree) in Finance with a Minor in Economics with 8 Economics classes graduating with a 3.0 and 8 classes graduating with a 3.0 in Finance.

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Richard 07.01.09 at 5:37 pm

“…and we can say the same thing about you in the UK regarding are healthcare system”

You miss the point that both Pam and Kim are US citizens. You think they’ve cut themselves of from life in the US during the years they’ve lived here?
And you continue to repeat the mantra that no one is denied care in the US through lack of ability to pay. That’s fine, but as long as you do I’ll be echoing back: I’ve seen that denial with my own eyes.

Politics and theology are always bound together, of course, and they shape one another. I accept that. But the idea that the kind of political agenda that Earl (and you) are putting forward is somehow straight-forwardly ‘Biblical’ and ideology-free is simply laughable.

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Beth 07.01.09 at 5:48 pm

I don’t want to be rude, but since you’ve brought it up - isn’t a 3.0 average equivalent to a mid-range B grade? I would venture to say that I’d want to know that someone had a better grasp of their subject than that, before trusting their opinions on it.

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DH 07.01.09 at 6:15 pm

Beth, you ARE being rude. Actually I got a 3.3 but that is beside the point. I would think that a person who has a BS in Finance with a minor in Economics with an MBA (graduate degree) in Finance with a minor in Economics would be someone you would find as having a “grasp” as opposed to someone without that particluar degree/s. Especially if one had as many classes (16 total) as I have had on the particular subjects.

Richard, one has to define “denial”. If denial means that the person requesting care chooses not to go through the proceedure because they have to receive a bill then that truly isn’t denial. If denial is we cannot provide care because you cannot pay us at the moment then that is another story. Again, the US healthcare system states that no one is denied care and that patients will receive treatment but will be potentially billed for services. I have seen people who were unable to pay after receiving a bill who were able to negotiate very easily for lower amounts or for a complete write-off of the amounts. So I don’t see that as denial. This also doesn’t get into all of the many “free, nonprofit-clinics” and state run public healthcare facilities that cover the issues you all have mentioned. One needs to “dig deeper” before jumping to conclusions on these issues. Earl still shows even more analysis to show.

You mention “Earl (and you) are putting forward is somehow straight-forwardly ‘Biblical’ and ideology-free is simply laughable.” I too find it laughable that you believe that a system is biblical that leaves people blind who need certain surgery/ies due to the proceedure/s not being considered an emergency or necessary.

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DH 07.01.09 at 6:40 pm

Beth I don’t want to be rude, but I see no degrees at all in the area of Finance and Economics for “Andrew” so it is interesting that you don’t consider me “not having a better grasp” on this or these particular subjects.

http://mwhodges.home.att.net/1980-88.htm

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PamBG 07.01.09 at 7:16 pm

“Pam, and we can say the same thing about you in the UK regarding are healthcare system when you don’t know enough about it to say it is bad, worse or indifferent, etc.”

Actually, I would bet that I’m the person best placed in this group to compare the two systems, seeing as I’m quite knowledgeable about the details of my Ohio-resident parents’ healthcare arrangements. And, as a minister, I’ve probably had more ‘exposure’ to details of the NHS than most healthy people my age.

You and Earl are the ones trying to prove that the NHS is crap simply because it is a national system. You are wrong.

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DH 07.01.09 at 7:33 pm

Pam, I have never said or even implied that the NHS is “crap”. I’m just saying that it is not as good as how you, Richard, Kim and others are portraying it. I even have said that there are problems with the US healthcare system but that it is not as bad as the people on this site are portraying it. I also believe that the NHS is not as good as other people on this site are portraying it. That’s all.

The problems (not that it is crap) with the NHS system goes way beyond just being a “national system” although that is one of the problems. So it is not “simply” because it is national. I think I have mentioned the many reason beyond just being national in previous responses.

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fatprophet 07.01.09 at 7:57 pm

I really think that it is obvious that there are problems with both systems and while some people’s experience of one system might be good there will probably be a person who can bring a horror story. One of the major themes here in reality is that those of us in the Old World may not know much about things in the New World and vice versa.
I have to say that it is not often I comment on any posts here at connexions (although I may feel I have something useful to add) because of the apparent ‘I am right and everybody else is wrong’ attitude that seems to prevail at times.
I would certainly always bow to the superior knowledge of those who have experienced the thing they are talking about and in this particular case there are some who have seen both systems in operation. For me I have only seen the NHS and from a purely personal point of view it has worked fine for both myself and my family.

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DH 07.01.09 at 8:06 pm

Fatprophet, I totally love this response. If people who appreciate the NHS would have that attitude I think we might have better conversation and discussions than otherwise. I think you are implying a point that is very awesome: When one labels a healthcare system “biblical or unbiblical” it is a flawed analysis for as many a “biblical” aspect of a particular healthcare system one can come up with an “unbiblical” one. Therefore making it a contradiction to even associate “biblical” to the system in the first place. What do you think, fatprophet? I value you and your views and reiterate how much I enjoyed your most recent response. Look forward to hearing your “useful additions” and I hope you can appreciate mine as well.

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Earl 07.01.09 at 8:13 pm

Again, in order….
Your understanding of Christian faith is skewed by a socialist lens. In Scripture the individual is not submerged in the community. Individuals are the particular of community. N.T. thought certainly reflects Gk./Rom. Culture, but the emphasis on the individual in relationship to God is firmly rooted in the O.T.
When it comes to communication, effectiveness is the essential against which everything else is judged. It would appear that I have been sufficiently effective that you got the point of what was being said.
In many ways the pre-industrial era village was a useful organizational construct for cross generational living. Sadly it was inadequate to cope with the demands of industrialization and the rise of urbanization. Though now styled as eccentric, extended family responsibility for elder care is probably the best model for such needs especially given the increasing population of senior citizens and the constraints of funding inevitably faced social welfare agencies. Simply put, boomers and subsequent generations will be burdened with the care of an aging population. They will either do so at home or they will have to pay through the nose for it to be done warehouse style by the government.
Colourful… colorful… well maybe we needn’t be exact. Cultural mythology aside, if one is used to the NHS and like it, then stick with it. But if someone else prefers a system of private care, is satisfied with it and does not want to adopt a nationalized program of healthcare, then it is again their choice.
If it seems daunting to care for ones disabled elderly parents, take heart. The task is entirely able to be done. Following strokes that left my mother paralyzed and unable to swallow, my father cared for her needs. He ran a full-time business employing a number of men in construction. My brother and I assisted him. It of course meant that we had to adjust our own schedules and coordinate our plans around our mother’s needs. But that is the nature of family care. Mother was very well-cared for in the nine years she lived. When next my brother and then my father became ill with cancer, I drove the 133 miles to see to their needs. Many nights I slept on the couch so that I could be there in the morning before returning home. I did this until they passed away. I had some limited help from friends in the community. Again, it can be done, but one must accept some changes in one’s priorities. My wife and I are now anticipating when we will need to provide care for her aging mother. This time the distance is 122 miles. We will deal with it the same way we did with my mother, brother and father.
Personally, I found the Reagan years to be absolutely wonderful. My wife and I experienced rising income, a better standard of living, better employment opportunities and a generally improved outlook on life. We both finished our undergraduate work debt free. I then did my masters, finishing debt free. I had no financial aid for the masters. Economically there was plenty of opportunity… it was not hard to make a decent income. That was in extreme contrast to the very difficult years under Carter.
When it comes to the fall of the soviet union, only by thoughtless amoral ignorance of history could anyone wish that it had endured. There is not here space and I do not have time to even begin exploring why its destruction was the best thing that ever happened to Eastern Europe.
As far as people being denied care, my wife has over twenty years of experience in the medical field. Her brother and brother-in-law each have been practicing for over 27 years. If denial of care is widespread, they would know about it. Anecdotal statements uncorroborated by evidence are not fact but simply hearsay.
When it comes to denial of service, if we are to appeal to such as evidence, then I offer the following story. My daughter is in college. On June 16th, her room-mate fell while riding a bicycle. She broke her upper right leg and dislocated her left elbow. She has no medical insurance. Her father and mother provide her no assistance at all. She was taken to the local hospital. She was examined. Surgery was done on her broken leg. Her dislocated elbow was treated. She is now at home (the apartment) resting. I spoke with her today after I visited a local nursing home. She expects to be back at work within two weeks. She will continue school as normal. She has no money beyond a small income. The hospital will write her cost of care off. When my daughter called to tell us what was going on, I specifically asked if the hospital admin. was giving any trouble about treating the injured girl. My daughter told me that there were no problems at all. I trust my daughter to tell the truth.
It is apparent in this discussion that there are reasonable persons who are citizens and residents of England, who by virtue of personal experience would consider that the NHS is best described scatologically. Such is not my normal vocabulary.

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Beth 07.01.09 at 8:18 pm

Look, dh, here’s the thing. I’m a university lecturer. I spend every day around people with first-class degrees coming out of their ears. The vast majority of them would never be caught dead arguing the way you do. The attitude “I have x degree therefore I know better” is logically flimsy, and pretty much redundant. You make a point by bringing strong evidence to bear on it, not by rolling out your graduation certificate.

The point with most of the debates we have on here tends to be that there is no right or wrong answer - there are merely different opinions. These different opinions are informed by our understandings of theology, economics, philosophy, and a whole host of other things. None of us is an expert at all of them, and the best we can usually do is to say “here’s my opinion.” Your background in economics may mean that you have more of an awareness of economic issues than some others do. It doesn’t make you an expert whose word cannot be contradicted.

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DH 07.01.09 at 8:46 pm

Beth, I agree with what you say “The attitude “I have x degree therefore I know better” is logically flimsy, and pretty much redundant.” I shouldn’t have brought up my degrees/education. I let my emotions get the best of me.

However, I consider it difficult to consider Andrew an expert in the area of finance and economics. I will say that I don’t consider myself an expert in those areas as well I might be rather intelligent in those areas but that is different. That was the point I was trying to say: If I’m not considered an expert and I happen to have an MBA and BS in those areas then how can one conclude that Andrew is? It begs the question as to how one determines who is an expert? Can this be a product of ones predisposition therefore biasing ones own opinion? Shouldn’t we look at ALL of the data as opposed to looking solely at the “poverty rate” which Kim appeared to solely look at albeit indirectly?

My response was the way it was because the response by Kim was one where he failed to recognize the clear positive economic attributes and international attributes of Reagan in comparison to Carter. He failed to even acknowledge the facts of what Reagan did to make America better than it was. One doesn’t have to approve of Reagan as a President to say that the facts support that people paid less for goods than under Carter which happens to help the poor as well as preventing people from being poor and more people had jobs under Reagan than under Carter which helps the poor which prevents people from being poor. The evidence seems pretty overwhelming.

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Tony Buglass 07.01.09 at 8:55 pm

“When one labels a healthcare system “biblical or unbiblical” it is a flawed analysis for as many a “biblical” aspect of a particular healthcare system one can come up with an “unbiblical” one.”

I don’t think that has been said, has it? What I have tried to argue is that the assumptions behind certain institutions may or may not be biblical. It’s a nonsense to say that either state medicine or private medicine is biblical - neither existed in those days, neither is referenced. However, I have argued that the ‘caring community’ is biblical, and I believe health care provided by the community is an application of that principle. I have also challenged Earls comments about individualism as unbiblical, and nobody has yet been able to show that to be wrong.

So, however many letters you have after your name and however good your grades (my BA is a 2.1, my MTh was awarded with distinction, if you wish to compare notes) you have apparently yet to learn to focus on the essentials of the argument.

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Beth 07.01.09 at 9:20 pm

But who is this “Andrew” guy? At what point have I said (or has anyone else said) that he’s an “expert”?

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DH 07.01.09 at 9:39 pm

Tony, it appeared to me that some people were arguing that KIm mentioned the American healthcare system as being “un-Christian” but I could say the same thing about the NHS system where a person and probably many others became blind because a certain surgery was deemed “unnecessary” or “not an emergency”. Would that be “un-Christian” or not part of the “caring community”? Wouldn’t promoting a situation where a nations debt is higher than otherwise to have system similar to the NHS go against the “caring community” or be “un-Christian” by making future generations have a great possibility to be poor? If one cares for the poor one has to look at future potentially poor people as well as the current poor people and the balance therein.

With regard to individualism, I would say the biblicla basis is one of balance between the individual and community. “Except A MAN be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” and/or “If YOU don’t work YOU don’t eat.” in conjuction with “A Body has many members and all members have not the same office so we being many are one Body of Christ.”

You ask where is it that individuals are responsibile to themselves. How about “Be YE Holy even as YOUR Father in heaven is Holy.” That is not to say there is no “community” aspect but there is a “community” as well as “individual”. One cannot promote the “community” lower than the individual responsibility and one cannot promote the individual lower than the “community” responsibility.

When Jesus talks to groups and to individuals it applies to both at the same time and never to the detrimate of the responsibility of the other (group vs. individual). They aren’t “mutually-exclusive” as you mentioned Tony. At the same time while I agree with what Earl said about “individual”, his view in the super extreme is also not “mutuall-exclusive”. So I guess I find your view wrong but only to a point.

Rationing and higher national deficits as a result of healthcare to me are not part of the “caring community”. Also I believe there is a misunderstanding of the US health care system as well as I have clarified.

Tony, if you read I took back the whole “education thing” on my latest response. I only mentioned it because a huge amount of economic facts were neglected by the reference to “Andrew” (which are part of understanding the levels of how poor people are as a group or will be in the future as a group).

I did focus on the essentials of the argument but added one sentence regarding my education. That addition doesn’t negate all of the other points and facts which are show a clear understanding of the economic situation during the late 70’s through the 80’s.

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Tony Buglass 07.01.09 at 10:14 pm

“How about “Be YE Holy even as YOUR Father in heaven is Holy.””

How about it? It’s plural, not singular. Check out the Greek in Mt.5:48:
- in the first place, “be ye holy” is utterly wrong; that is an imperative, whereas the Greek “esesthe” is 2 pers pl fut indicative - “you shall be”;
- “your Father” is “ho pater humon” which is plural.
Or compare the Hebrew of Lev.19:2:
- the text is addressed to the whole assembly of Israel;
- the command (here it is an imperative) is “qadoshim ttihyu” which is clearly plural.

Yes, the singular exists, an individual person my be addressed, and does have personal responsibility, BUT the underlying conception of that person is as a inseparable part of the community, a long way from the modernist individualism implied by Earl’s “individuals are responsible for themselves”. Like it or not, that IS the underlying biblical anthropology.

“Wouldn’t promoting a situation where a nations debt is higher than otherwise to have system similar to the NHS go against the “caring community” or be “un-Christian” by making future generations have a great possibility to be poor?”

Nope. If I have to choose between safeguarding my wealth (or my children’s inheritance) and spending what is necessary to ensure their welfare, you would surely consider me unChristian to hold on to my money. Just so, we as a community have a moral obligation to care for the weak and sick in our midst. I consider that principle to be profoundly Christian, consequently its opposite must be profoundly unChristian. Regardless of your assertions to the contrary, enough anecdotal evidence exists to affirm that the US system DOES refuse treatment at the point of need until payment is agreed - that is indefensible.

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Richard 07.01.09 at 10:50 pm

Earl — of course, you’re right. I’m reading the Bible through a socialist lens. I count myself a socialist, of a sort. But my political opinions are not independent of my reading of scripture. My dad was a union shop steward as well as a life-long Methodist and it would be surprising if I hadn’t been influenced by my upbringing. That happens to everyone. The views we hold are the result of a ‘conversation’ between our experiences, reading, education and all the rest. I’m very happy to put my hand up to that. I simply suggest that, rather than being the result of a pure and unalloyed ‘Biblical’ worldview, your opinions have been formed the same way.
Believe it or not, I’m trying to listen attentively to what you have to say. And I’m certainly not writing off your views simply because of the lens I believe you look at the world through. But I do think you’re wrong: I just don’t accept your analysis, and none of your arguments have come anywhere near convincing me. But I suppose very few minds are actually changed by these blog discussions. The best I hope for is that you’ll come to accept the integrity of a set of views which are different from yours, but are no less a part of a committed Christian faith.

Of course, I don’t dispute the truth of your daughter’s story. But the story I’ve shared is more than hearsay: it’s my experience, just as Pam’s are hers. And unlike either you or I, Pam has the benefit of having seen both the NHS and US heathcare systems ‘up close and personal’ over several years. So I think you’re unwise to simply dismiss what she has to say. But that’s just me. I don’t deny that there are plenty of people in the UK who will excoriate the NHS. But I also know that when it comes down to it, very few people here would want to abandon it in favour of an individual insurance scheme. You think we’re all mad, you’re welcome to your opinion. But I think that the NHS, which delivers medical care to all, free at the point of need, is one of the great achievements of post-war Britain and preserving that legacy should be one of our highest political priorities.

FP - you’re always welcome to comment here. I know I’m not right about everything. Trouble is, I don’t know which stuff I’m wrong about! But while, I’m putting foward the things I believe in, I’m sure you wouldn’t expect me to be anything other than robust.

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PamBG 07.01.09 at 11:09 pm

Cultural mythology aside, if one is used to the NHS and like it, then stick with it. But if someone else prefers a system of private care, is satisfied with it and does not want to adopt a nationalized program of healthcare, then it is again their choice.

In the UK, if you are middle-class or rich, you can choose to have private healthcare and private health insurance. In which case your above statement is valid and you should have no objection to the NHS.

But in the US, the poor person who would have chosen to have his torn retina fixed but who was prevented from doing so by economic hardship has no choice. And - correct me if I’m wrong - you are saying that there is nothing at all ethically wrong from a Christian perspective with him going blind because God cares about individuals - and families at a push - but not about society at large?

It seems to me that what is central to your value system is rugged individualism on the one hand and corporate profit on the other.

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Beth 07.02.09 at 12:32 am

Good linguistic stuff, Tony. And - in fact - the English version is plural, too. Singular would be “Be THOU holy even as THY Father in heaven is holy”.

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Beth 07.02.09 at 12:45 am

Earl,

It’s true, I do like rude words (or scatological verbiage, if you prefer). I don’t like being called English by Americans who don’t know their arse from their Arctic Circle.

Wales != England.

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Earl 07.02.09 at 2:17 am

I have nothing but a profound respect for Scripture. But in a discussion of nationalized healthcare, quoting from the holiness code of Leviticus and then extending to what Jesus said about personal holiness is about as relevant as going on a rabbit chase to plumb the depths of submission in the household code of Ephesians.

When it comes to biblical or unbiblical patterns, the supposition that the individual is subordinated to the community falls before the witness of Scripture. From the inception of the Biblical record and expressed uniformly even unto the final prayer and promise of The Revelation, the individual is at the center and is the particular focus of all salvation history. The community is not ignored, but the community is not treated as superior to the individual. The dignity, worth and value of the individual is a major theme in both the O.T. and N.T. At no point is the individual victimized by subjection to the prerogatives of the community. Rather individuals make their own choices as free and independent members rather than subjects of the community. Individuals are enjoined to be responsible for their walk of faith, their conduct within family and society, their responsibility in meeting human need and in their ultimate accountability before God. In every instance where individuals are asked to set personal interest aside, the appeal is to individuals free to make that choice rather than compelled. In those instances, individuals are urged out of love for the Lord Jesus to choose to comply rather than being ordered to submit in deference to the community. Especially in the N.T., the Church is presented as a voluntary association of individuals choosing to respond to the claims of the Gospel on their hearts and lives.
Within the N.T. record the role of the individual within the community of faith is a voluntary subordination of himself, not a subjection by any man’s command.

When it comes to paying for any good or service, one needs to always remember that quaint little acronym… “TINSTITLAAFL.” Someone has to pay the price of what that good or service cost. It is the act of a thief to foist those cost off on future generations. It is the act of a con-artist to try to get people to believe they can have either a good or service without paying for it. That is not “un-Christian,” that is precisely what Paul said when he stated that every man was to make his own living and that a man who failed to take care of the needs of his family was worse than an infidel.

Personally I refuse to throw good money down the bottomless rats hole of healthcare. I will not agree to seeing tax money thrown down that same yawning abyss. Everyone can not have everything they want, whether it is perfectly paved streets or nationalized healthcare. The best way to safeguard the inheritance of one’s children is to act with enlightened self-interest. That is far more efficient in generating the greatest personal and social benefit. As regards denial of service, it is obvious we are not of one mind. I would have to be out of my mind to agree with any of the less than persuasive arguments in favor of a nationalized healthcare program. Therefore it appears we will just have to agree to disagree.

I find it just about impossible even repugnant to even consider any sort of an approach to the solving of any issue that bends its back to socialism. I simply cannot conceive of any man being willing to surrender his own self-determination in the name of being taken care of by a nanny with a pencil. And when it comes to something as dangerous as a government takeover of 1/6 of the GNP of the United States, I am profoundly convinced that it is a national suicide to put such power into the hands of a faceless mob of political functionaries seeking only to curry favor with their appointive head. I remain unconvinced that a socialized nationalized healthcare program is anything more a massive power grab by those whose commit is not to Christ but to their own agenda of cultural change, persons who are not driven by meeting human need but driven by a desire to shove their twisted agenda of social change down the necks of what increasingly appears to be a majority of people who simply refuse to swallow what the current occupant of the white house is serving on the plate.
From the beginning I have made the assumption that everyone was at least not ignoring one another point of view. As far as convincing anyone of anything, it is doubtful anyone of us expected to do much more than engage in a bit of verbal sparring. If the internet were a Starbucks, we’d all be likely getting ourselves a nice stiff mug of coffee and maybe looking to see if there was a good game scheduled for the evening.

If the majority of folks in England are satisfied with the system of social welfare that is currently in place, if they are satisfied with what it produces and if they are satisfied with what it does not produce, then there is no reason for them to change. I do not live in England. I live in America. I prize independence and self-determination hindered as little as possible by artificial constraints imposed by a federal government that is never anything but a threat to individual freedom and liberty.

As I said earlier, no person of genuine Christian faith could be anything but thankful that a man’s vision was saved by appropriate medical treatment. I am a lifelong resident of the United States. It may be that a hypothetical “poor” person with a torn retina would have not been treated. I am not sure what year my mother-in-law began her professional career, but since 1982 (my wife) and 1985 (My brother’s-in-law), our family has been involved in the medical profession. I have not heard of them seeing any instance of any person, poor or not poor, who was turned away from service with a torn retina, a dislocated elbow or a broken leg.

If this boils down to a “culture war,” ie., a choice between rugged individualism and corporate dependency, then I will choose standing on my own two feet over depending upon someone else to hold me up. There is a rational for caring for vulnerable people. But there is no basis in Scripture or Christian faith to posit the idea that a nationalized system of comprehensive healthcare is requisite to meet that obligation to care for the genuinely needy. And when it comes to the provision of any service at a competitive cost, there simply is no good substitute for a free-market economic model driven by the profit motive. Anything else can only offer hopefully equal service but at a increased cost.

Years ago in the shipyard I noticed that some of the fellows who used the loudest and foulest language were trying to make sure everyone took them seriously. Even when they would let loose with a spiel of filth that to their ear was artful and eloquent, the overall effect was still rather sad and pathetic.

When it comes to posterior and extreme points due south, I have never had any confusion. Now when it comes to Wales, I will indeed beg your pardon. For that is the land of my forefathers. And in spite of what some might suppose I think (or don’t think) of England, I would not in any way shape or form want anyone to be so misinformed as think that I have anything but great affection and deep regard for that tough little once independent rock of a nation.

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fatprophet 07.02.09 at 6:09 am

Richard I was not referring to you in my previous comment - it is your blog and I would expect no less than you put forward your viewpoint and do it with the same sort of vigour that I am sure Mr Wesley did in his day.
I sometimes think we perhaps need to adopt approach of the song ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’ where the singer debates the different ways words are said either side of the pond and then essentially seems to say you say whatever and I ‘ll say whatever and we’ll agree not to force anyone in to the straitjacket that we are in.
It might be helpful too if folk read the comments that were made carefully before firing off a broadside - often I wonder if we are all reading the same thing as some commentators seem to find stuff that I never do, but then again I am a very simple soul who had a secondary modern education and the only letters I have after my name are those of the professional body I am a member of.
I think too that while all the debate about the rights and wrongs of our system or their system is going on we are missing what surely must be the most important thing here and that is the miracle of modern medicine that occurred in respect of Mr PamBG’s cure to the problem with his eye. Well done NHS!

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Richard 07.02.09 at 8:24 am

Earl - At this point, I have to be content to do no more than agree to disagree.

Except to say that “Especially in the N.T., the Church is presented as a voluntary association of individuals choosing to respond to the claims of the Gospel on their hearts and lives.” representsa misunderstanding so deep that it demands to be returned to in a future post. Or posts, even. But not right now.

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Richard 07.02.09 at 8:27 am

FP said: “Well done NHS!”

Amen to that.

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Tony Buglass 07.02.09 at 9:08 am

Earl: “When it comes to biblical or unbiblical patterns, the supposition that the individual is subordinated to the community falls before the witness of Scripture.”

In the first place, the argument is circular: you cannot claim support of the witness of scripture without undertsanding scripture, and the argument above suggests that you have not understood this partcular aspect of the mind of scripture (or more precisely the mindset of those who wrote it).

In the second place, I did not at any point argue that the individual does not exist, or is subordinated to the community. I said “the Hebrew mind conceived of the person as part of the community and family ” which is not the same thing at all. It’s well illustrated by JDG Dunn in his “Theology of Paul”: “… his concern was rather with humankind in relation to God, with men and women in their relationships with each other, and subsequently with Christ as God’s response to the human plight. In other words, Paul’s anthropology is not a form of individualism; persons are social beings, defined as persons by their relations.” Paul’s worldview, including his anthropology, was formed by his Hellenistic Jewish background, and represents to a great extent the worldview inherited from OT Israel. It is interesting to contrast some of the ancient Israelite understandings (of society, of the nature of time and history, etc) with those of other nations in the ANE - there are some overlaps, connections and borrowings, but there is a great deal which is distinct. That flavours “the witness of scripture” and changes its colour from that which is discernible from prooftexting.

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Kim 07.02.09 at 10:06 am

… the individual is at the center and is the particular focus of all salvation history.

That is bulldoody, Earl. You must be reading another Bible. In scripture Israel and the Church are the focus of salvation history. (If you want it in a nutshell, read Romans 9-11. Read it in terms of the “individual” and you end up with all kinds of double-predestinarian nonsense.) Your “individual” in his “independence” is, in fact, a theological fiction (indeed, he is demonic - Satan is the ultimate independent individual). I am who I am only in relationship, in community - because I am created in the image of God and God is who God is only in relationship, in the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Your anthropological individualism can only be underwritten by a unitarian God. Both notions are sub-Christian.

It is plain where you (and DH) are coming from. Your fear of the subordination of the individual to, and the devaluation of the individual in, the community - that certainly is not biblical - this was the nightmare of Soviet Communism (which, in fact, was a form of state capitalism), the “red under the bed” of American mythology in which socialism is indistinguishably elided with Stalinism. Thus do you paranoically live in the American dreamworld of the apotheosis of the individual that dates only from the Enlightenment, under whose hypnotic spell were the Founding Fathers, whose own theolgoical resources were - surprise! surprise! - deistic.

Finally, this. You say that Christians are “urged” by our Lord to love and care for others. Absolutely not. God commands his people to love and care (with a predilection for the poor, for the widow, the orphan, and, notwithstanding the Patriot Act, the stranger). And anyone who actually hears God’s commands cannot possibly then talk about “choice”, he can only respond in obedience. “Choice”, as our finest theologians have known - from Paul to Augustine to Luther to Edwards to Barth - is the language of those who are in bondage to their desires and passions. They have known that “freedom” is self-enslaving apart from service. Choice? Jesus didn’t tell us to check out our options, he said, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit.” (John 15:16).

Oh, on university degrees: Bush has a BA from Yale. And a dumber president never crapped between two feet.

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Beth 07.02.09 at 1:19 pm

Kim, you think he managed to crap between his feet?

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Kim 07.02.09 at 3:25 pm

Beth: Yes, he managed to pass - just - Toilet Training 101-102 (though his daddy’s influence may have had something to with it). Indeed, as president Bush managed the remarkable contortion of spreading his legs from Hawaii to Rhode Island.

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DH 07.02.09 at 3:59 pm

‘Tony you say \”I said “the Hebrew mind conceived of the person as part of the community and family ” which is not the same thing at all.\” and to be part of that community the individual must have Faith because the community is one of a community of BELIEVERS. Even in OT times many a Jewish person was \”kicked out\”, \”rebuked\” seperated from the community by a lack of Faith in the one true God and His commands. You can\’t have it both ways and focus more on the \”race\” without focusing on what Scripture clearly states which is \”Without Faith it is impossible to please God.\” It appears you are attempting even though you are not saying it that the community is not looked at as equal to the individual. We are not placing the individual over the community but one cannot place the community over the individual or place greater importance on the community over the invidiual and vice versa. And it was by one Faith in the God of that community that one was part of that community. When one reads the \”Faith chapter\” in Hebrews it was by ONE\’s Faith in the one true God that one was considered righteous. Again the community Scripture refers to is one where we are a community of BELIEVERS. If one is not a Beliver then one cannot be part of that community. \”Without Faith it is impossible to please God.\” \”Except A MAN be Born Again HE cannot see the Kingdom of God.\” It is not inconsistent for Earl and I to say in reference to \”Ye\” \”Your\” as being both singular and plural at the same time. With regard to the \”national debt\” comment. I said :\”“Wouldn’t promoting a situation where a nations debt is higher than otherwise to have system similar to the NHS go against the “caring community” or be “un-Christian” by making future generations have a great possibility to be poor?” When I asked this it wasn\’t in relation to \”hoarding ones wealth\” but the recognition that what you are proposing creates MORE poor people in the future by having the national debt in the future be higher than otherwise. One cannot deny that future generations will have to pay for this higher debt thereby making them more poor. You seem to have a short term view when looking at care for the poor, etc. I do not deny that God COMMANDS us to care for the poor but that command is for people from their hearts out of obedience to do this. There is a difference between a command and being forced.’

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Beth 07.02.09 at 4:09 pm

Oh, okay - so we have a responsibility to provide social medicine for Christians only? Nice.

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PamBG 07.02.09 at 6:08 pm

That is bulldoody, Earl. You must be reading another Bible.

As my current favourite advert says: ‘Don’t even sound same!’

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Earl 07.02.09 at 6:15 pm

Again, in order…

I am comfortable with my understanding of Scripture. If you are not, then you will simply have to be dissatisfied. I feel no obligation to alter my point of view.

In terms of secular society, without apology or excuse I embrace the individual. Social construction is variable and circumstantial. It is a tool by which the individual reaches the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. That system that maximizes personal freedom and independence is to be preferred.

If one wants to use Scripture as the guide for social organization, then there is room to argue that indomitable individualism rightly yields to some accommodation of community. In any organization of Christians, there is legitimate rational for the individual to choose to subordinate his personal rights to the community of faith. That argument fails when applied to any discussion of secular life. To predicate that a system of nationalized healthcare, rooted in a socialist world view, reflects a Scriptural morality and obligation for believers is a false argument.

A community is nothing more than individuals organized. If it has any significance it is because of the individuals by whom it is comprised. Against social absorption I embrace and celebrate the individual as God’s most particular and ultimate act of creation. If individualism is demonic or satanic, it is not in standing apart as an independent individual from society but in refusing to give to God that obedience rightly due only to Him. This insistence on distinguishing the individual as primary before any society does no violence to any concept of community. Rather it requires that any assumptive concept of community not do violence to the individual.
Until those who swing swords beat them into John Deere tractors, I will look with extreme suspicion on any government construct that such men can organize that assumes to describe and by assumed authority constrict the rights of man. The living memory of too many men and women is of a world where the “red scare” was not a fear of what might be found under the bed but a fear of what who might kick in the door. Today decay mocks daily attempts by the heirs of 1917 to preserve the dead body of Lenin. And by the grace of God, that 70 year criminal conspiracy against the rights of man has been ended. By contrast, the Founding Fathers of America have long been dead and buried. But the nation they established, founded on the principle that all men all men are equal and endowed by the Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that nation endures. And from all across the world, people come every day to seek in that nation their individual hopes and dreams.

When it comes to loving and caring for people, talk is cheap. I am much more impressed when cheap talk finds a backbone, gets up from the table, leaves the coffee behind, walks out the door and puts its hands to work. I know some folks who know a lot about backbone, about giving their hearts to God and putting their hands to His work. It is now a little bit after 2 p.m. In the next few minutes I will go out to meet some of my church members. Over the last several weeks we have paid electric bills, paid water bills and paid rent bills, we have put gas in people’s cars, prayed with hurting people, shared the gospel with lost people and helped a young man find forgiveness for a senseless act of vandalism. By 5:00 p.m., we will have provided food for between 25-30 family groups. This is something we do every week. We will do this because as individuals we have committed ourselves to Christ as our personal Savior and Lord. We will do this because we believe that Jesus gave us not only the Great Commission but the Great Commandment. We will do this confident that we are acting in obedience to our Lord in exactly the same was as we rejoiced to see decisions made on Sunday by people giving their lives to Christ. We will do all of this knowing that when the Master comes, he will expect us to give an accounting of our stewardship and that He will not have any patience with excuses. We will do all of this and anything else we can think of that will honor Him and minister to the needs of people. We will do this not because we are required to do so by a program instituted and administered by a secular government. We will do all of this because we follow the One who not only said, “Come unto me…” but “As you are going…”

Now back to bathrooms and universities… there is no more reason for anyone to be impressed by a BA from Yale than a BS from Chicago… Cambridge… whatever. Alphabet soup behind ones name only shows what one has done. It is history… fixed… unchanging. What that man does with his life is of far greater significance than what courses he might have taken or what schools he might have attended.
How does this relate to bathroom? Well, there are those who use crude sophomoric humor to ridicule those of whom they are jealous and resentful. One would have to suppose that in this case, those using such humor have some personal experience in learning how to avoid their feet. One would hope that such was at least the case, otherwise it would be best to stand on their upwind side.

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DH 07.02.09 at 7:30 pm

Beth, I never said that. Where did I say that or imply that? The point is there is an individual and community aspect that neither one is place over the other. The reason this is being discussed is this wacky idea that the NHS system is “more Christian” than other forms. As I have said many a many time the US system is not perfect but to say the NHS is more Christian or even the US system as being more Christian (which I have never suggested) is where I take issue.

Kim, mentioned “I am who I am only in relationship, in community - because I am created in the image of God and God is who God is only in RELATIONSHIP AND IN COMMUNION of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” That relationship and communion is by Faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Being created doesn’t place on in relationship and community it is by Faith that that occurs for “Without Faith it is impossible to please God.”

How about the Jesus story of Lazarus and the rich ruler? Those were “individuals”. How about the story of the Ethiopian eunuch that was individual. All of these people were individuals who became part of the communtiy if and only if by their Faith in the One True God and the relationship therein. It wasn’t the Community first but Faith first not in importance but which came first.

Kim, our views are not connected to Stalinistic Communism and also the Founding FAthers views were not solely based on deisism. Some of them were deistic but that doesn’t mean that it had an impact.

Soviet Communism is State Capitalism? Wow Kim, you are violating yourself with an oxymoron.

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DH 07.02.09 at 7:34 pm

‘Pam is it \\\”another Bible\\\” for people to understand the equal importance of individuals and community when Scripture says \\\”Except A MAN be Born Again you cannot see the Kingdom of God.\\\”? The story of Lazarus and the rich ruler were \\\”individuals\\\” one by Faith became part of the community the other didn\\\’t. See one cannot state individualism to the degregation of community nor can one state community to the degregation of individual.

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Beth 07.02.09 at 8:08 pm

“violating yourself with an oxymoron”… better be careful, Kim - I think there’s something in Leviticus about that…

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Kim 07.02.09 at 9:06 pm

Ha! I was thinking the same thing myself!

Which reminds me of somethingI mentioned in an email to Beth earlier today. Marilyn McCord Adams lectured at Swansea University a month ago. She is an outspoke member of LGCM. I covet a t-shirt she said she wore: on it the words “Straight - But Not Narrow”.

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PamBG 07.02.09 at 9:19 pm

‘Pam is it \\\”another Bible\\\” for people to understand the equal importance of individuals

DH,

The bible that I read seems to suggest that the entire community has a responsibility for others and that the rich may not exploit the poor.

You don’t seem to see your neighbour’s welfare as a Kingdom obligation whether-you-like-it-or-not. You seem to see our neighbour’s welfare as the largesse of the well-off, if and when the well-off feel like throwing a few scraps to the dogs.

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DH 07.02.09 at 9:29 pm

Wow Beth I wasn’t intending for it be a double entendra (spelling) but humorous nonetheless. :)

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DH 07.02.09 at 9:39 pm

Pam, I have never suggested that the rich should exploit the poor. Just because a person happens to be rich doesn’t mean they are exploiting the poor. The rich should from the heart not by force help the poor and it should be beyond a few crumbs from a table.

Pam, the point I was saying is that there is equal importance of individual and community and there are specific responsibilities of each that God commands us to do. If we focus solely on the community in such a way as make the responsibilities that Scripture has for individuals we miss out on what being in the Kingdom is all about.

I have never said or support exploiting the poor. Supporting Capitalism doesn’t mean I’m supporting exploiting the poor.

If one wants to truly give the greatest gift anyone can give how about helping ones welfare with the gift of eternal life to be free from eternal death? “What does it gain if you gain the whole world and loose your own soul?” or “Tho I give all I have to the poor and have not love (Gospel of eternal life away from eternal death) I’m a clanging gong or cymbal.”

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Kim 07.02.09 at 9:50 pm

Supporting Capitalism doesn’t mean I’m supporting exploiting the poor.
Oh yes it does.

If one wants to truly give the greatest gift anyone can give how about helping ones welfare with the gift of eternal life to be free from eternal death? “What does it gain if you gain the whole world and loose your own soul?” or “Tho I give all I have to the poor and have not love (Gospel of eternal life away from eternal death) I’m a clanging gong or cymbal.”
One of the finest examples I have ever seen of the utter disreputableness of contextless prooftexting. Monty Python would turn it into the response of one of the crowd after Jesus tells the parable of the Sheep and the Goats - with the addition “Bloody materialist!”

DH, next Lent, give up your Bible. Who knows, by Easter you may even be a Christian.

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Earl 07.03.09 at 12:58 am

Certainly within the Church we have a responsibility to one another. Certainly within the Church exploitation is forbidden. But absolutely within the Church there is no expectation that all will have equal outcomes. Every man is expected to work. Every man is expected to provide for his own family. No one is excused simply because they do not care for whatever type of work might be available. Those who are incapable of work due to sickness, advanced age, etc. are to have their needs met. Genuine need is to be met with genuine love.

If one is going to speak of “welfare,” then be specific. If “welfare” means helping the genuinely needy to obtain the necessities of life and employment, then I would concur. If it means providing a ongoing lifestyle of dependence, then I would respectfully reject such an idea out of hand. At issue is not if someone has more than someone else. At issue is that no one has the right to expect someone else will take care of them. Everyone has to expect that they will have to take care of themselves.

Again, this is not to say that a man of wealth has no Christian obligation to act in charity toward his neighbor. We know this is precisely what Jesus taught. And in truth, this has been my experience in congregational life. But this is to say that no man has the right to expect that someone will take care of him and see to his needs.

Those who are wrapped up in class warfare will always boil with resentment at those who they despise simply because they are more successful at economic competition. It is not unlike those who after a game complain that it is not fair that their team lost. The broad proven and immediately accessible opportunities afforded by Capitalism commend it as superior to any possible construct of socialism or communism. When it comes to poor people, socialism and communism constitute organized crimes against humanity. Capitalism offers broad, proven and accessible opportunities for upward mobility not only to the poor but to anyone with personal initiative, drive and ambition.

Monty Python? Who is that?

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Richard 07.03.09 at 9:29 am

>> “Capitalism offers broad, proven and accessible opportunities for upward mobility not only to the poor but to anyone with personal initiative, drive and ambition.”
That’s a powerful, compelling and enduring claim.

Trouble is, there’s not much evidence that it is true. Yes, there are lots of examples of people who have risen “from the gutter” and “made it big”. But they are very much the exception. It continues to be true in our two countries that what determines the life chances of a child more than anything else are the circumstances in which they are born. As Britain has become more capitalistic, it appears that social and economic mobility has declined since the 1950s, while social mobility has remained static in the US. (That’s according to a 2005 LSE study). This report suggests that “By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility: our parents’ income is highly predictive of our incomes as adults. Intergenerational mobility in the United States is lower than in France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.”
The reasons for that, I think, are fairly obvious. The so-called free market isn’t really free in that it strongly advantages the rich and the powerful. In sporting terms, it’s the equivalent of a football (soccer, if you must) match between Manchester United and the local high school. Where the high school can only field 8 players, the referee is an employee of Man U. and the Reds get to make the rules of the game.

On your point about class warfare and resentment, that’s a common enough charge. It was one of the things that we kept hearing from Margaret Thatcher, for example. There must be some truth in it, I suppose, but the truth is that the politics of the left are not driven by envy and resentment, and simply repeating the mantra won’t make it so.

Finally, you can’t really not know about Monty Python? You’re pulling my leg, right?

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Earl 07.03.09 at 12:04 pm

If upward mobility is exceptional then my experience is remarkable. Given the number of men I know who have been born into similar circumstances and who have been able to experience at least equal or better advancement, I would have to conclude that what to some might seem exceptional is only normal. Of course this estimate is predicated on the old norm of success, i.e., wealth, ownership of property, investments. Working from the village format, I have read about the village idiot, sitting on a wall and watching the world go by. I have also read of the farmers, merchants, i.e., the proverbial butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers who applied themselves to business and trade and reaped the benefits. It may be that in the old world that is just a children’s story. But in the world where I live, such stories are the experience of anyone who will get off the wall and go to work.

Does this mean that there is an equality of origin for all persons. Of course not. The economic sacrifices made by my parents afforded real opportunities to my siblings and I. We have done the same for our families. Like Newton, we have seen farther and done more because we have stood on the shoulders of giants. I thank God for such giants. I pray God to be such a giant for my children. A direct comparison can be made to education. Parents who hold advanced degrees afford opportunities to their children that would not otherwise be available. Again, an intact functioning stable family structure of father and mother afford an immense benefit to their children that is not the experience of children born into broken homes. There is no injustice in such inequity of circumstances. It is not unjust for those who work hard to benefit from their hard work.

There is no injustice in inequality of origin. And there is no injustice in inequality of outcomes. One has to be willing to start where you are and do the best you can. In a word, you have to compete. You may not win all the time, but until you start you have basically just thrown any opportunity of winning out the window.

There is basic justice in the Capitalistic system that is not available in either communism or its less benign offspring of socialism. Simply put, Capitalism rewards success and penalizes failure. The benefits of such success and failure accrue. And there is almost no possibility that a biased judge can throw the results. It maybe that some would not care for such such unrestrained Capitalism, preferring the supposed egalitarianism of domesticated socialism or neutered socialism. But then there are some who watch soccer and think they are watching football.

There would appear to be little doubt that class warfare exist in the old world. It has been demonstrated in this discussion by the anger and even hatred expressed toward persons who are economically successful. It has been clearly made evident in the way that healthcare has been presented as a right for all men with the supposition rooted in envy, resentment and jealously, that payment for that supposed right is the obvious obligation of those who do not choose a lifestyle of dependence. The supposition seems to be that success is exceptional, successful persons are by definition evil and that such people should do penance to a less driven society by submitting themselves to confiscatory tax policies so that, in fairness, everyone from the village idiot to the butcher, baker and candlestick maker can share in what some duly appointed someone defines as a sufficient but equitable and of course modest lifestyle.

I know a fair amount about England… and I especially like the older cars that were once produced in England. I very well remember the Sprite… the Jaguar… the MBG and especially the Triumph. As a student in college I used to glimpse programs on Saturday evening that were of British origin. But that was 20 years ago. By that time those programs were already canceled and, I suppose, in rerun. The stations that aired such programs in this nation were public broadcasting channels that stayed on the air by federal subsidy and appeals for public donations. I cannot all to mind the last time I viewed such stations or such programming. Monty Python? I suppose I might have had occasion to see some of the shows, but I would be hard pressed to more than the names of a few of the actors.

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Richard 07.03.09 at 1:36 pm

>>“I know a fair amount about England… and I especially like the older cars that were once produced in England. I very well remember the Sprite… the Jaguar… the MBG and especially the Triumph. As a student in college I used to glimpse programs on Saturday evening that were of British origin.”

You do a good line in rhetoric, Earl. But you haven’t adressed the issue that claims for social mobility in the US and Britain appear, on the basis of evidence rather than hearsay, to be somewhat exaggerated.

Claiming to know ‘a fair amount about England’ (I assume you mean Britain?) on the basis of liking old British cars and having watched 20 year old TV shows made me splutter a bit, but I’ll let it go. Though I bet if I’d said “I know all about US healthcare. I never miss an episode of House’ you’d have jumped straight in, and quite rightly.

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Beth 07.03.09 at 2:14 pm

“Again, an intact functioning stable family structure of father and mother afford an immense benefit to their children that is not the experience of children born into broken homes.”

Me: single-parent family, low income, state school (”public school”, in American terms), PhD from Oxford. It’s not about having a mum and dad, and I’m kinda sick of the rhetoric that assumes that a non-traditional family structure automatically fails to give one a good start in life.

“There is no injustice in inequality of origin.”
Perhaps. But a system that fails to give children decent healthcare, education, housing, food, because of their parents’ failings? I’m not quite sure how fair that really is.

“And there is no injustice in inequality of outcomes.”
Not per se, no. But when we see again and again how inequality of origin leads to inequality of outcome, we start to see where the inequity subsists. Sure, if you work hard to the best of your ability you may, as someone from a deprived background, get further than your parents. But even the hardest of workers cannot be guaranteed that kind of justice. And however few natural abilities you have, you’ll still get to go to Yale, make money, and be President if that’s what your dad did.

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Kim 07.03.09 at 2:48 pm

When it comes to poor people, socialism and communism constitute organized crimes against humanity.

There you go again, Earl, conflating communism and socialism. I know it’s only anecdotal, but it’s worth a thought that Pam and I are Americans who have lived for a while in the UK and have a completely different take on social democracies and national health services than you and DH. Have you ever been to Europe (touristy holidays like DH’s recent one don’t count)? Do you even have a passport? Or are you one of those Americans who prompt the quip that war is nature’s way of teaching Americans geography? You seem like an intelligent guy, but your comments only go prove Saul Bellow correct when he said that “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance.” But then as an ardent capitalist you’d know all about investments.

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Earl 07.03.09 at 7:21 pm

The statements I have made regarding social mobility are predicated upon the experience of myself and my extended family as well as what I have learned from those persons with whom I have had the opportunity to associate. It may be that what I have described as normal is from a old world perspective exceptional. If that is the case, then the old world needs a new normal.

I have little time for television. If I have little knowledge of English programming, it is simply because I do not find very much of it to be of interest to me. When I do watch television, I usually select a documentary or a program of historical interest. Otherwise I put in a movie.

Against the backdrop of sad consequences attributable to broken homes and families, the value of a intact, stable family structure of father and mother has been demonstrated to be a tremendous advantage to children and even a predictor of what will be their educational and career trajectory. It would appear that in the social welfare state of England, there is yet opportunity for those who are willing to work hard and apply themselves. Those who rise above their initial circumstances to achieve excellence in education and career are to be applauded.

It is the responsibility of parents to provide for their children. If a husband and wife can not provide what a child needs in terms of necessary food, clothing and housing, they should not have children. There is a place for public education, if that education does not simply constitute political or social indoctrination. Except in response to unusual conditions and then only in a limited and time restricted manner, it is not the responsibility of society to provide for the everyday needs of a family.

Inequity of outcomes is not unjust. All people are not equally capable. Those who are more capable have every right to seek to excel to the limits of their abilities and opportunities. It is entirely just that parents would act to provide advantages to their children. If one prepares oneself in life so as to be able to provide advantages to ones children, no injustice is done to the child whose parents failed to do such preparation. And it would be unjust to penalize those parents and their children who had made such preparations.

Outcomes are not guaranteed. As in watching a track race, if one decides one wants to join in, then one must put on the suit and shoes, get off the sidelines and start running. You may or may not win. But it is certain that you will have no chance of winning until you get in the race. The only guarantee goes to those who never get up… but never winning is not much of a guarantee.

When it comes to opportunity, America is the land to which everyone seeks to come. How wonderful it is to know that a child can be born in poverty… that he can be raised in a broken home… that he can be subjected to a chaotic unpredictable lifestyle… yet he can be afforded opportunities for education and career development… learn to speak well in public and end up being the first foreign national to be elected to the white house in Washington, D.C.

If it appears that I place little distinction between socialism and communism it is simply because I find little distinction between socialism and communism. Either one is like a leaky rubber boat in a tropical storm… marginally better than nothing. The occupants may remain in it, but they will not do so except for lack of a better choice and as soon as that better choice blows its horn and drops a line, they will abandon the little rubber boat and never look back. One need only to look at E. Germany… the only ones who regretted seeing the Berlin Wall fall were those who profited off the barbed wire corruption of communism.

I have had occasion to travel professionally in Turkey and Greece. On that same basis I have also made occasional forays into Canada. None of this travel was remotely related to military service. I cannot recall the exact year when I first obtained a passport. Suffice it to say that all of the members of my immediate family have up-to-date current passports. We are available for travel to any point on the compass. If you would like to invite us over, just drop us a line so that we can make arrangements. My wife and I have most enjoyed traveling in the United States and are currently planning a 30th wedding anniversary trip through the western United States. Of course our travels in America make us no more qualified to speak with unquestioned authority on U.S. healthcare than does residence in England qualify one to speak with that same unquestioned authority on the NHS.

When it comes to intelligence, appearances can be deceiving. Sometime one can simply be mistaken. It may be that I am intelligent, but I can not say I have ever given the matter a great deal of thought. Personally I’ve never felt the need to prove my intelligence or anything else to anyone. As a student my grades and my accomplishments both in the classroom and beyond the classroom spoke for themselves. Professionally I have had the opportunity to deal with a numbers of challenging circumstances that have resulted in praise, recognition and affirmation. I am encouraged that colleagues in ministry appreciate my efforts. In conclusion this does well illustrate the merits of Capitalism. Anyone can start where they are, take what they’ve got and do the best they can. Those who do so are infinitely better off than if they had, for whatever reason, never invest themselves in life. It is possible for one to invest and loose. This is demonstrated in the market on a daily basis. But except one invests one can not gain anything. And if one makes no investment at all, one misses out on everything. That is the price of doing nothing.

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PamBG 07.10.09 at 8:33 am

I posted a very small piece on my blog about health care reform - I hope Richard doesn’t mind me plugging my blog.

My friend Judy, who has had/is having a very long medical battle made the comment that ‘Insurance is fine until you need it’. She knows whereof she speaks; not only is she a ‘patient’ but she is also a health care Chaplain in the US. Judy and her husband fit the profile of the hardworking professional family who everyone knows won’t have any problems meeting their medical needs. (Nevermind the working poor who ‘don’t have any problems’ meeting their medical needs.)

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Richard 07.10.09 at 9:07 am

Mind? Absolutely not! But you forgot to put in a link. Here it is.

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