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Deal With It

April 13, 2010

Via Sullivan, the Daily Telegraph has compiled a summary of the Conservative Party’s manifesto/platform for Britain’s 2010 election.  It’s an interesting read, partly due to that adjective hanging out there in front of the word “Party”.  Much has already been said about its merits as a whole, but I’m not going to dabble heavily in British domestic politics partly because it’s not my business and partly because I just don’t care.  That said, there is something intriguing about it: what it has to say about the NHS (the UK’s socialized health system):

Over three years ago David Cameron spelled out his priorities in three letters – NHS. As the party of the NHS, we will never change the idea at the heart of our NHS – that healthcare in this country is free at the point of use and available to everyone based on need, not ability to pay.

[Snip]… We are the party of the NHS today because we not only back the values of the NHS, we back its funding and have a vision for its future.

It goes on to list specific policies such as “increase[d] spending on the NHS every year”, “cut[ting] the cost of NHS bureaucracy by a third”, and “introduc[ing] a voluntary insurance scheme so that people are no longer forced to sell their homes if they need residential care”.  Keep in mind that these are the conservatives of the UK.

The talking points (TPs, an acronym and a pun all at the same time) here are obvious from an American perspective.  From the Right: these guys are just cheese-eating European socialists who bear zero resemblance to what real conservatives are—there’s no way a real conservative would ever support socialized medicine like that.  From the Left: these are what actual conservatives are—they don’t share the apparent loathing and disdain for government that American “conservatives” have (even if their politicians don’t reflect that sentiment) and they actually care about the health of their nation’s citizenry regardless of their ability to pay arbitrary fees to insurance companies.

Here’s what’s probably going on underneath all the TPs: the Conservatives are dealing with political realities.  Mark Steyn has probably said this a billion times, but once you have government health care, as I expect we will within the next ten or fifteen years, the discussion during every election year does not stray far from the problems associated with the system.  The Conservatives know that the British electorate is not interested in the least in losing its publicly distributed health care (regardless of whether or not it’d be better for them personally and for their country), so scaling back socialization or installing some form of privatization is completely off the table.  It’s not about whether or not the NHS should exist at all—it’s about which Party can run it better.

But we all knew this already, didn’t we?  You already went to your doctor and got your Zoloft prescription, didn’t you?  Well, yes—but there are certain lessons to be learned here.  After repeal of the Democrats’ new health-care law fails (sorry, I’m no Miss Cleo, but I just don’t see it happening), the Republicans are going to have to figure out a strategy for dealing with government health care as a permanent fixture of American life.  The “this system sucks” rhetoric isn’t going to work.

The system that will be in place should never have been created in the first place.  That’s also true for Social Security and Medicare, two other programs that we need our politicians to deal with because they are bankrupting our nation.  We don’t even the UK’s lessons—we can learn from our own mistakes.  We just have to be willing to do it.

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