Mar 22 2010


Category: GeneralDave @ 12:29

Most of Europe (I don’t know about other places) has long been bemused by the fact that a country which aspires to be the greatest in the world doesn’t have something as rudimentary as free, universal healthcare. It’s great to see the US getting there.

The UK’s NHS has its problems but on the whole it’s not bad. The important bit is that anybody in this country who falls ill and needs urgent treatment gets it. Doesn’t matter who they are, what nationality they are, no questions asked. To me that’s civilised; in this 21st C, anything else isn’t. If you’re not entitled to free treatment here, they’ll try & recover the costs – but afterwards. You don’t have the worry of paying to stay alive whilst trying to heal. The NHS gets it wrong at times – wrong or inappropriate treatments and long waiting times are some of the ills that beset it but it’s still infinitely better than the practical alternatives. I have read of people in the US pointing at NICE and calling it something like the “death panel”. All I can say is: go read what it actually does then eat your words! Of course NICE can get it wrong sometimes and it can make decisions which are bad for some individuals. No regulatory mechanism, of any kind, is perfect.

Universal Free Healthcare has to be paid for: Europeans pay far higher taxes than Americans and a lot of that is accounted for by healthcare and other kinds of social welfare. The idea that a free market will (or even can) result in full employment and therefore everyone will be able to afford the basics of civilised life is, to say the least, questionable. I think the US also needs to get away from this “work ethic” thing as the UK rulers kinda did, on the quiet, years ago. I’ll explain why…

Western economies all have much the same basic rule: A public company’s first and overriding duty is to maximise shareholder value. It therefore behoves the directors to minimise costs;if they don’t, they can be sued. One major way to reduce costs, which is generally followed religiously, is to decrease headcount/staff costs. This is done largely by increasing automation and outsourcing to lands where labour is cheaper. This, of course, applies mostly to enterprises which actually make or produce *things* – cars, food, furniture, etc., although it’s being increasingly applied to services as well. The theory is that the workers thus displaced will move into so-called “service industries” (until their jobs are outsourced). Huh! There aren’t enough remaining workers in “real jobs” to support that much service industry and so you end up with permanent, structural unemployment. One way to mitigate this that they’ve used here (and, to a much lesser extent you see it happening in the US) is that they pass laws which create the need for Agencies to oversee the execution of those laws, soaking up some of the excess workforce. In the case of the UK, it’s quite a large proportion.

The net result is that a minority of the population generates the real wealth of the country & their taxes pay to keep much of the rest of the erstwhile working population off the streets doing “makework” jobs. Full employment is a myth that I don’t think will ever be seen again, certainly in the West and this is something that I think our politicians have been lying to us about for years. The permanent structural unemployment I referred to is going to get worse as automation gets cleverer. The whole work ethic thing needs to be rethought; I don’t know what the final numbers will actually be but, as an example: What do we do with the other 90% when 10% of the possible workforce (workforce, not population mind) can produce everything a country needs? The real figures might end up at 80/20 or even 70/30 but I very much doubt they’ll go beyond that.

I think the link between the above & Universal Free Healthcare is fairly obvious but just for a change, I think something good will come of it 🙂

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Mar 18 2009

On yer bike!

Category: Generalfootlight @ 20:47

Once again, the country is ringing to the sound of people either lamenting the jobless figures or asking how we can get more people back into employment. There is a stunningly simple response to both these cries – forget it!

The kinds of people who used to be out of work were those who were not well-qualified enough or too well-qualified for the jobs on the market, those who for one reason or another did not want to work, those of working age but to ill or incapacitated to have a job and those who had recently left employment and had not yet started another job. There was always a rolling figure of unemployed and every successive government has had the cries of the jobless resounding in their ears. They have also all tried their best to ‘solve’ the unemployment problem. There are reasons why this will never happen. This is a problem that cannot be solved.

According to the government statistics site, ‘The resident population of the UK was 60,975,000 in mid-2007’. That figure is unlikely to have changed significantly in two years. A recent projection is that ‘the population of the UK is set to increase by 4.4 million to 65 million by 2016′. Many of these ‘extra’ people since 1998 have been immigrants, although it has to be said that a large number were legitimate and contribute considerably to life in this country. There have always been immigrants in the UK and they have usually enhanced society. The population as a whole is living longer. The number of under-16s has declined, whereas the number of people reaching pensionable age has increased. This means that many are leaving the workforce but fewer are entering it. This is a good thing, really, because there is another factor at work.


With the increase of technology that can ‘do the work of several men’, those several men (or women) are no longer needed. As computers become more and more sophisticated, you don’t even have to be in the workplace to carry out your job. In theory, we should be grateful and enjoy the extra leisure time, but as a species we are now programmed to feel bad if we don’t have a job. We are even penalised if we have been out of work for half a year and happen to have a working partner. Live off their earnings, we are told. Let them try it!

Governments – of whichever persuasion – need to begin to cater for a population that will not be at work all the time, if at all. The times they are a-changing and the once ill-advised words of Norman Tebbit misquoted in the title of this rant have no meaning. Even if you have a bike and are prepared to ride it around our polluted cities, there’s nowhere to go.

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