Saturday, August 30, 2008

WHO’s advancing modern health socialism?

Socialism as a system of government has lost its attractiveness to many people who have seen and personally experienced it for several decades. That is why socialism collapsed in the early 90s in the former USSR, former East Germany and other Eastern European countries. Here in Asia, the two biggest socialist economies, China and Vietnam, are socialist only in the sense that they still have a one-party state, the Communist Party, but economically, they are mostly market-oriented.

The main defect of socialism lies on the fact that “a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you’ve got”, and “free people are not equal, and equal people are not free”. See Lawrence Reed’s Seven principles of sound public policy.

Individual and parental responsibility do not count much under socialism. It's all "government responsibility". Thus, one can have a dozen children and drink every night, and when he becomes poor and miserable, the State is supposed to provide quality education, quality health care, quality housing, quality employment, quality social protection, etc. for him and his family, for free! The state gets money by confiscating a big portion of the income and savings of the productive and responsible people, especially those “greedy rich people who expropriate the surplus value of the workers”.

And if one’s liver and intestines are punctured by too much alcohol, or his lung is blackened and mutilated by too much smoke, he still has the right to demand "quality healthcare" regardless of his incapacity to pay. That is why socialism is appealing to the irresponsible and free-riders; they find it a very humane social system because it cares for everyone and ensures that everyone is equal. Equally miserable, with the exception of the leaders and friends of the socialist state.

But it’s not only the irresponsible, free-riders and dictators who are attracted to socialism. Some of the world’s bright minds working in tax-funded institutions also love the ideology, although they are not explicitly advocating it. And while they may call people who advocate free market and more individual responsibility as “neo-liberal”, maybe they can be called as “neo-socialist” or “neo-communist”. But I hate labels such as neo-neo, so I will call them as plain socialists, although they may not admit it.

The other day, the World Health Organization (WHO) through its Commission on Social Determinants of Health, released its new report, “Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health", and it boldly declared that “inequities are killing people on a ‘grand scale’”. And as such, the Commission is proposing “health equity” on a grand scale through more government intervention and subsidies, an implicit call for advocating health socialism. You can read the Executive Summary (40 pages long) or the Press Release here.

Why did I say the Commission is implicitly calling for health socialism? Consider its recommendations on having “Equity from the start” alone, the first of 3 over-arching recommendations:

One, make sure that all children, mothers, and other caregivers are covered by a comprehensive package of quality early child development programs and services, regardless of ability to pay.

Two, provide quality compulsory primary and secondary education for all boys and girls, regardless of ability to pay; abolish user fees for primary school.

Three, manage urban development to ensure greater availability of affordable housing; invest in urban slum upgrading including, as a priority, provision of water and sanitation, electricity, and paved streets for all households regardless of ability to pay.

Four, ensure full and fair employment and decent work for all; strengthened representation of workers in the creation of policy, legislation, and programs relating to employment. Quality work with a living wage that takes into account the real and current cost of healthy living.

Five, progressively increase the generosity of social protection systems to a level sufficient for healthy living for all; social protection systems include those normally excluded: those in informal sector and household or care work.

Six, build quality health-care services with universal coverage, focusing on Primary Health Care. Strengthen public sector leadership in equitable healthcare systems financing, ensuring universal access to care regardless of ability to pay.

Notice the repeated use of “regardless of ability to pay”. That means that if people are poor, they are still entitled to quality child care development programs, quality primary and secondary education, quality housing and sanitation, quality health care, and so on. If a household is poor because of natural calamity (their farms and villages were wiped out by a strong typhoon or tsunami or earthquake, etc.) or because of some emergencies (say the breadwinner perished or became physically and mentally invalid for productive work after an accident), it will be understandable. But what if a household became poor because of personal and parental laziness and irresponsibility? What if thousands, if not millions, of households became poor because of government corruption, high taxation and bureaucratic regulations that kill entrepreneurship and job creation?

Unfortunately, the bright guys who live off on taxes and propose more and higher taxes (where else will they get the money for more government subsidies and welfare?) do not make any distinction about causes of poverty. Perhaps one can say that these people implicitly favor more personal and parental irresponsibility, more government wastes and irresponsibility, because these two factors are the biggest determinants and causes of poverty. More poverty, more “role” for WHO, the various health ministries and departments of governments around the world, more subsidies, more taxes, more salaries and perks for people working on those national and international agencies and bureaucracies.

Responsible individuals and parents do not wait for dole-outs and subsidies. They work hard to give their family and children good education, good housing and sanitation, good health care, good personal protection, and so on. They do their work well as employees, or they get out and become employers and create jobs for other people. Such employers are forced by circumstances to give high “living wage” and other benefits to ambitious and skilled workers; otherwise, the latter will leave them and move somewhere else. But said employers are also forced by circumstances to give low “living wage” to less ambitious and unskilled workers. If they will be compelled by the State to give high wages, said employers will not hire less ambitious and unskilled workers, and the latter will remain unemployed and poor indefinitely.

Now the document is out and disseminated to all member-states of the WHO. It is not automatic that all member-states will adopt the recommendations of the Commission. But the more socialist-leaning governments will be more than eager to follow and implement the recommendations of the Commission. The report will be an additional ammunition for them to retain existing high and multiple taxes and fees, if not create new taxes and fees, new regulations and orders. The report will also be a good excuse to retain, if not expand existing public bureaucracies and subsidies in health, education, housing, employment, social security, and in virtually all other social and economic sectors of the State, both at the national and local government levels.

Citizens who value their individual freedom, who value personal and parental responsibility, should watch their governments. While governments who are not enamored by socialist ideology and its forced equality dreams should keep their economies free. So that hard-working people who cannot stand the re-birth of socialism in their countries can move out and go to the free market economies to pursue their dreams and aspirations as free individuals, and as responsible parents.

No comments: