Monday, 8 March 2021

Creeping Socialism

One night recently, having explained to my husband that I really could not stand another episode of the BBC News, with its nightly tide of tabloid tearjerking and government sponsored panic-stoking, he compromised and put on an episode of Spectator TV. 

At the start of the episode, there was an interview between Andrew Neil and  a statistician called David Spiegelhalter. During the interview Spiegelhalter expressed himself extremely proud and deeply moved by the fact that no-one in the United Kingdom can obtain a vaccination against coronavirus by paying for one.

"You can't buy it", chimed in Neil, and both men seemed to find this a reason for rejoicing.  The exchange has been puzzling me ever since. Here it is:

I was under the impression that the United Kingdom, like all European countries, worked on the principle of free enterprise. While the United Kingdom does seem to be showing unwonted efficiency in ensuring its citizens are vaccinated (and in that context has anyone else noticed how none of his colleagues ever seem to mention Nadhim Zawahi, the minister responsible for this success, or hand him a crumb of praise), I bet the whole process is costing a pretty penny. As for the rest of Europe, don't get me started: the vaccination process, run by various governments, with the 'help' of Brussels, but completely unsullied by any assistance from free enterprise, is an absolute total mess.

Where would the harm be if private enterprise was allowed to run in tandem with national government-run and -funded health services? I'm not suggesting that anyone should be deprived of the right to get vaccinated at government expense, but what if they were also allowed, should they choose, to remove the burden of their individual vaccination from government and pay for it to be done elsewhere? How could that be immoral? It wouldn't be pushing anyone out of the way; it would be turning to an alternative source and lightening the burden on the government. If the health services aren't a dreadful drain on the government, why did poor old Captain Tom Moore feel the need to stagger up and down his garden to raise money for them? 

Yet in the health provision area anything involving offering payment for service, if you can afford to, is considered shocking and grubby and vile. Thus when a clinic in the north of England found that from time to time it had leftover vaccine that needed using up at the end of the day, the people running it decided it was perfectly okay to give the extra vaccinations to friends and relations of the staff; doing anything enterprising with them, such as selling tickets in a money-raising raffle that would give the right to anyone whose ticket was drawn to expect a call to come in immediately and get a leftover shot would have been seen as outrageous and vile. 

To reiterate, I am not suggesting that anyone should miss out. I am not suggesting that the most needy shouldn't be given for free everything that the service is able to provide. What I am suggesting is that, if some people have money they want to spend on getting a vaccination, why should anyone feel proud that there is no opportunity for them to take pressure of the government-funded health service by getting themselves vaccinated at their own expense? Why would it be a sin to save taxpayers' money and speed up the process, so that everyone could get back to normal life more quickly? Isn't government having sole control of the supply of any substance anathema in a free enterprise system? Does no one else think the most urgent thing we need to achieve is to get each of our nations back to normal as quickly as possible so that businesses currently shut down can reopen and the economy can be dragged back from the brink of total collapse? Have I missed some important event, such as a Bolshevik revolution? Are we all socialists now?


  1. Yes, in the UK we're in the bizarre position of living under state socialism implemented by a Conservative government. As for vaccines, we should certainly be allowed to buy them – that way we could also choose which one we were being given. Me, I'm waiting for Valneva.

    1. The Conservative leaders have decided to win elections by being the opposition party, leaving voters without a choice of any kind, which is a ploy I seem to remember state socialists were also quite fond of - although at least they were honest about being one party states.

  2. I don't think you've really thought this through. Isn't this a rationing scenario, think 1942? The well-off *could* have bought as many sausages and pounds of butter as they wanted during Rationing, without individually imperilling any other individual.

    Like it or not, if we're not "all in this together", what's to stop anyone (and I'm not thinking of right-thinking people here, I'm thinking the dregs of Soham) from doing exactly what they think they want to do, and hang the rest of you. Isn't that when you hard-bake societal atomisation into your culture? That "no-one in the United Kingdom can obtain a vaccination against coronavirus by paying for one" makes me quite proud too.

  3. I know nothing about the rationale for rationing or whether it was genuinely of benefit. I have always remembered a relative whose husband was killed in military action telling me about how after that but still during the war she moved back to the rural part of England she had come from, because there were many people down there with access to the "means of production" - that is, small holders and farmers - and so she did have easy access to butter and eggs and milk for her children. I suppose that was cheating, but I didn't see it as a morally reprehensible thing to do. I am not sure the rationing that went on after the war was justifiable either. People have told me that well into the 1950s rationing continued in England and it was shocking to cross the Channel and discover that the French were able to eat and drink whatever they wanted. So I suppose I would be one of those who would accept a regime if it was clearly serving an important purpose and I would then start to question it, if it wasn't totally obvious that it was necessary - and I'd be quite interested to look into whether it was truly necessary in the 1950s. In my experience there is a streak in the British soul that is attracted to privation and denial as a moral good - sanctimony, I suppose you would call it. In the case of this vaccination scheme, it needs to be done very quickly and it costs a great deal of money - if some people pay for their shots, given the economic wreckage that the United Kingdom faces, that would have two benefits: a) the government would be saved some money; b) normal life might be able to resume more quickly. But then I also strongly believe that the NHS ought to ask for payment from all those whose income is over seventy-five thousand pounds a year, capping charges at five thousand pounds in any one year. I imagine that almost all Britons are immensely proud that no one pays for any care with the NHS, but to me that is total folly.

    What goes on in Soham?