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    Life to the fullest

    My blog friend Rondi “Canada’s Coultier [sic]” Adamson has a post at the individualist site righthinker.com about the Canadian national health system. If you know her writing (and read the post title), you won’t be surprised at her conclusion:

    But in Canada’s rationed system, the choices for humans [as opposed to pet cats] are not plentiful and wait lists are frequently long, though few would question the devotion of medical professionals. What Canadians such as myself question is not the public tier itself, but the wisdom of limiting patients and doctors alike to that tier.

    She sent me the link to this post because it riffs off the (brief) discussion we were having about health care here earlier. The point she makes is not dissimilar from the one Bruce Bawer makes in his July 23, 2007 (5:10 P.M., CEST) post, in his case about Norway:

    Norwegians boast of their system’s “total coverage” – but total coverage doesn’t mean guaranteed care, or care on demand. Far from it. Even the media here, which generally push the official line that Norway’s system is far superior to its U.S. counterpart, run occasional stories about Norwegian children who’ve been turned down for life-saving medications, who’ve had to fly to the U.S. to get the care they needed, or who’ve died while waiting for treatment.

    None of which is meant to suggest that the U.S. system doesn’t need fixing. It does. But the solution to its problems doesn’t lie in copying the Canadian and European systems.

    We Americans are a funny lot. We’ll accept (lamentably) the most egregious quacks imaginable as “experts” if they manage to snag a warm endorsement from Oprah, but we absolutely hate “expertise” that’s forced on us from on high, even if it’s got degrees and studies to back it up.

    No health care system is going to satisfy all users all the time. Even in a rich, dynamic society, resources will always be limited. So the question is who gets to decide which trade-offs are made. Whatever the problems with insurance at it currently exists in the States, I think most people perceive that instituting a national health system means giving consumers less choice. Not a good direction for change, even if it would mean a “healthier” society according to criteria that would gladden the hearts of functionaries at the USDA and various UN organizations.

    BTW, both Rondi and Bawer link to this video clip, in which Ayaan Hirsi Ali is interviewed by an insufferably smug leftist wind-up toy who has to be heard to be believed. The best moment is when the interviewer, wonderfully uncorrupted by self-awareness of any kind, complains that Hirsi Ali is speaking in cliches. He’s not wrong in literal terms, actually–the observation that you can come to America penniless and make your fortune if you have the resolve is hardly an original one. But Hirsi Ali has come by her conclusions through experience: living in illiberal societies and then moving to the West. Accusing her of mindless boosterism is ridiculous, even if you don’t agree with all her criticisms of Islam.

    3 Responses to “Life to the fullest”

    1. Alan says:

      I watched Michael Moore’s Sicko (to a point, at least) and I agreed with him (til that point). Our system has a problem with general capitalistic greed – but shouldn’t that go without saying?

      The difference between the American and the Canadian system is that one offers choices and the other doesn’t. Both my dad and my dad’s dad died from their choices – they ignored their doctor (same guy). But, at least they got to meet him. How many Canadians have died just waiting to meet their doctor – and how many have died waiting to get treatment?

    2. Rondi says:

      “Insufferably smug leftist wind-up toy” is the best description I’ve ever read of Avi Lewis. The sad thing is, as a Canadian, I am forced to pay for him and the CBC, his employer, with my tax dollars. The great irony in his stupid comments to Hirsi Ali, is that he carries on about how in the States, you supposedly can’t have a political career unless you are well-connected. Well he’s one to talk! In Canada, his parents are very high-profile in politics and media. Without that he would not have a career.

      Just FYI for your non-Canadian readers who likely wouldn’t know that.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:


      Sometimes I think criticisms of national health systems do get a little hysterical–I mean, it’s not as if half the population of Canada were dropping dead from lack of medical access. But I’m with you about choice and about the capitalist greed thing. Lust for riches can spur people to do destructive things, but so can lust for government power. Hell, so can pushy do-gooderism, however sincere it may be. There will be potential for abuse in any system.


      Thanks for the info. No, I didn’t know that.

      So–what, one wonders, does Lewis think about the rise of the Clintons? The whole PR spiel about them highlighted that Bill was a nobody from Nowheresville, AK, who happened to be smart enough to get Georgetown and Yale degrees and a Rhodes Scholarship. Hillary’s upbringing was somewhat more affluent, but she also pitched herself as from a modest little middle-class family in the Midwest, someone who got into Wellesley and Yale not as an East Coast insider but as a smart regular girl with an all-American work ethic. The US electorate spent the early ’90s being clubbed over the head to near death with that rhetoric.

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