One Before Bed

Have just finished watching Thursday's BBC Question Time in which Mark Littlewood from the IEA gave an impassioned defence of free market economics in a hall of question time's usual swivel-eyed left-wing lunatics.

What was particularly interesting was the rousing debate on the future of the NHS - it doesn't take much to raise the ire of the assembled state-paid paper shufflers, diversity coordinators & 5-a-day managers.

What was particular interesting was the widespread detachment from reality about the state of our healthcare; it soon degenerated into "no, the NHS's outcomes are better than [insert evil private/any other healthcare system]'s".

He pointed out that he was not going to bite into the usual canard of "you just want the NHS to be the US healthcare system" and pointed to other systems like Singapore's, only to be shouted down saying it was even worse.

Apparently the WHO disagree; it ranks Singapore at #6.

The UK? Number 18.

Emotionalism aside how about we go for reductionist's approach: we simply copy what the WHO's #1 healthcare system is doing: France.

So how does this system work then (note: links wikipedia, emboldened/underlined text my own)?

France has a system of universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the "best overall health care" in the world.[1] In 2005, France spent 11.2% of GDP on health care, or US$3,926 per capita, a figure much higher than the average spent by countries in Europe but less than in the US. Approximately 77% of health expenditures are covered by government funded agencies.[2]
Great so let's spend more money on healthcare! A chorus of praise for this action goes up amongst of Britains established medical monopoly!

Oh wait:

Most general physicians are in private practice but draw their income from the public insurance funds. These funds, unlike their German counterparts, have never gained self-management responsibility. Instead, the government has taken responsibility for the financial and operational management of health insurance (by setting premium levels related to income and determining the prices of goods and services refunded).[1] 
So the government operates a virtual monopsony on healthcare spending just not on healthcare provision ("we are willing to pay this for that treatment"). It also garners the costs back from people in a manner in which they only pay what they can afford, very progressive.
The French National Health Service generally refunds patients 70% of most health care costs, and 100% in case of costly or long-term ailments. Supplemental coverage may be bought from private insurers, most of them nonprofit, mutual insurers. Until recently, coverage was restricted to those who contributed to social security (generally, workers or retirees), excluding some poor segments of the population; the government of Lionel Jospin put into place "universal health coverage" and extended the coverage to all those legally resident in France. Only about 3.7% of hospital treatment costs are reimbursed through private insurance, but a much higher share of the cost of spectacles and prostheses (21.9%), drugs (18.6%) and dental care (35.9%) (Figures from the year 2000). There are public hospitals, non-profit independent hospitals (which are linked to the public system), as well as private for-profit hospitals.
Average life expectancy in France at birth is 81 years.[3][4]
The average, reasonably healthy health consumer has to pay some of their costs, ensuring that that consumer is at least  sensitive to the price of it, either in noticing which way their health premiums are going or how it hits the wallet if they have to pay the difference, and as we know human beings are very sensitive creatures - they want to command the maximum number of high quality goods or services they can with the resource available to them (this is actually the real definition of wealth - getting something more valuable in return for something less; in this case lower healthcare costs for same/better healthcare). Those who can't pay or will have chronic long term costs are fully covered.

And the state doesn't massive intervene in who provides the healthcare.

I think we could with that level of choice too; let's hope that Lansley's tome goes some of the way to providing that. Not holding my breath.


Those Scoundrels? Or Blaming The Wrong Schlebs

Profit margins at the ‘big six’ energy firms have leapt more than 700 per cent as millions worry about keeping warm this winter.
 Those fiends! they are casting our elderly, our infirm and our poor into the oblivion of an icy, cold winter freeze, doomed to die.
The average amount of profit per  customer has risen from £15 a year to £125 in just a few months, according  to the industry regulator Ofgem.
Wait wait wait - so before a few months ago the blood, sweat and tears of business men in the energy sector only roped them £15 profit for every piece of business? Wait - it was even worse before?
via The Daily Mail - why are we getting so mad at this?
Up to Aug 2009 the margin on energy prices were negative; energy companies were losing money versus rising costs, particularly in wholesale energy costs and "other" costs.

"Other" costs is a little disengenuous - if wholesale costs are approx 45%, then we add in the costs that you cannot drop - i.e. operating and network costs - this comes in at 29% (74%) then you add in the net margin for the company: 9%. 9. per. cent.; so 83% of the bill isn't up for negotiation and is intrinsic to the cost (and let's be fair if you know a plumber who would work on a margin at 9% give me his number - I have a few jobs I'd like him to do around Tomrat Towers) then 17%, or ~£230 of the highest domestic bill recorded, is going to these guys:

That's right; you are giving a collective £6.7Bn of your energy bills to these smoes.

It is only right that the energy companies should be hitting back; it is long overdue (and not just for the energy companies) - it is not an unfair that a company providing a service should expect a decent profit; when you consider that 9% of the bill goes to the company in profit is paltry compared to double that figure taken in taxation/government and "green" initiatives, not to mention the very likely additional efficiency losses due to the monopoly on transmission that the National Grid, a de facto state monopoly, has.

We really need to shut this particular shit down.


Less Ignoring & More Obfusticating

The subject of the first e-petition to prompt a Parliamentary debate has been ignored by MPs when the debate took place.The online petition - signed by more than 240,000 people - called for those convicted of involvement in the summer riots to be stripped of their benefits.
The three-hour debate in Westminster Hall covered the wider response to the riots, but did not touch on benefits.
To me this is less about ignoring the issue and more about confusing it; the prediliction for public outcries to incite "something-must-be-doneism" in our politicians has probably done more to allowing the destructive behaviour of the last 15 years than anything else; if it wasn't Diana shrines popping up to appease Daily Fail readers it was Blair's law-a-minute approach whilst ignoring perfectly good but unenforced laws or Brown's purple banana's.
During the hearing, MPs shared their views on the causes of the riots, the police response and the impact on their constituencies
Nick Raynsford, Labour MP, said eviction should not be used as a secondary means to punish people who should have already been punished by the law.
Conservative MP Gavin Barwell said when one person in a family was repeatedly antisocial, this could be considered a proportionate response.
And both are right - in general it is unlikely that many of the rioters were not indulging in their first offence and fewer still are probably recidivists who belong in jail; it is these few that add nothing to society who need their benefits stopping and the largesse of an increasingly pressed and tired society curbing, preferably following a period in jail.
Do not get me wrong - the e-petitions website is a good thing but it is not, should not, be there so that the public at large dictate the nitty gritty of the law making process - that is what we pay MP's for; remember: Blair's pandering to the masses allowed him to bypass in a multitude not only the rule of law for himself and his crony capitalist buddies but also damage the spirit of the law too: we have judges who rule against parliamentary law in favour of alien authorities like the EU, statutory instruments designed to fine tune ancient acts of parliament steam-rolling over it's mechanisms of introducing new laws or putting them in front of elected representatives and a political clique so disconnected from the boring job of ensuring a simple, enforcable system of law is suitable for it's time that it concerns itself with trivialities.

We need to keep pushing for e-petitions like this, don't get me wrong; but more importantly if we feel we are capable of writing the law we should be standing for parliament - at the very least asking our elected representative for their views on this and making it known that without their support for reform of our dessicated government, the state and the systems we have for "dealing" with these kinds of problems they will not see our votes or that of anyone else we will be actively convincing.

Incidentally if you want to support a petition I think we can all believe in click here.


So Much For The Arab Spring

Remember how the media was rejoicing at the rise of protests across the Arabian peninsula and uprisings in Egypt which ultimately led to Mubarrak's downfall, and how this was to usher in a new era of brotherly love?

Apparently not:

At least 23 people have been killed and scores injured in the worst violence since Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.

Clashes broke out after a protest in Cairo against an attack on a church in Aswan province last week which Coptic Christians blame on Muslim radicals.

What the media doesn't report is the ongoing persecution of Christian minorities across Africa and Asia by Muslim groups, particularly in places like Nigeria - one group we were supporting build a school finished only to have a governor-backed Muslim protest group raze it to the ground.

As vicious as the last lot were in T'gypt they weren't down with widespread beatdowns of minorities.

No doubt though Old Holborn will justify this as perfectly acceptable considering the persecution of Arabs in Palestine, or some other faux-victim group.