I’m starting this month mildly optimistic. Those who have laden our societies with inequality and our economies with debt are being repudiated wherever the public is permitted to speak or vote. No longer dulled by panic, policy makers are realising there are other options than doing as they are told by their bankers, and their duty to their enraged public requires them to at least evaluate other options before caving into further banker demands. Emboldened by examples of bravery and solidarity in the Middle East, many publics are re-evaluating their relationship to the state and the service they receive from their political elites, and then finding a new voice to demand better.
The corrupt political machine that surrendered Irish sovereignty to a more corrupt banking system has been voted out of office. Denmark has allowed a bank to fail, imposing real losses for the first time in this crisis on bank bondholders. The governor of Wisconsin is being reminded that he works for the people of his state, within the bounds of its constitution and its laws. Signs of a shift toward accountability perhaps? It is spring, and I choose to hope.
I am in England, where a fine mist softens the air and birds sing in the budding trees outside my window. Contributing to my good humour is the imminence of a new challenge that will not require me to travel further than central London. I spent much of the autumn looking at the world, looking at my country, and searching for a way to make a difference here at home that will endure as a lasting contribution to economic stability. I have been fortunate enough to identify such a role, seek appointment, and be given the chance to fulfil my aims. It will be another adventure, but one I pursue in familiar surroundings and among friends.
Wish me luck.
And now a word about healthcare, a subject I rarely write about. I saw a chart at Wall Street Cheat Sheet this week that forced me to realise how blessed I am to be British. If I were an American, I would be shamed by this - especially when more than 30 percent of citizens have no entitlement to healthcare.
Here's an example of what I get for the money spent on the NHS.
In December I received a form letter from the NHS (National Health Service) saying that the time had come around again for a routine diagnostic procedure to detect a condition fairly common to people my age. It was the run-up to Christmas and I did nothing at the time. Yesterday I received a reminder that I had not had the test, urging me to schedule it. My GP (general practitioner doctor) is at the surgery (doctor’s office) on the high street five minutes’ walk from my door. I called the surgery’s appointments line, and the friendly receptionist gave me an appointment for later in the morning. I showed up, was seen within five minutes, and back home twenty minutes later. The doctor was even happy to chat about another minor matter that had been on my mind. The test results will be sent by post within two weeks. This was as easy, convenient, stress-free and professional as anyone could ever wish. And no one ever mentioned money.
The NHS is one reason why there is unlikely to be a revolution in Britain. Each of us living here can actually see the benefits of having a government that provides for the people in the ways that truly count. I never have to worry about whether I can afford a medical procedure. When my children are sick, they are seen quickly, often the same day. I can get urgent care 24 hours a day. I have even been pleasantly surprised by a Sunday house call. When I took my children to the emergency room (long ago now), they were seen and treated with all the professionalism and concern any loving parent might wish. All of this is provided by my government, and I never worry even for a moment about the cost. As a taxpayer, I enjoy a tangibly better life because my government provides for my care and the care of my family whenever it is required.
The NHS is far from perfect, but it is a great deal better than any insurance-intermediated system I could imagine. And it is infinitely better than no insurance and no entitlement to healthcare at all.
Not all taxes impoverish me. Some of what I pay enriches me too.
I've just received a form in the post to permit me to register for patient management over the internet. I'll be able to book and change appointments online with my doctor or other doctors at the surgery, and I can request prescription renewals. This is my NHS delivering value and efficiency to me as a taxpayer, and I am again grateful.