Dec 1, 2019

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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44 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION DECEMBER 2019

  • Welcome to the December 2019 open discussion thread.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

    Thank you.

    The mods Report abuse

  • To Be # 53, November discussion:  

    in response to what I had written earlier, you wrote:  “I don’t need to “assume” Jesus was a real person, any more than I need to assume that Caesar Augustus, Buddha, Gandhi, Hitler, Hawking, Tutankhamen etc. were real people. The historical figure of Jesus is the most written about figure in all of human history, none of it by his own hand.”

    You might want to check out Professor Jerry Coyne’s web site today.

    Prof. Coyne is a very respected scholar.  He’s recently been on an expedition to Antarctica.  In any event, today he commented on the “news” story that a piece of Jesus’ manger was returned to Bethlehem.  I put news in quotes because I consider such stories to be nonsense.  In his piece, Dr Coyne wrote:  “Further, it’s not clear whether Jesus—if he lived, and I’m not at all convinced that the Jesus story is based even minimally on a real person—was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth.”

    It doesn’t make a lot of difference to me whether or not Jesus was real — I happen to agree with those who think Jesus is a mythical character that somehow got confused with a real person, but the fact that he has been extensively written about is of no consequence.  As Dr. Coyne writes:  “It always bothers me that, despite the fact that there is no extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of someone on whom the Jesus myth is based—even an itinerant apocalyptic preacher …”

    There are a lot of atheist scholars who argue that Jesus was an itinerant preacher who was later made the subject of myth.  One such is the highly respected Dr. Bart Ehrman, of North Carolina.  On the other side is Richard Carrier, a scholar who argues that Jesus was probably entirely mythological.  Both have written books on this subject and both appear in numerous YouTube videos. There are a lot of scholars who have opinions on both sides of this question.  My own feeling is that as time goes on, Dr Carrier’s position will be widely accepted. 

    P.S. are we sure that the Buddha was a real person?

  • Michael 100 says:

    in response to what I had written earlier, you wrote:

    To Be # 53, November discussion:  

      “I don’t need to “assume” Jesus was a real person, any more than I need to assume that Caesar Augustus, Buddha, Gandhi, Hitler, Hawking, Tutankhamen etc. were real people.


    are we sure that the Buddha was a real person?

    Buddha, – is a figure from the mythology of the distant past, who may have existed but the evidence is unclear. –

    Tutankhamen,  We have his tomb, his body, his mummy case with his cartouche.

    Caesar Augustus, We have coins, statues, inscriptions and written records.

    Gandhi,  We have film footage, written records, and  living witness statements.

    Hitler, We have film footage, written records, and  living witness statements.

    Hawking, We have film footage, written records, scientific papers, and  living witness statements.

    Clearly lumping these together the character “Jesus” from bible stories, for whom there is nothing contemporary other than a few vague passing references in some Roman manuscripts,  is a false equivalence and purely wishful thinking.

  • In the section:  Elizabeth Warren Was Asked About Her Plan to Protect “the Rights of Atheists  It seems like the discussion is drifting toward health care.  Rather than posting these comments there, I thought I’d come over here.  I hope that’s appropriate.
    In the United States, even those with an excellent group health insurance plan, for which they and their employers can spend tens of thousands of dollars per year, can expect to pay deductible fees, co-payments and/or co-insurances payments, all defined in the individual insurance policy.  This can amount to from ten or fifteen dollars, to hundreds, or thousands of dollars depending on the terms of the policy and the medical care performed.  If the patient is unable to pay, after a period of time deemed to be reasonable by the provider, the bill can be referred to a collection agency who does not distinguish between an over due bill for a use car or for an open-heart surgery.
    I have never walked into a doctor’s office or a hospital without being asked to produce my insurance credentials.  Without that insurance card, I would probably be asked to leave a signed blank check at the office or find another clinic at which I would be happier.  Furthermore, no one can tell you with certainty what anything will cost, or what you will pay.  That will be determined after the fact, probably by someone other than who provided the service.  It’s like going into a restaurant and ordering the chief’s surprise – SURPRISE!
    For a good description of this insane system and explanation of how it developed, see An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal.  Whenever anyone proposes an alternative to our insanity, it’s pointed out that if we’re not careful we could lose the best medical care in the world and end up with something like they have in England – the reforms lose every time, or at least they did until the Affordable Care Act – which is woefully inadequate.

  • Michael100

    Oh, I suppose you’re right to move the health care discussion here. Noticed this too late.
    As an example of your point above, I had a hiatal hernia surgery this year and although I knew that the surgery would be paid in full by my BCBS policy, I was shocked to receive a bill in the mail for more than $900.00 for one of the pretests I was required to take. When I inquired after the reason for the charge I was told that the professionals who performed the test were not in my preferred insurance network! There was no warning of this at any time and I cut a check for the procedure while cursing them straight to hell. I’m lucky to have the ability to maneuver financially here but other families would’ve been devastated. Sickening predatory is what it is. Report abuse

  • Health care is a subject I’ve take a real interest in lately.  In July I discovered I needed an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.  The surgery took place August 29 — total success.  I have a good group health plan and. because of my age, Medicare Part A and Part B.  As a result of my above average insurance, my financial exposure is minimal — except for the cost of the insurance policies, but that’s another story.  When I contemplate what I would need to be prepared to pay if I wasn’t so well insured, it makes my head spin.  The sad think is I really believe (I hate that word) that nothing is likely to change, no matter who is elected president. Report abuse

  • I don’t have the same instinctive aversion to believe, faith and soul – but that’s probably a reflection of the far, far smaller role religion plays in everyday life in the UK than in the US. No one I’d be likely to be having a discussion with would dream of pouncing on words like this and declaring my secular usage of them some kind of victory for their religion (actually, the only Brits I know who do this are the fiercer kind of atheist, but to me it feels like an over-reaction). I “believe” that the current election in the UK is a battle for the “soul” of the nation, and I really do wish I could have “faith” that it’s a battle we’re going to win. Secular all the way. I totally get that it must feel different in a religion-dominated society like the US, though, and yes, I’d avoid using them there, for that reason.

    The phrase that really, really enrages me is “It wasn’t meant to be”. It drives me nuts, partly because it’s so lazy (by WHOM or by WHAT was “it” not meant to be? And why? – these things are never specified or even, apparently, thought about), but mostly because it’s so passive and so defeatist, and rests on the assumption that we’re somehow just helpless victims of fate and resistance is futile: all we can do is go bobbing along through life and just hope the fates will look kindly upon us. And by the same token, it treats the suffering of others casually too. It’s a manifesto for helplessness, for indifference, for passive acceptance, for giving up. It offends me in my deepest “soul” 😉 Report abuse

  • One phrase I particularly despise is: “everything happens for a reason”.

    Yes, I hate that one too, Centauri. For the same reason as “It wasn’t meant to be”: it creates the illusion of helplessness, of pointlessness, and it encourages passivity in the face of obscenities we should be doing everything in our power to overcome. Because in this context, “reason” doesn’t mean “cause”; it means “purpose”. Report abuse

  • Marco,

     a reflection of the far, far smaller role religion plays in everyday life in the UK than in the US.

    I think it’s a good point. Also, perhaps those of us who have taken our exit from religious organizations that we were forced to attend may, as I do, live with substantial resentment and interpret these words and phrases as a dog whistle calling us back to where they think we belong.

    The words and phrases we’ve mentioned here are promoted by the believers as something to admire and hold sacred and they are used in a religious form of virtue signaling that they give no real thought to. Those words and phrases have meaning just like many traditions we observe without really thinking about them. If I participate in a ritual like a traditional wedding or use words like “soul” or “faith” then I feel dishonest. It confuses me when another atheist uses the words and phrases and participates in religious traditions. Of course, that’s more my problem than their’s.

    I’m just pondering conversations we’ve had here regarding religious memorials, crosses and such, in the public domain. Were the Americans more belligerent against them than the Brits? Report abuse

  • Laurie,

    Just for clarity, I don’t participate in any religious traditions – I don’t even go to a carol service, though I do enjoy Christmas carols and honestly, 90+% of the attendees at Christmas services over here don’t believe any more than I do. I totally agree that attending, say, a wedding and repeating religious forms of words would be dishonest, because in that context I really would be stating that I believed things that I don’t actually believe, and as a matter of principle, I avoid doing that!

    My point is simply that faith and soul and believe are words that have entirely secular meanings and usages in addition to their religious ones, and that in the UK, those secular meanings are pretty much the default unless the words are being spoken in a specifically religious context. We talk about having faith in young people, faith in legal processes, faith in education etc – it just means we put our trust in them, in this kind of usage there’s really no religious sub-text at all. Christians use “faith” to mean faith in God, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us do. If someone over here starts a sentence with “I believe”, the chances of them following up with something religious are very slim indeed. And if something’s “good for the soul”, it just means it’s uplifting/soothing/restorative in some way – it’s just a turn of phrase, not a statement of religious belief.

    But I really do understand that you have a different environment over there. I’d feel much more strongly about it all if I had religious people constantly trying to preach to me or tell me I was a sinner or destined for hell etc. the way it seems many of you do. As I was popping out earlier, an elderly chap came up my drive waving an envelope at me and announcing it was a Christmas card from his church (if I hadn’t happened to be outdoors, he’d have just popped it through my letter box and gone away again). I declined politely, and he just said “No problem” and went on his way. No hassle, no big deal, no glare, no argument, no attempt to preach – it was a complete non-issue. And that is literally the closest I’ve come to having religion rammed down my throat since last Christmas (or maybe Easter) when he did the same thing! The thing about British Christianity is that it tends to be either constitutional/ceremonial/structural (as in bishops in the House of Lords – which I definitely don’t approve of; and religious assemblies in schools – ditto; or Thought for the Day on the BBC Today programme – which really is very annoying but I stopped listening to that ages ago in any case, since that particular programme’s politics are more annoying still) … or very very private. There are some evangelical and pentecostal churches over here, and the Scottish presbyterian churches are very fundamentalist too, but even so, they tend to be fairly enclosed communities. They may certainly try to impose their views on communities at large (the Scottish presbyterians fought tooth and nail against Sunday trading, even Sunday ferries, for instance, though those are battles they have lost), but even they don’t tend to do it in personal interactions with people outside their own congregations. I can’t remember the last time anyone paraded their religion in my face – religion is considered a bit of a taboo subject over here: on the whole we only discuss it with people who we know share our own views on it, whether for or against. Besides, over here it’s a minority interest: a small proportion of Brits go through the religious motions, but it really is a very tiny proportion indeed who feel passionately about it and frankly, they’re generally considered to be a bit odd.

    I can’t really comment on the religious memorials in the public domain issue. Again, I totally get that it’s a different context for you: your constitution is supposed to prohibit them, ours actively provides for them. For me it’s just a legal issue. I’m totally out as an atheist; almost all my friends are atheists; I’m not aware of any of my neighbours being religious … and I’ve simply never heard anyone express any feelings about crosses in public places at all. They’re just wallpaper: part of our history. The only scenario I could imagine in which they would evoke protest would be if a new memorial were being built: in our diverse society, with people from many different faiths and none at all, I think there’d be a demand for any new public memorial to be inclusive. But I actually suspect that would pretty much go without saying in any case, and no protest would be necessary. Report abuse

  • Marco,

    Around ten years ago, a cousin of mine took a tour of England with some family members. His branch are a bunch of pious protestants of some sort and at a family get-together he exclaimed that those churches over there are nearly empty on a Sunday!  Having had no perspective on this whatsoever, we all stood there processing this statement with crickets chirping in the background. -But I do get it now, haha.

    It’s very interesting, really. Thanks. Report abuse

  • Just reverting to the subject of the sneaky privatisation of the UK’s National Health Service, an excellent thread on the issue has just been posted on Twitter by an NHS campaign group:

    We tend to equate privatisation with either having to pay direct for treatment received or needing to take out private medical insurance but, as this Twitter thread makes clear, there is plenty of scope for privatisation even with a free-at-the-point-of-need system like the NHS, and it inevitably undermines it. When the state purchases services from a private provider, it is no longer just paying for the services, it is also paying for those providers’ profit – either through extra costs or reduced service for the same money.

    I don’t remotely rule out the possibility – likelihood, even – that the Tories in their current, rabidly right-wing incarnation will abolish publicly funded healthcare. Several of the current Cabinet members are on record as having advocated the abolition of the NHS in its current form. But even if it does remain free at the point of need, as at present, more and more privatisation is taking place, and that is already having a negative effect on overall NHS funding and morale. Report abuse

  • Marco #14.  I’m curious about the length of time it takes in UK for a major medical event.  I’ll use my situation as my starting point and ask if you have an idea if the time frame would be comparable where you are.
    In my case, I went to my primary care physician on July 1.  I thought I might have been developing a carpel tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or something similar.  Right off the bat, he told me that what I was describing sounded to him like a pinched nerve in the cervical spine.  He sent me for a nerve conduction study which ruled out carpal tunnel.  Next, I went for an MRI of my neck which showed spondylosis at three levels, and I was referred to a neurosurgeon who recommended surgery in the near future.  He recommended that I undergo surgery before the end of the year to prevent further nerve damage.  The MRI also showed something suspicious on my thyroid, so a CAT scan was ordered to have a better look.  When that showed a couple of nodules, it was decided that they should be biopsied to rule out cancer.  I saw another doctor who did a needle biopsy and sent the tissue to a specialized laboratory in Texas, where it was determined that there was no cancer.  While all that was going on, I required cardiac clearance, and was seen by a cardiologist for an echo cardiogram and a nuclear treadmill test, which showed that my heart is in good shape.  By mid-August, I was cleared by everyone for surgery, and the insurance company authorized payment, and surgery was scheduled for August 29.  I reported to the hospital the morning of surgery, spent the night in the hospital, and went home the next day.  I had a three-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.  I stayed home for about a week, mostly because I didn’t want to drive while wearing the neck brace.
    I think that’s a typical time line around here – first complaint on July 1, and surgery two months later on August 29, and the surgery could have happened quicker but for the need for the other clearances.  Do you agree, LaurieB, or anyone else?

    One of the criticisms of single payer health systems is that the wait for services is sometimes quite long.  Critics here in the USA always point to Canada and UK to tell Americans that we don’t want “socialized medicine” that they (Canadians and Brits) are stuck with.  I’m sure that if the Democrats retake the Senate and White House in 2020, the fear mongers will come out and warn that if we pass socialized medicine, we’ll have to wait in line for months and months to have any kind of medical care.  I’m curious to know the reality.

    We have a good system here for those of us fortunate enough to have good insurance plans, usually a benefit of employment for a large company or institution of some sort.  However, too many people are unable to unable to afford any insurance or have such terrible plans that they might as well not have anything at all.  Although President Obama, did the best he could to reform the insurance system, the Republicans made sure that the legislation which was finally passed was inadequate, to say the least.  It was their stated intention to repeal any reform and leave millions of Americans at the mercy of any kind of illness or injury.  There are a lot of reasons why a single payer system wasn’t passed, but that’s another story.  But what we have now, leaves far too many people unable to cope with accidents or illnesses, all of which can strike anyone at any time.  This is why Bernie Sander’s movement is so popular. Report abuse

  • You’re quite right, Michael, waiting times for non-life-threatening conditions in the NHS are too often too long.

    The problem isn’t the single payer system per se, though: it’s that for far too long now the single payer has been a Tory government that begrudges every penny spent on public services and has been intent on diminishing the NHS so that they can eventually say, “Look, people, it isn’t working: you’ll get a better service if we privatise it.”

    It’s true they pay lip-service to their love of the NHS – given the public’s devotion to it, it would be electoral madness not to. But none of their claims stand up to scrutiny. For example, they loudly shout about the NHS now getting more money than ever before. But that’s no measure at all. First, you have inflation. Then, you have an ageing population that is living longer and longer than ever before, and therefore requiring a lot more medical care. And finally, you have advances in medical technology and treatment options that cost a great deal of money to implement. So the amount being spent in absolute terms may be more than was spent in the past, but the need is now greater, and the options are now greater, so the funding required is way more than this Tory govt is willing to provide. But make no mistake: this is a political choice on the part of a government that worships at the altar of low taxation and low public spending. Other choices are available, and I strongly believe that a tax increase to cover significant additional funding for the NHS would be a relatively easy sell to everyone except the billionaire donors to the Tory party and the billionaire owners of the Tory press.

    The delays, where they occur, aren’t always just down to money, either. A very high proportion of NHS staff come from overseas. The NHS is totally dependent on them (in fact, in the past, the Tories have refused to fund UK nursing colleges properly on the basis that we can always get the staff the NHS needs from overseas.) And yet the Tories have for years openly pursued a “hostile environment” where immigration is concerned, and since the Brexit referendum, especially, xenophobia has become rampant. The real uncertainty about their rights post-Brexit combined with significant amounts of racist abuse from Brexity patients has led a LOT of EU doctors and nurses to throw in the towel and leave the country. The Tories plan to introduce a £30,000 p.a. salary threshold for work visas for EU citizens post-Brexit. Newly qualified nurses start on £24,214 p.a. and that doesn’t reach the visa threshold until they reach Band 5 (£30,112), four promotions later. And frankly, even medical staff earning above the threshold don’t need to come to a country that is doing its utmost to make them feel unwelcome.

    All of this is creating enormous issues for the NHS: underfunding, understaffing, low morale. But none of it is an inevitable consequence of having a single payer system. Only of having Tory governments that really, truly are not committed to it. Report abuse

  • Michael  #15

    In New Zealand, where I live, we, like the UK and Canada, have a publicly funded healthcare system. In these three countries (and several others similarly governed) weathier people can also purchase private insurance and avoid waiting-times by having treatments done at their own expense in either public hospitals or private hospitals, depending on what is locally available. I have noticed that some in the USA are claiming, perhaps as a scare-tactic, that publicly funded healthcare will remove one’s right to private health insurance. What a mendacious non sequitur! I wonder how many Americans are silly enough to fall for that one. It assumes the ridiculous disjunction: either one is entitled to private health insurance or one is not entitled to any healthcare at all. In other words, if you can’t afford it — tough! As though healthcare were a fashion commodity or status symbol and not a basic necessity in any civilized society. Report abuse

  • Michael100

    first complaint on July 1, and surgery two months later on August 29, and the surgery could have happened quicker but for the need for the other clearances.  Do you agree, LaurieB

    Yes, I agree. My surgery was months from diagnosis by my own choice. I dragged it out myself so I’d have my post-op help free and clear but at the diagnosis consultation the surgery office told me that they were ready when I was. Report abuse

  • While we are on medical issues, I see that belated action has been taken in Samoa against an antivaxxer amid a measles epidemic, where delusional foreign nutters are causing and aggravating the problems!
    Samoa has arrested an anti-vaccination campaigner as the country continues to battle a deadly measles outbreak.
    Edwin Tamasese was charged with incitement against a government order after he was detained on Thursday.

    The outbreak – which has killed at least 63 people, mostly young children, since October – is in part blamed on people spreading false information, claiming vaccinations are dangerous.

    The current crisis in Samoa has also triggered many foreign anti-vaccination campaigners to weigh in and criticising the country’s drive to immunise its children, which is trying lift the level of measles vaccination coverage to more than 90%.

    It seems that the anti-vaxxer nuts, latched on to  a mistake by nurses which killed two children as an opportunity to promote their stupidity! Report abuse

  • I would like to know what it costs to participate in a National Health Service in UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or any other country that has a good system.  Are the premiums a percentage of payroll taxes, or how does it work?  I assume it’s different in each country.  If a patient goes to a clinic or hospital for routine health care or something more serious, does the system pay 100 percent of the cost of care, or are there deductibles, copayments and coinsurance fees?  What happens if the patient is unable to pay after receiving services?  Below, is an example of how things work here in the US.  I’m sure if you asked a hundred people what they pay for coverage and for services, you would get a hundred answers.  That’s part of out problem, there is no uniformity – everyone’s situation is different. 
    David Packman is a progressive commentator in Boston.  Earlier this year he underwent an emergency appendectomy.  He has been sharing the cost of the procedure to demonstrate the absurdity of our system.  David’s health plan is one provided by the State of Massachusetts upon which the Affordable Care Act is based.  To see what he pays for his policy and what it covers, go to  Yes, David got the care he required, and he is able to afford the out of pocket expenses, but those same expenses could bankrupt a lot of people.  For example  As Elisabeth Rosenthal says in her book An American Sickness, the collection agency to which debts are referred, is not a medical provider and doesn’t distinguish between a debt for a Rolex wrist watch or for a heart transplant.
    Having read Dr. Rosenthal’s book, I have some understanding about how this absurd system developed, but it leaves my head spinning when ever I think about it.  Having developed little by little over the decades, the system is so entrenched that a complete re-do is, I think, extremely unlikely.  So far, any attempts at increased access have been woefully inadequate.  All solutions have involved requiring everyone to have health insurance in the same way that everyone who owns a car is required to have accident insurance, but the health insurance policies are expensive, and still leave people with unaffordable expenses.  And, while you can choose to own a car or ride the bus, no one chooses when illness or injury strikes.  21st century health care is expensive, and as long as a few people are able to accumulate obscene wealth, the rest of us will have to figure out how to pay the doctor – and the hospital, and the physician assistant, and the nurse, and the receptionist, and the billing clerk, and the x-ray and laboratory technicians, and the nurse’s aide, and the cleaning staff, and the … ad infinitum.

  • Michael #20

    It’s hard to say exactly how much we pay in the UK, because the NHS is funded from general taxation and National Insurance, and neither of them is allocated solely to the NHS. NI, for instance, is also used to build our entitlement to state benefits such as the state pension, maternity benefit, etc. Also, the % of income tax we pay is dependent on how much we earn. And the first part of any income is tax-free in any case. Plus there are various tax allowances, for married couples, for example, which mean you get an additional chunk of your income tax-free.

    But to give you a simple example (figures may be out by a few pounds either way, but broadly speaking should be near enough):

    Take a married employee earning £30,000 pa.
    In the current tax year, the first £12,500 of that would be tax-free, leaving £17,500 income that would be taxed at 20%.
    However, the tax due would be reduced by £237, thanks to the marriage allowance.
    So s/he would pay £3263 in income tax.

    In addition, there’d be National Insurance. The amount paid depends on our weekly earnings. The first £166 per week is exempt from NI.
    Our sample person earning £30k p.a. is earning £577 per week, so will pay NI on £411 of that. The NI on salaries at this level is 12%. So that’s £49 per week, or £2548 p.a.

    They would therefore have to pay a total of £3263 + £2548 = £5811 p.a. in income tax and NI. That equates to £484 per month on a gross salary of £2500 per month. But remember that covers everything funded by central govt, not just the NHS.

    Employers also have to contribute to their employees’ NI, at the rate of 13.8% on all earnings above that first £166 pw, which is exempt. So our example’s employer would contribute a further £2930 in National Insurance. There are also a number of exemptions – for employees under 21 and apprentices under 25, for example.

    When it comes to treatment on the NHS, the vast majority of it is free at the point of need. There’s an explanation of how it works here:

    The only thing that most patients have to pay anything at all for is dentistry. In England there is also a prescription charge, which I believe is £9 per item. The prescription charge has been abolished in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, even in England there are extensive exemptions from the prescription charge, based on income, certain medical conditions, age, etc.

    Other than that, literally everything you require as part of your healthcare is free at the point of need. Every appointment, every test, every examination, every x-ray, every scan, every consultation, every assessment, every operation, every anaesthetic, every ambulance, every hospital stay and (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) every medication – everything.

    The beauty of it is that it covers everyone, regardless of their personal financial circumstances or medical history, or even whether they’ve ever paid income tax or NI. It’s a progressive tax too, with those who earn more paying more (though many of us would argue that those on higher incomes don’t currently contribute enough). So, however stressful their medical condition may be, no one needs to worry about how to pay for their treatment. Treatment is provided on the basis of need, not on the basis of the patient’s insurance status or ability to pay.

  • Marco #20.  Thanks for that information.  I would say that the cost of your insurance is reasonable.  Its neither free nor prohibitively expensive.  But the best part is that having paid your taxes and insurance: “… the vast majority of [treatment] is free at the point of need … literally everything you require as part of your healthcare is free … it covers everyone, regardless of their personal financial circumstances or medical history, or even whether they’ve ever paid income tax or NI.”  That’s as it should be.  The confusing US system of increasingly high premiums, annual deductibles and co-payments is the cause of an enormous amount of, in my opinion unnecessary, financial anxiety and distress for people who can least afford it. Report abuse

  • Michael 100 says:

    I would like to know what it costs to participate in a National Health Service in UK,

    In England the NHS is free at point of delivery for hospital use and visits to doctors.

    Apart from those on social security benefits, we pay standard fees for dental treatment and prescription medicines.

    Prescription medicines are free to those over  retirement age.

    We pay for spectacles,  but tests are free for retirees

    There are car parking charges at hospitals.

    Emergency ambulance pick-ups are free.

      Report abuse

  • Alan:  “Emergency ambulance pick-ups are free.”  That’s a good point.  I just checked my plan and learned that it provides that I would pay nothing for service for “accidental injury” and 15 percent of the plan’s allowance for non accidental injury service,  I suppose that means that if I’m in a bad car accident, I can be taken to hospital via ambulance at no cost to me — within a hundred miles of the accident, but if I have a heart attack, I’ll be billed 15 percent of what the plan allows for such service.  That’s not bad, but I’ve heard horror stories of people being hit with excessively high ambulance fees.  Again, too many people here have no insurance or substandard plans that collect high premiums and pay as little as possible.  It also demonstrates the fact that people need to be able to read an insurance plan very carefully — mine is 132 pages long and very specific about what is and what is not covered.       Report abuse

  • Thanks to Marco for providing a good general answer to Michael’s question about the costs of a publicly funded national healthcare system. As Marco first points out, the funding of the system comes from the government’s tax revenue, and the exact proportion of that spent on the health system is determined year by year in the government’s annual budgets. It is much the same system in New Zealand and Australia. Visits to a doctor in New Zealand may incur a fee of somewhere between $5 and $50, but there are many kinds of exceptions too; and there are usually prescription fees to pay, but again only token amounts — I think the last one I paid was a little dearer than usual at $20. Much of the healthcare is managed by nurses working in neighborhood medical centres, and it costs nothing to see a nurse, e.g. to have one’s ears cleared of wax or blood samples taken and so on. But, if one has to go to hospital, at no point is one required to pay anything or give insurance details, and no matter what kind of treatment or operation one undergoes there, no bill will follow, either to make one regret having survived the treatment or at all. Report abuse

  • Interesting and timely article in Current Affairs: The Data Show That Socialism Works


    Socialists believe that society’s means of production should serve everyone. To get there, socialists advocate for state-owned firms and funds, public goods and universal welfare programs, democracy in government and at the worksite, and labor unions and other forms of worker power. Capitalists and their ideological allies argue all these institutions impede the freedom of owners of private property — who are the true engines of prosperity. Through their investments and ingenuity, capitalists produce so much wealth that even when they hoard most of it, everyone else is ultimately richer, healthier, and happier. Societies that get in the way of capitalists, even for noble purposes, are doomed to fail and be miserable. And yet, when we look at the countries that have most impeded the freedom of capitalists, we find the opposite: People living under socialism are the ones most likely to be living the good life.

    Full article, complete with stats and charts: Report abuse

  • Marco #26: in other words, socialism would/should be the best form of society, except some (most…) humans are greedy.

    I’ve never studied such matters, bit it seems that most people (who aren’t in a socialist regime) don’t like the idea of socialism because they see the problems in other socialist countries. But (as I see it; correct me if wrong) the problems aren’t caused by the socialism per se; rather by the people at the top NOT acting socially (socialistic?). Report abuse

  • ShadowMind

    I just read the interesting article that is linked in #26 by Marco. Two variables in a socialistic government that make all the difference are Democracy and worker unions. Some of the countries with all of those problems are weak on those two while the socialistic countries with the highest quality of life are strongly democratic and have strong worker unions. Report abuse

  •  Marco  # 26    “… People living under socialism are the ones most likely to be living the good life…(Current Affairs).”


    However,  experience all around the world,  from Albania to Zimbabwe,  has  shown that the practical experience of living under socialism is precisely the opposite.  I respectfully suggest you widen the scope of your reading.

  • rogeroney #29

    1. You know nothing about the scope of my reading.

    2. It would appear you haven’t widened yours even to the article in question, since it addresses that very issue.

    Have a good day. Report abuse

  • Thanks, Marco #26

    Its like an update of the work behind “The Spirit Level” Wilkinson and Pickett.

    Just borrowing this to use elsewhere.

    So, Roger. You’ll have your data to cite?

      Report abuse

  • ShadowMind #27

    But (as I see it; correct me if wrong) the problems aren’t caused by the socialism per se; rather by the people at the top NOT acting socially (socialistic?).

    I think that’s a fair summary of the conclusions of the article. No one could deny that there have been real issues of democratic deficit and even economic failure in many of the highest-profile socialist countries. Yet there’s nothing inherent to socialism that requires an absence of democracy, or totalitarian rule. And actually – as argued very effectively in the article, I think – if we look at the most successful countries in the world on a whole range of indicators (including economic), they are overwhelmingly pursuing a democratic socialist course.

    Dog eat dog might create immense wealth for an infinitesimally small proportion of the population, but it does not create healthy, successful, productive societies or economies. (And nor does totalitarian socialism either, of course, but that’s not what’s on offer in either the US or the UK.) Report abuse

  • Marco #26.Thanks for the link to the article in Current Affairs. It’s nice to have that kind of data. As LaurieB states, the key is democracy and a strong independent labor movement. Just from personal experience, I can attest that life was better here in the US during the period after WW II when organized labor was strong – after many bloody battles in the earlier decades of the 20th century – and when taxes were more progressive. True, there were large pockets of poverty in the US, and Jim Crow was the law of the land in the southern states.Nevertheless, for the industrial working class, life was much more affordable. All that began to change in the 1970s when the captains of industry decided to crush organized labor.They organized themselves under the banner of The Committee for a Union Free Environment and set about in a systematic way to decertify unions and prevent workers from organizing in new plants. They were assisted in their efforts during the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. As a result, labor unions, while not completely disappeared, have lost most of the power they once had to improve the lives of their members and society as a whole. And, at the same time the wealth gap had widened beyond belief.

    Mr. Warino points out that the debate often gets unnecessarily mired in terms such as capitalist or socialist.  Indeed, some of the comments that followed your post point to examples of oppressive dictatorships that mascaraed as socialism.

    Yesterday, Sunday December 8, there was a piece in The New York Times which I think can serve as a companion to Mr. Warino’s article. The article is entitled:Finland Is Our Capitalist Paradise, by Anu Partanen and Trevor Corson.  They write:

    “But the Nordic nations as a whole, including a majority of their business elites, have arrived at a simple formula: Capitalism works better if employees get paid decent wages and are supported by high-quality, democratically accountable public services that enable everyone to live healthy, dignified lives and to enjoy real equity of opportunity for themselves and their children. For us, that has meant an increase in our personal freedoms and our political rights – not the other way around.”

    It’s high time we trade in our “dog eat dog” mentality for an understanding that, as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “When it’s better for everyone, it’s better for everyone.”

  • Michael100

    Well said. Labor unions here are a mere shadow of their former formidable selves. Super capitalists won’t be happy until they control a large slave class that will beg for scraps. No pensions, no health care, no food assistance,  no limits on wall street or predatory bankers, university unaffordable, public schools starved for funds, corporate profits much more important that environmental integrity, corruption, graft, bribery, voter suppression and blatant nepotism. All of the above are a recipe for disaster and we’ve seen attempts at every one of them. Report abuse

  • (Disclaimer: this socio-political stuff is WAAY outside my knowledge and experience, so if I misunderstand (or am completely wrong about) something, feel free to correct me.)

    I’m neither for nor against unions, but I feel that they are only needed if the “boss” (CEO, manager, whatever) isn’t acting in a social//socialistic manner. IE: if the workers are getting a fair wage, they don’t NEED to stand together to demand it. As with the government as a whole, if everyone is acting in a socially responsible way, everybody wins!

    Unfortunately, some humans are greedy, and don’t care who they step on to “win”. Scandinavia (in particular) seems to have pushed the inherent greed aside, whether through simple evolution, or education, or both. Report abuse

  • Shadowmind #35.

    In my younger days, I was a very active member of an industrial union.  My father before me was a union member.  In those days, a 40 hour a week job provided a living wage for the wage earner and their family.  By that I mean, a nice home with all that goes with it, health care, vacations, etc.  None of that happened by accident or because of the good will of the employers. Whether because of the Minneapolis teamster strikes, or the Detroit autoworker strikes, or the countless strikes around the country from the international ladies garment workers on the east coast to longshoreman strikes on the west coast. Workers’ rights were won one bloody battle at a time.  Have you ever wondered why most of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1? Look up the Chicago hay market martyrs. When I was a union man, I use to study those events.  I knew how my rights had been won.  

    The captains of industry had been forced to bargain with their organized employees.  President Roosevelt had forced them to make major concessions to provide many other things that came to be taken for granted.  They were never happy about those concessions however, and they conspired to take them back as quickly as possible.  I’m just remembering the role religion played in their efforts to undo the New Deal — see One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse, which I wrote about In the Book Club some time ago.  They really got going in the 1970s with the Committee For A Union Free Environment. Local by local, unions were busted.  Only the strongest survived, but even they were crippled.

    As a result we see working families struggle to make ends meet, forget about a good life such as is enjoyed in the Scandinavian countries.  At the same time we have seen the reintroduction of a guided age for the very wealthy who resist paying their fair share of taxes, let alone fair wages and benefits.

    I don’t know if American worker will ever wise up again, but I think it’s safe to say that without a strong democratic labor movement, we will not see economic justice.  The interests workers and employers will only intersect with strong independent labor unions along with truly democratic government. Report abuse

  • Michael100 #36;

    Thanks for your reply.

    You basically reinforced my point: it was only because the employers weren’t providing a decent wage that the workers had to unionise. If the employers had been responsible from the start, the strikes (and worse) wouldn’t have been necessary.

    It’s kind-of an extension of the “class system”; workers are (perceived to be, by the upper-class “bosses”) lower class, and therefore not deserving of better (wages, living conditions, etc); carried on from way back in the industrial revolution (and before…).

    (Note that this is not how I think things should be; just my interpretation of how things are…) Report abuse

  • ShadowMind

     If the employers had been responsible from the start, the strikes (and worse) wouldn’t have been necessary.

    There’s a problem with this statement. In standard business ethics, the employer (business management) has certain ethical and legal obligations to employees but these concerns fall far behind their primary obligation to the stockholders. This primary obligation is to maximize profit. How do we maximize profit? One piece of this is to keep the payroll down to bare minimum along with all other expenses. Management answers to the stockholders and not the employees.

    This aspect of business ethics is clearly spelled out in textbooks of business ethics and is on full view even in small businesses as well. Expecting business managers and stockholders to demonstrate compassion and generosity to the employees is naive. Report abuse

  • My thanks to epeeist for this link to Lord Ashcroft’s polls website

    Just like his post brexit-poll poll it shows how the opinions of old men are foisted on the young who most have to live with the consequences.

    The gender split is notable.


    So then its farewell to the EU most likely. Farewell to coherent eco-enhancing trade and job creation to rather staunch the wound of recession by engaging with eco-indifferent countries. Farewell to Scotland who now truly deserve not to be dragged down into the gutter. Farewell to a shot at more socialist infrastructure as the English Tories become freed up from those Scottish red-heads…


  • phil rimmer says:

    Farewell to coherent eco-enhancing trade and job creation to rather staunch the wound of recession by engaging with eco-indifferent countries.

    All the gullibles who think they “have got Brexit done”, will now discover that there are 40+ trade agreements with other countries through the EU, which are being thrown away, and which will have to be renegotiated by the UK, using BoJo’s collection of failed Tory MPs and Ministers.
    Such agreements take competent negotiators YEARS to set up and check properly, but the Brexiteer fantasists who have wonderful delusions about their own capabilities and their promises, plan to renegotiate ALL of these and more in a matter of months!
    I blame the election loss on the failure to provide any effective opposition during the last 3 years, as much as Tories allowing  ERG brexteers to hi-jack their party.
    Labour has been hi-jacked by the Momentum Corbinite bubble which came in on cheap discounted membership for eligibility for leadership election votes.
    Corbyn made dud calls on ALL the major decisions associated with Brexit – supporting article 50 with no plan, refusing to co-operate in a temporary government of unity to block no-deal, and bringing on an election in which he side-lined Brexit to focus on his extensive left wing social policies.
    Many of these social policies were needed to remedy the years of cuts, but mixing them with Brexit, 3 years of waffling over a position on the public interests of the issues, and then including his leadership as an issue in an election on Brexit, was crass stupidity!
    Labour is busy repeating the failures of “Militant Tendency” and Michael Foot, which secured 19 years of Tory rule in the 1980s!
    McCluskey’s Euro-phobic morons, could well have enabled the exiting of “EU bureaucracy” – and secured those “more competitive and efficient” 9 – 9 – 6 working conditions (achieving parity with Chinese workers), for their union members! Report abuse

  • Corbyn made dud calls on ALL the major decisions associated with Brexit – supporting article 50 with no plan, refusing to co-operate in a temporary government of unity to block no-deal, and bringing on an election in which he side-lined Brexit to focus on his extensive left wing social policies.


    This is exactly it, Alan. The sheer political incompetence of the man! Report abuse

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