Europe’s utopian hangover

Jewish World Review Paul Johnson

The EU is built on fantasy.

One thing history teaches, over and over again, is that there are no shortcuts. Human societies advance the hard way; there is no alternative. Communism promised Utopia on Earth. After three-quarters of a century of unparalleled sufferings, the Soviet Union collapsed in privation and misery, leaving massive Russia with an economy no bigger than tiny Holland’s. We are now watching the spectacle of another experiment in hedonism, the European Union, as it learns the grim facts of life.

The EU is built on a fantasy — that men and women can do less and less work, have longer and longer holidays and retire at an earlier age, while having their income, in real terms, and their standard of living increase. And this miracle is to be brought about by the enlightened bureaucratic regulation of every aspect of life.

The EU is a French concept and is still largely run according to French ideas. And France is the archetypal EU country. If you have a regular job in France, your life is, in theory, lyrical. You work 35 hours a week. You generally get four weeks of holiday in August, plus a further three weeks throughout the year, in addition to 11 state holidays. Full medical care is provided, even in retirement. Retirement age varies, but it is now typically 55. Pensions may be two-thirds to three-quarters of a person’s salary at the time of retirement.


All this is wonderful, but it is dependent, even in theory, on the European Union’s expanding continuously, its economy running at full throttle, its productivity steadily increasing and a profound peace cocooning the world in a nest of luxurious tranquility. But in the real world, things are different. The EU has discovered, since the autumn of 2001, that it has little ability to determine events because its armed forces are small, underfunded, obsolete and ill-trained. Apart from making trouble at the UN, France and Germany — those two former military giants that once made the world tremble — have been mere spectators. Now France, followed by a still more reluctant Germany, is being obliged to take defense seriously for the first time in many years, thus upsetting all its budget calculations.

France received a shock, when more than 10,000 of its elderly citizens died in distress during a heat wave — some while supposedly under medical care in hospitals. Thanks to the 35-hour workweek and the long August holiday, these institutions were short-staffed. The families of those who died were on holiday, too.

Yet another shock — and at the same time — the French government discovered that its unemployment-benefit plan for part-time workers in the entertainment industry, though generous, was underfunded and in danger of imminent collapse. The government suddenly decided to cut the benefits radically. As a result, the workers went on strike, and virtually all the great cultural festivals that are the pride of France’s tourist industry had to be canceled.


These are all symptoms of a painful disease, a continental depression born of the realization that EU prosperity is a house built upon sand. While the American economy is picking up, the EU’s remains in stagnation, bordering on recession. The 35-hour workweek is splendid, provided you have a job. But what of the growing millions who are out of work and whose social security payments are now threatened with reduction or cut-off dates? Unemployment, already high, is rising in France and Germany.

In virtually every industry there are plans to shrink the work force. People have become too expensive, especially in France and Germany, where social security payments cost an employer almost as much as wages. In a desperate attempt to get its economy moving, France is set to cut income taxes, though this will raise its deficit to a level strictly forbidden by the rules governing the common European currency (the euro). France thus risks having enormous fines levied against it or, more likely, a collapse in confidence in the euro.

The truth is that the EU has been living beyond its means, and its bills are coming due.

The omens for continental Europe, however, are sinister. The entire plan for perpetual improvement upon which the EU depends is based on continuous economic expansion. There is no provision for stagnation. As we see in Japan, once stagnation sets in, it can last many years. Americans should count their blessings, above all the supreme blessing of having an economy that is run by businessmen not bureaucrats, or that — under wise governance — runs itself.


22 thoughts on “Europe’s utopian hangover”

  1. I agree, in part of it. The problem is much more complex that that, but it is a must to turn work laws flexible in France, as we already have in England.

    Please read this. Today, we have an exchange rate of 1 Euro=1.30 USD; some wise guys foresee an exchange rate of 1 Euro = 1.70 USD at end of the year. That should be very dangerous for the global economy. I would not be so sure about American economy unless there is a global effort to support it.

  2. The article is accurate. America’s debt, personal and government, is a looming problem that could destabilize the American economy if the right factors converged. America has been mortgaging its future for a generation and the bill is about to come due as boomers retire and the work force shrinks.

  3. No. 2: If you really feel this way I have to wonder why you supported a President pushing an agenda of massive, fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the rich during wartime – a war that is costing the nation $6 billion a week.

    I was reading an article about prominent Greek Orthodox Republican and former member of the Bush administration, Andrew Natsios. Natsios who has had enough, recently spoke out about the corrupt and mismanaged occupation of Iraq. The article contains this stunning revelation:

    When Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, agreed to subpoena records of funds transmitted to Iraq, his House Government Reform Subcommittee learned that nearly $12 billion in U.S. currency was shipped to Iraq from the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, much of it with little accountability.

    “Breaking the Silence: A prominent former insider is criticizing the administration’s handling of Iraq’s reconstruction. And there’s more to come.”

    $ 12 BILLION DOLLARS! But of course, silly me, it’s programs that help the poor that are causing the deficit.

  4. Note 3). I can’t really tell if this is anti-war statement, a defense of the entitlements dear to the Democratic left, a reaffirmation of the discredited principle that liberal spending actually eliminates poverty, or a new series of articles that ostensibly prove all of the above.

    For the record, I am in favor of tax cuts and reduced spending. I view the 70% of the federal budget that goes toward entitlement programs with serious alarm — especially as the boomers retire (who will place unprecendented demand on those programs) and the labor pool shrinks. Social Security is a large part of the impending problem but, as I recall, you objected to any serious revamping of the program. In fact, many of the ideas you proffer sends America toward the utopian delusion that afflicts Europe at the moment.

    I have to give you credit for no longer posting articles from the Nation however, particularly after their slavish support of Marxist regimes was discussed here recently.

  5. I’m sorry for sounding so exasperated. It’s more frustration with the mismanagement of the war.

    There are projects that are well conceived that fail because of poor execution. There are projects that are poorly conceived but salvaged through good execution. The Iraq war stands as a project that was both poorly conceived and poorly executed.

    As bad as it was to attack Iraq without international support and an appropriate justification, the project could still have been a success if it has been executed correctly. Instead, historians will ponder the “what ifs’ of the Iraq war for decades.

    1) What if we attacked with sufficient troops as called for under the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force and taken the time to engage and destroy the irregular Baathist militia rather than bypassing them while we raced to Baghdad?

    2) What if power over an intact Iraqi army and government was quicky was transferred to a friendly and well bribed groups of generals with a stake in the new government’s success, after Saddam’s removal?

    3) What if sufficient numbers of US troops had been provided to maintain security and order so a successful reconstruction could occur allowing the Iraqis to see visible improvements in their lives?

    4) What if we had followed the guidelines set by the Geneva Conventions instead of engaging in outrageous acts of abuse and torture that alienated the Iraqi people and generated support for the insurgents?

    It seems hypocritical to me to turn a blind eye to the sort of errors, mismanagement, corruption and war-profiteering we see in Iraq today (with literally billions of dollars unaccounted for) and then declare that the way to trim the deficit is to eliminate heating oil assistance and supplemental food programs for the elderly poor. I really don’t think taking away Grandma’s free government cheese is going to bring the budget back to the black.

  6. Entitlements are, as you say, a major cause for concern. Social Security expenditures, which are tracking the projections set by the program’s actuaries pretty closely are not the major problem. The three trillion dollar social security deficit projected over the next 75 years could probably be closed by raising the retirement age a few years, and increasing the level of taxable income subject to social security deductions.

    It is Medicare and Medicaid which threaten to overwhelm the budget. The rise in Medicare costs reflects the aging of the US population, while increased Medicaid expenditures reflect this program’s role as a buffer providing coverage for people who lose private, or employer based health care coverage. Increases in the cost of Medicare and Medicaid also reflect the rising cost of health care in gerneral which annually far outpace the rate of inflation and employee wage growth.

    Obviously tossing the sick elderly and sick destitude on the hospital doorstep as charity cases is not a solution unless we want the United States to have the health indicators of a third world country. In order to arrest sharply rising costs of the Medicare and Medicaid programs we really need to restucture our inefficient and fragmented public/private hybrid health care system.

    Contrary to the popular misconception “Universal health care” doesn’t mean socialized medicine, (where all the providers work for the government) but socialized insurance, where all the people are in one or multiple insurance pools and the government sets prices for private contractors.

    The US health care system is the most inefficient in the world. With serious steps to make that system more efficient and rational we can also control the costs of Medicare and Medicaid.

  7. Well, at least we are making some progress. It is clear now that purpose of your initial post was the war in Iraq. Don’t be so exasperated however. Mismanagement happens whenever government is involved. Look at Katrina. Critics of the government bail out warned that Louisiana politicians, all of whom majored in exploiting government largess in college, would milk the public sentiment for all it was worth. Nothing new here. The antidote is to bring it to the light.

    As for the war, it doesn’t make much sense, to my mind at least, when an anti-war activist like yourself argues America’s ostensible failure in Iraq is due to not being aggressive enough in executing the war. I don’t really believe that if American leaders had followed your advice that your opinion would in any way be different.

    As for entitlement programs, I mentioned Social Security, not grandma’s free cheese. Free cheese we can absorb. The upcoming squeeze in Social Security payments we can’t. We would not be able to afford socialized health care either apart from an unacceptable decline in the level of coverage, such as we see in Canada for example.

  8. Note 5, General Dean, Military Judgments? Where are you Glen?

    Dean, the “race” to Baghdad is considered by military historians to be a triumph. The plan was to go directly to the head of the serpent and cut if off. After this was accomplished, the essential battle was over. So called experts had predicted a “tough slug” going on for months against the “elite Republican guard” followed by a “siege of Baghdad.” Didn’t happen. Our soldiers performed brilliantly and captured Baghdad in a few weeks. Cutting this stage of the conflict short saved many lives. Word is that the Chinese and Russians were appalled because American armaments were able to roll over the Russian and Chinese made tanks and other armanents. However, it was the discipline, training and dashing bravery of our troops that made the day.

    The Kurds refused to accept Saddam’s Army because it was fully saturated with Baathists still very loyal to Saddam. Saddam’s Army had to be dismantled IF we wanted to keep the Kurds and their effective Peshmerga fighters on our side. It was painful but good, to get rid of the Saddam’s army rather than trying to reform it.

    Why do people think that military tactics are something that a lay person can simply ruminate about? What qualifies people to understand modern warfare? Playing chess once in a while?

    Where are you Glen?

  9. Note 5, Tommy Franks set the strategy

    Tommy Franks has confirmed that Pres. Bush let the military set the strategy. Franks has repeatedly stated that he had all the troops he needed or wanted. Important as Iraq was and is, we have military interests all over. We cannot and should not denude our forces in Korea, Japan, Germany, etc.

    Please note that the military is as prone to intra-departmental politics as any other organization. Generals whose missions do not succeed well, nearly always blame homebase for failing to send enough troops. The skill in generalship is not sending a endless streaming mass of soldiers into a battle.
    The skill is to defeat the enemy while losing as few of your own men as possible.

  10. Why American Can Borrow

    I am not, repeat not, an advocate of unbalanced budgets. I am a fiscal conservative which means keeping budgets and deficits in check. However, there is little chance that America will lose its ability to borrow in the international market. America is the largest consumer market in the world. We have the most stable government. We have the strongest laws protecting capital from confiscation by the government.

    Look at Venezuela and many other South American countries. Chavez is confirming the worst suspicions of many investors who would otherwise be happy to invest in Venezuela. Chavez has declared a willingness to seize industries and nationalize them. Bye, bye investment capital. To whence doth that capital flow? Up north. I know I am supposed to hate investors, but, gosh darn it, when they invest in industry, the industry creates jobs. Jobs employ people and generate tax revenues. Working people demand fewer government dollars in services and entitlements. So hideous as the thought is, we have to begrudgingly admit that investors pump up prosperity. World investors are coming here and to some extent to Asia. This won’t change in the foreseeable future. The EU is showing absolutely no recognition that its regulatory schemes are disastrous and it is driving business, capital and jobs elsewhere. Funny, punish an activity with taxes and you discourage the activity. Stop. Slap Forehead.

    In my opinion, the bow will break when the younger American generation refuses to allow 24 to 30 per cent of its gross pay to go to supporting the older generation above it. At some time, youth will be served and benefits will be cut very substantially. This is the only possible outcome in the United States.

  11. Post #8 –

    Missiourian is correct. The military phase of the attack on Iraq was brilliantly executed and carried out with the highest military ideals. The military of the United States did exactly what it was trained and equipped to do. The mission of the Marine rifle platoon is to ‘seek out, close with, and destroy the enemy.’ This was all accomplished in a highly professional manner, with minimal casualties, and overall, a great respect for human life on both sides.

    It’s the occupation that followed that set me on edge, Missourian. The U.S. military is trained for exactly what it did in the drive to Baghdad. That is why it did so well. That is what militaries do, and the U.S. military does it best. It’s the ‘nation building’ part that our military is not at all equipped to handle. We’re not occupation troops. We aren’t trained to police.

    We are killers by training. Not because we’re blood thirsty, but because we are the guard dogs. We’re the people you call, as we used to say, ‘when it positively has to be destroyed overnight.’

    I don’t object to using the military to defend the Constitution. That’s what it’s for. The lingering occupation of Iraq and the subsequent civilian casualties, the never ending missions to pacify areas, the limited troop count that led to too few Toll Afar successes and too many never ending re-taking of Ramadi and other areas, the incorporation of Islam as the official religion of the nation, our being in bed with Shia clerics, and etc. are the things I got upset about.

    Look, if we were using massive reprisals in Iraq (as the British did), then I wouldn’t argue that it would be moral, but militarily I would understand it. Iraq is strategic ground, and if the decision is made that it must be pacified and ruled, then the surest way to do that is kill 1,000 Iraqis for every American soldier lost. Eventually they quit fighting. The model for this is Latin America with its ‘dirty wars.’ (The Shia are going to do this themselves, though I don’t think we’ll like the state that emerges.)

    I could also understand if we just up and greenlighted the Shia and said, “Kill as many has you have to, but shut the insurgency down.” Again, I don’t argue that it would be the moral thing to do, but I would understand it on a logical level.

    But the current policy of trying to make everyone place nice and win ‘hearts and minds’ is not even a military operation. We’re shooting up the place, but feeling bad about it so we don’t really scare anyone by doing so. We don’t inspire fear, but we do create enemies. We can’t force the government to respect human rights, because they have taken our measure and know that they can defy us. We’re trapped by our own rhetoric, because the Shia in power are legitimately elected.

    The U.S. military is the most superb fighting force ever assembled. It can inflict damage far in excess of troops deployed. It can strike deeply and lethally at any point on Earth. But it isn’t a charity organization. It isn’t a social work organization. It isn’t a magic bullet that can build a Constitutional government on demand. It is what it is, and we should be proud of it.

  12. Glen: Check out “Cobra II:The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq” Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (ret.)

    The authors report that several high ranking Generals were nearly fired by Tommy Franks because they wanted to slow the advance to Baghdad and destroy the Fedayeen militias who were harrassing their flanks. Franks, Rumsfelds willing tool wanted to prove his bosses theory about new smaller, high-tech warfare.

    They thought that if we take Baghdad, the war is over,” says author Michael Gordon, the New York Times’ chief military correspondent. “In reality, you’re just entering a new phase of the war.”

    In the book, Gordon portrays a Pentagon constantly second-guessing its own field commanders.

    I think they didn’t learn the lessons of the early battles,” he says. “And I think we’re paying a price for that today.”

    From hundreds of interviews and classified documents, the book lists critical warnings that were ignored. For instance, the Pentagon thought its bloodiest battles would be with Saddam’s Republican Guard. Instead, it melted away. But a Marine intelligence officer warned that the Fedayeen’s “hit and run attacks” would persist.

    “Tommy Franks, the central commander, considered they were a speed bump on the way to Baghdad,” says retired Marine Gen. Bernard Trainor, who co-authored the book.

    And when the Army’s field commander, Gen. William Wallace, told reporters he wanted to stay and fight the Fedayeen and that the enemy was “a bit different because of the paramilitary forces than the one we war-gamed against,” Washington exploded at his remarks and his caution, and Wallace was almost fired.

    Later, when Baghdad fell, the authors say Franks was so confident he asked for a plan to withdraw all but 40,000 troops in six months.

    “Of course they were wrong,” Trainor says. “They were wrong right from the start.”

    New book says U.S. underestimated insurgency: ‘Cobra II’ details how the Iraqi resistance surprised most U.S. commanders

  13. Glen, Note 11

    Well put, no argument. I was replying primarily to Dean’s post in which he critiqued the military strategy about which he knows nothing. The drive to Baghdad was brilliantly executed and it astounded and impressed many around the world, the Russians and the Chinese in particular. After Baghdad, well, therein lies a tail. I don’t have any real argument with you post, it is well reasoned. Essentially, a Western civilization like ourselves does not want to use the brutality needed to suppress people like the Fedayeen. There is no lower limit to the atrocities the Fedayeen (and people like them) will commit against anyone at anytime.

    Dean was evaluating what he has heard other people write without having the capacity to evaluate it. In “The Nation” today, on Dean’s lips tommorrow.

  14. Dean, Cobra II “Inside Stories” By Whom?

    Any large institution has its internal politics. Consequently the military has its internal politics. Various people vie to have their favored policies advanced and other disfavored policies rejected. Any major issue can be approached in a number of different ways, none of them perfect solutions. A leader is the person who has to confront the problem in real time and make the best choice posssible.

    After a failure, or a perceived failure, the participants in the policies leading up to the failure write books to defend their positions and actions. These books may be considered classic “cover your …..[position]” Example. The special forces officer who was in charge of chasing down Bin Laden in Tora Bora failed in his mission to capture him. Tora Bora was our last best chance to get Bin Laden who is now enjoying the de facto protection of Pakistan’s secret services. This gentleman wrote a book claiming that everything he did was correct and , SHOCK, the higher level officers did not respond to his request for more officers. He argues that he would have been successful IF his request for more men was granted. Commanders in the field, always want more men. Maybe they should have been sent, maybe he is right or maybe he blew it.

    It will be decades before we have the fully story on Tora Bora, until then I take this gentleman’s book with a grain of salt. Before I reach any final conclusions I would have to read what other officers there at the time write.
    We will in the future.

  15. Dean, Abdul Rahman Calling Karen Armstrong

    Abdul Rahman, currently in danger of losing his life because he will not lie about his belief in Christ, has a call in to Karen Armstrong. Mr. Rahman wants her to travel to Afghanistan and explain to the Afghani government, both elected officials and the judiciary that Islam is a tolerant religion that respects “People of the Book.” Clearly, the entire Afghan government is composed of those dread “fundamentalists” who take the teaching of Islam about apostasy seriously. They want Mr. Rahman deader than a doornail as soon as possible.

    One learned Afghani judge stated that Mr. Rahman’s decision to follow Christ was “humiliating to Allah.” That Allah has such a thin skin.

    Ms. Armstrong need to explain to the Afghanis about the wonderful example of tolerance in medieval Spain, that golden period when the Moors held Christian Spain in slavery. Ooops!!! Maybe they already know the story.

  16. Misunderstanders of Islam need Karen Armstrong. Quick!!!

    The governments of the Organization of Islamic States have officially pressured Denmark and hinted at trade and political retaliation IF Denmark does not punish the newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons.
    Obviously, the governments of the OIS are full of those dreaded fundamentalists.

    The government of Afghanistan has taken official action to kill a person because of his religious beliefs alone, nothing more. They want him dead. Obviously the government of Afghanistan is full of those dreaded fundamentalists.

    The government of Indonesia recently warned non-Muslims within its borders that it would strictly enforce the blasphemy laws against any person who insulted Islam. This is a dire warning for non-Muslims as so many things could potentially insult Islam. Woe to those who find themselves in an Indonesian jail.

    Karen Armstrong sure has her work cut out for her in re-educating this people who so badly misunderstand Islam.

  17. I wonder if this happens in European countries that provide universal health care? In Los Angeles, a 63 year old indigent woman who couldn’t pay her hospital bill was loaded into a taxi, driven to skid row and dumped on the street barefoot and wearing nothing but a hospital gown.

    Indigent Patient Dumped On Skid Row

    By Cara Mia DiMassa, Times Staff Writer, March 22, 2006, 7:05 PM PST

    Authorities released a videotape this afternoon of what they say is the dumping of a 63-year-old woman on the streets of skid row.

    The videotape, recorded by security cameras outside the Union Rescue Mission entrance on San Pedro Street on Monday afternoon, shows a taxicab pulling a U-turn and then driving out of view. A few seconds later, a woman wearing a hospital gown and no shoes walks from the same direction, wandering in the street and on the sidewalk for about three minutes before a Union Rescue Mission staff person escorts her inside the mission.

    LAPD Capt. Andrew Smith said he believes the taxi took the woman, a 63-year-old Gardena resident, downtown against her will after she was discharged from Kaiser Permanente Bellflower on Monday.

    Smith said the woman told him that she did not know why she had been sent downtown. It is unclear who paid for the taxi trip, or whether it was sanctioned by the hospital.

    Officials from Kaiser were not immediately available for comment.

    Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission, said he had spoken with the woman, who is now staying in the mission’s guest area. He said mission staff members watched as she was dropped off by the taxi “40 or 50 feet from the front door…. [The driver] didn’t get out. She simply started walking down the street.

    “I’m just concerned about a society that would drop its most vulnerable onto the streets of skid row,” said Bales. “It really troubles me.”

    The issue of dumping people in the skid row area surfaced in September, when Smith publicly complained that outside law enforcement agencies regularly had brought criminals downtown after they had served jail sentences. Smith cited one case in which he saw two sheriff’s deputies take a man in handcuffs from their squad car and deposit him on the street.

    In addition, LAPD officials have said that they often see people with hospital wristbands on skid row, often appearing ill and sometimes wearing colostomy bags.,0,3254049.story?coll=ktla-news-1

    Is this the health care system of a nation that likes to boast of it’s Christian values?

  18. “Universal Health Care” is simply rationing by waiting line

    See Melanie Phillips, The Titanic of Health Care

    People in Canada have the choice of a) waiting years for care and possibly dying from their condition in the meantime or b)raising the money for health care in the United States. Certain provisions of the National Health Care Laws of Canada were ruled to be unconstitutional restrictions on the right of people to get health care. The Canadian health care system is near meltdown.

    People in the U.K. have the same choices. A woman recently had a newsman videotape the efforts of her personal non-dentist friend in pulling a diseased tooth. The woman stated that she had been on a waiting list for “emergency dental care” for months and she couldn’t stand the throbbing pain in her tooth any longer. How is this different in substance from being dumped on skid row?

    Thousands of elderly in French hospitals died from highly preventable heat prostration in the summer of 2005. All of them were National Health Care patients.

    It is a myth that everyone in Europe and Canada is well cared for, many people languish for months and years in severe pain and discomfort waiting for surgeries and other urgent care.

    The National Health Service of the United Kingdom is bankrupt, although it employs 1 out of every 40 Britons, its waiting lists are as long as telephone books. Read Melanie Phillips on that debacle.

  19. I wonder if this happens in European countries that provide universal health care? …

    No Dean they die or suffer in pain waiting for (or being denied) the surgery that would ease their suffering. I wonder if that is very Christian?

    Dean you cannot take a particular event, from a particular hospital, in a particular city, and equate it to a common occurrence for an entire nation. You might not want to use so wide a brush when posting your moralism.

  20. We have a duty to care for the sick, but Europe is no example

    We have a moral and practical duty to improve the delivery and quality of health care in the United States, but the European systems are in meltdown, they are not working in any practical sense. It is a tough problem to tackle but we have to do it anyway.

    I can’t believe that at this late date people think that “Europe has solved the problem.”

    Example, overall unemployment in France is officialy around 11%. However, this figure masks the massive number of people on disability payments. Disability standards are low and disability payments are high encouraging free-riders on the expensive system. Unemployment among youth is 25% and among minority youth is around 40% The French government recently approved policy changes that would allow employees to fire young workers within the first two years of their employemnt without having to go to Court to prove their cases. In the end, socialism always decreases the number of jobs, and depresses economic activity. However, socialists cannot adopt policies that stimulate economies because they hate entrepreneurs and productive people and policies which stimulate the economy “help the rich” in the “mind” of the socialist. It was University students rioting in France over a restrictin of their employment entitlement. In the U.S. University graduates are enjoying a banner year as many employers are hiring from their ranks. Economics is simlpe, just assume that people are rationale and that they choose they which benefits them the most.

  21. The United States has more rapid access to health care for people who have money and/or insurance, but 45 million Americans have no health care insurance at all. Lack of health care coverage, and under-insurance, creates a formidable financial barrier that limits access to medical care more severely than in any other modern industrial country.

    A study published in Health Affairs magazine found

    The United States often stands out with high medical errors and inefficient care and has the worst performance for access/ cost barriers and financial burdens.

    …As found in past surveys, the United States is an outlier for financial burdens on patients and patients forgoing care because of costs. Half of sicker adults in the United States said that they did not see a doctor when sick, did not get recommended treatment, or did not fill a prescription because of cost. On each access/ cost question, the U.S. rate was 1.5 to double the forgone care rates reported in the next-highest country. Moreover, the percentage of U.S. sicker adults forgoing care because of costs was much higher on all three indicators compared with the 2002 survey of sicker adults.12 Despite these high rates of care forgone, one-third of U.S. patients spent more than $1,000 out of pocket in the past year, a level rare in the other countries. Insured and uninsured U.S. patients were about equally likely to report expenditures this high (34 percent insured and 32 percent uninsured; data not shown). U.S. patients were also the most likely to pay $100 or more each month for medications.

    Taking The Pulse Of Health Care Systems: Experiences Of Patients With Health Problems In Six Countries 3 November 2005

  22. I lived in Europe for over three years. My wife’s family still lives there. I have extensive experience with socialized medicine. I don’t think you can argue, first of all, that one method of organizing health care (free market with charity versus socialized medicine) is more ‘Christian’ than the other. They are alternative visions of society, but it is hard to decide which is more ‘Christlike.’

    Under socialized medicine, ‘scratch and dent’ injuries are treated quickly and mostly efficiently. If you go to a hospital bleeding, they will patch you up and send you home for no charge. If you need more extensive care, then rationing kicks in. If you are too sick or too old, then you may very well be denied care in an outright manner. Even in countries that completely outlaw private health care, a person with money can still usually ‘arrange’ things. A few Euros here or there can get you to the top of the list for a heart by-pass. Doctors are going to get paid, whether over the table or under.

    To support socialized medical schemes, payroll taxes are bordering on ruinuous. 50% or better in many European countries. That means for every two workers, the employer is paying the equivelent to the government of a third. That, of course, puts downward pressure on employment and increases unemployment.

    The current system in the United States is completely untenable, of course. The government already controls almost 50% of all health care through massive entitlements. Yet, these billions are largely frittered away in a manner reminscent of the worst cases of corporate welfare. See the Medicare boondoggle. In many ways, our current system of tying health care to employment and having a fascistic public/private partnership providing health care combines some of the worst features of any system available.

    Poor people go to the hospital, are treated, and leave without paying. This ratchets up costs for everyone. Middle class people without health insurance, which is extremely expensive, get stuck with massive bills in order to cover the ‘bad debts’ of poor people with no assets.

    The U.S. health care system is in massive need of an overhaul. I would prefer, of course, that a more free market system predominate in which health care was no longer tied to work, and there was greater incentive to cut costs and provide more efficient service.

    On the other hand, I am sometimes tempted to say that a single-payor system might even be preferable to the mishmash we currently have. In any case, I don’t think anyone will argue that the status quo is a good thing.

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