NHS superstition

The British people are deeply attached to an institution that fails them

The delusion is as follows, Dalrymple writes.

Before the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948, there was little healthcare to speak of for the poor in England. After its establishment, healthcare was universal, of high quality and free at the point of use. This led to an egalitarian paradise where healthcare is concerned, preferable to anything else on the face of the earth. The NHS was and remains the envy of the world.

He points out that

a large proportion of the British population has been persuaded of the truth of this myth, by assiduous and insidious propaganda, such that the NHS is a sacred cow which no politician dare slaughter. The myth is believed as an orthodox Moslem believes in the sacred nature of the Koran.

Dalrymple explains that the NHS is

neither as catastrophically bad as is sometimes alleged, nor as miraculously good as its religionists claim. It is mediocre at best and an unworthy object of the uncritical praise bestowed upon it by its worshippers, that is to say the majority of the British population. A brief survey of reality demonstrates that a myth has been swallowed whole.

It is

far from the miracle-working organisation that the population supposes it to be, a supposition that paralyses all thought. On the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the NHS, there was an orgy of self-congratulation about it (the fatuous opening tableau of the London Olympics in 2012 celebrated the NHS).

The religious veneration in which it is held

is an extraordinary political phenomenon, a superstition that would be worthy of a chapter in an updated version of Charles Mackay’s book of 1841, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The disjunction between myth and reality should be of interest to political scientists and philosophers.

Having reached the age at which he is likely to need healthcare, Dalrymple knows that the NHS

will treat me as a pauper: I must accept what I am given and receive it uncomplainingly with a sense of gratitude for the charity disbursed to me, irrespective of its quality. That freeborn Englishmen have so willingly acceded to their pauperisation in the name of equality and security (what they receive may not be the best, but they can at least be assured that they will receive something), and in the process suppressed their critical faculties, is a fascinating, if minor, episode in human political evolution.

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