Here is a chart of average life spans for women from the Office of National Statistics with the dates replaced with letters. At some point on the X axis the National Health Service was created. Can you guess where? Answer below the fold.
A fourth-year medical student at Leicester University, Mr Ravindu Thilakawardhana, has been deemed unfit to practice medicine by the University, after making comments on Facebook towards someone who had annoyed him, the Independent tells us. It appears that he will not be permitted to complete his degrees and graduate, quite a long way down the line too.
The matter is going to law, with Mr Thilakawardhana taking legal action in the hope of having his sanction overturned.
There has been no criminal conviction (not even a prosecution) of Mr Thilakawardhana over his action, and yet his career is effectively ruined, as things stand, because of an intemperate post. This has all the hallmarks of a grotesque reaction to me.
How many other medical students might be barred from the
News reaches us that the NHS is considering blacklisting homeopathy in England, albeit at a glacial pace (with a consultation planned for 2016), by banning General Practitioners from prescribing homeopathic remedies.
I am tempted to suggest that the NHS merely dilutes the funding so much that it becomes more effective, but that would be facetious.
We are told that
I am wondering how there could be a cheaper alternative to nothing?
And the Health Secretary, Mr Jeremy Hunt has chimed in, saying:
One might hope that all clinical practice would follow the evidence whatever the state of resources.
Not all is lost (as it were) for adherents of homeopathy, as the proposal is limited to GP prescribing.
What on Earth is a ‘homeopathic hospital’? A cemetery?
Could this be a small start in the battle against pointless government activity?
Christopher Snowdon’s Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: a history of anti-smoking does not make comfortable reading for libertarians. Although there were anti-smoking movements in the past by the beginning of the recent part of the story (roughly 1950) two principles reigned supreme: freedom of speech and personal responsibility. By the end both lay in tatters.
Snowdon comes from the position that smoking cigarettes is dangerous. This is a refreshing approach given that some libertarians are wont to deny this. Take, for instance, my good friend, the late Judith Hatton. In Murder a Cigarette, co-written with Ralph Harris of IEA fame, she argued that smoking is perfectly safe. Many was the time I would go round to her place for a free meal and be plied with cigarettes (as well as some food). Snowdon, on the other hand, is having none of it. Smoking is dangerous. It produces a chemical, benzo[a]pyrene, which messes around with DNA and causes lung cancer. He also has little time for the tobacco companies whom he regards as little better than scoundrels.
However, accepting that smoking is dangerous and that tobacco companies have been less than honest is his last concession to the anti-smoking lobby. As he says “the dose is the poison”. Heavy smokers are in trouble but light smokers not so much. Of all smokers, 10% will get lung cancer.
If I have a quibble it’s here. While Snowdon has plenty to say about smoking and lung cancer he has little to say about smoking and heart disease although he appears to accept the link there too. Given that heart disease is another big killer of smokers that is a bit of a shame. But anyway, adults should be allowed to make their own decisions for better or worse.
Sadly such appeals to individual choice cut little ice with the anti-smoking lobby. Over the years, they have campaigned for every type of restriction they can think of from advertising bans, to warnings on packs, to smoking bans in pubs and restaurants. One of the ironies is the ineffectiveness of the government violence they so cherish. Although research is sketchy, most restrictions, such as the ban on smoking in bars have had no obvious effect on the rate of smoking and in many cases seem to have increased it – at least initially. Another example is the ban on television advertising where again, initially, sales rose. The unintended consequence was to set in stone the market makeup at the date of the ban. Hence, while beforehand brands rose and fell, ever since Marlboro has been on top. Although Snowdon doesn’t say this as such the implication seems to be that the decline in smoking over the last 50 years has had little to do with government.
Particularly revealing is the search for technological solutions. Over the years the tobacco industry has introduced filters and low tar cigarettes. Whether these make much of a difference is unclear partly because little research has been carried out. Another brand experimented with palladium (just as you might find in a catalytic converter). Unfortunately, the advertising ban made it difficult for them to get the word around.
There were other problems with safer cigarettes. If the tobacco company marketed a safer cigarette as a safer cigarette that would imply that all the other cigarettes they had been selling were dangerous. That would be the sort of admission that could lead to them winding up in court. The tobacco companies were reluctant to admit this not least because, up to then, they had never actually lost a court case.
More recently we have seen the rise of vaping which is vastly safer. This has provoked a split in the anti-smoking lobby with some of them coming to the conclusion that if it comes to a choice between regulations and public health they are in favour of public health. This has not, however, prevented the introduction of a bunch of EU regulations which will make vaping more difficult.
But that is the exception. Generally speaking, the anti-smoking lobby has opposed these developments. They don’t want technological solutions. They want people to change their behaviour. It matters little to them whether lives are saved.
I can shed some personal light on this. A long time ago I was a green. (I know, I know, I was young and foolish.) Back then I utterly hated the idea of technological solutions to environmental problems. Quite why this was I really don’t know but to my green mind the only correct solution was for people to consume less.
Having proved that smoking was dangerous, the anti-smoking lobby then set out to prove that passive smoking was also dangerous. You can kind of see their point. If benzo[a]pyrene is dangerous then it should be so to any consumer of the smoke in which it is present. Snowdon looks at the studies in great detail but, as he shows, again and again they don’t prove anything of the sort. If anything, passive smoking is good for you. One study even suggested that children brought up in smoking families were less likely to get lung cancer.
But the anti-smokers weren’t about to let the facts get in their way. Repeatedly confronted with research that found no link between passive smoking and lung cancer they simply claimed the precise opposite. They were not even above smearing anyone including scientists who dared to point out that the facts were telling a different story. Any similarity between this and any other science which has been perverted by political chicanery is entirely coincidental.
But the campaign rumbled on and continues to rumble on regardless of the facts. My pet theory is what did for smoking is that it went from being an air freshener to being an air unfreshener. A hundred years ago, people’s nostrils would have been exposed to the foul odours caused by horse manure, industrial pollution, filthy rivers and coal dust. In such an atmosphere, cigarette smoke was at worst insignificant and in many cases an improvement.
The anti-smoking lobby has been so successful that recently it has had to start branching out. Alcohol, gambling, meat and sugar are now all on its radar screen of puritanical ire.
Monopolies are only sustained by force. Sometimes examples are useful.
In his book The No Breakfast Fallacy, Tim Worstall relates how in 2010 China limited the supply of rare-earth minerals to force the price up. The only problem was that rare-earth minerals are not rare at all, and the increased prices meant that Lynas Corporation and Molycorp were able to raise finances to re-open some mines that had been previously closed due to the previous low prices from China.
Today, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals announced that they are making for $1 an alternative to the drug Daraprim, in direct response to Turing Pharmaceuticals increasing its price from $13 to $750.
Update: Tim Worstall wrote about the Daraprim and rare-earths in Forbes. I hadn’t seen it when I wrote this, honest!
Via JohnW and the rest of the internet,
(Just a little note to the Telegraph subs: she isn’t actually farming minister yet. Labour would have to win an election for that.)
The Scottish and the Welsh NHS are the closest thing to a counterfactual, because they are still more or less run like the old (and, if the Corbynistas get their way, the future) English NHS. Even though they are, in per capita terms, better funded and generally better staffed than their English counterpart, their performance lags on most measures. Rates of mortality amenable to healthcare are higher than in England, waiting times are longer, and hospital infections are more prevalent.
Eric Raymond is the reason I’m here. He’s the guy I found while learning about Linux who gave a name to my vague sense of injustice at having to pay tax and taught me that a libertarian is a thing. Googling “libertarian UK” after reading his web site is how I found Samizdata, and found out that there were libertarians on my doorstep. He taught me that anarcho-capitalism is a thing. And that it’s okay to like guns. And that it does not make me some sort of lefty for enjoying messing about with Free Software. He explained the economics of it and gave it a better name: Open Source. And he’s out there propagandising, and making some of the software that keeps civilization ticking and not being hacked. And his code is all over the place and you probably use quite a lot of it every day.
But he has a problem.
You get more of the things you encourage. I think ESR needs to be encouraged. And luckily, you can, via his Patreon page.
Also, on his blog post about Patreon, there is some interesting discussion about Obamacare:
ESR explains his wife’s job loss:
I don’t usually find much to sympathise with over at the Bella Caledonia blog. This account by Jonathan Rowson, whose brother has been committed to a psychiatric ward, was an exception:
Most of the comments are supportive, but not all. This one by Clive Scott was notable for its self-righteousness:
If I had more brains my first thought on reading this article in the Independent would have been, as it was for Professor John Collinge, director of the Prion Unit:
But if I had more brains I wouldn’t need a second thought.
The UK Labour government mentioned is that of Wales. One of the advantages of devolution is that it allows people to compare the results of different laws in the various constituent countries of the UK. The Welsh Government wants to promote and protect the health of Welsh people in the same way that it has promoted their education since devolution. Very badly.
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