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From the NHS to Francis Channing – an example of self deception

The National Health Service celebrations have been interesting. It has been repeatedly claimed that everyone had to pay at the point of use for medical care in Britain before 1948 – untrue as many free hospitals went back centuries, and most people had long been involved in voluntary mutual aid societies or private insurance companies. Yes many people paid mutual aid Friendly Societies or Insurance Companies, but the government scheme is also supposed to be “National Insurance”, it is paying “at the point of use” that it is against. And the government “insurance” scheme started in 1911 not 1948 – 1948 was the nationalisation of the hospitals, many of them charitable hospitals that had existed for many years. It has also been claimed (repeatedly) that it was the NHS was the first national system of government owned hospitals in the world – again untrue as, even if one ignores various government owned free hospitals in the Ancient World, the Soviet Union set up a system of government owned hospitals free-at-the-point-use in the 1920s. The idea that the NHS was something new in the world (a British invention) is untrue. Problems with the NHS, such as the hundreds of deaths at “North Staffs” hospital and at Gosport hospital, have been ignored in the celebrations – instead the idea is presented that it only saves lives, never (ever) costs lives. And lastly “Nye” Bevan, the Labour Party minister in charge of introducing the NHS in 1948, is presented as basing the NHS on the mutual aid society in his home town in Wales – in reality health care in his home town was mostly a matter of a local voluntary society, absolutely nothing in common with a national system of government owned hospitals funded by compulsory taxation. The NHS was based on the health system of the Soviet Union (it is a “Whitehall knows best” government system) – it had nothing to do with a Friendly Society Mutual Aid group in a little town in Wales.

None of this establishment deception is new or is confined to the National Health Service. Yesterday (whilst waiting for a briefing on organised crime activity in my local area – short, unclassified, version is that the situation is really bad and getting worse) I looked at the political memoires of Francis Channing – once Member of Parliament for East Northamptonshire a century ago. Much the same radical (self?) deception is present in the memoires that I have observed on the television, and so on, in relation to the NHS and so many other matters.

Francis Channing presents the liberals of the early 20th century as following the same philosophy on income tax as Gladstone in the 19th century. Gladstone radically reduced income tax and wanted to abolish it, the Liberals of Channing’s day (essentially the 1890s onwards) greatly increased income tax – but somehow this is presented as being in continuity with Gladstone. Francis Channing also claims that the 1909 budget shifted the burden of national taxation from the poor to the rich – again untrue as the poor did not pay much in national taxation before 1909 (the opposite of what Channing says), what the 1909 budget did was INCREASE taxation (not “move the burden” – INCREASE the burden). Basic honest language such as “tax increase” and “tax rise” is absent from the work of Francis Channing. Also, and perhaps most importantly, he presents increasing government intervention into life (education, old age, health care, poverty relief….) as the road to moral improvement – Gladstone’s warning that “of one thing I am certain, it is not by the state that there will be moral improvement of the people” is forgotten and “temperance” and “moral purity” is presented as the likely result of government intervention. I wish Francis Channing would return to this Earth, so I could show him the “temperance” and “moral purity” on the streets of local towns – with all the vomit, begging, prostitution, disease, and people injecting heroin into their groins.

Francis Channing, typically of a liberal of his time (or ours), presents increasing government intervention as a way of supporting voluntary mutual aid – it was, of course, the death warrant of voluntary mutual aid. The policy of ever-bigger-government (although such honest language is absent from the work of Francis Channing and other 20th century liberals) has led to an “atomised” society – of lonely individuals with no real connection to their community (essentially – what community?). This is what the waffle about government supported cooperatives (even in farming) and so on, has led to – bureaucracy, endless regulations (inevitable when government tries to “help” people), crushing taxation, and the decline (not the reinforcing) of community life. Under the fair sounding language of people like Francis Channing is ENVY – envy that some people own big factories and other people do not, envy that some people own large landed estates and other people do not, and-so-on. If the efforts at cooperatives and so on proved to be a failure – what-of-it as the real aim was to pull down the large scale property owners, and replace them with THE STATE.

Of course the disease in ‘liberalism’, the bizarre view that ever bigger government would lead to “moral improvement” and even “freedom”, goes back long before Francis Channing – one can see it in the work of Jeremy Bentham, with his 13 Departments of state and so on. But the very late 19th century and the start of the 20th century does present a break – an end of the idea, that liberalism was about smaller government not bigger government – not accursed “Social Reform”. Many liberals really had been in favour of smaller government – but in the 20th and 21st centuries this is largely absent among them. Modern liberalism uses the same language, “freedom”, “liberty”… – but it has twisted (mutated) into socialism by the instalment plan.

14 comments to From the NHS to Francis Channing – an example of self deception

  • Stonyground

    One particular moral principle that has been a casualty of ever bigger government is that of personal responsibility. There are swathes of people for whom everything bad in their lives is somebody else’s fault and somebody else’s responsibility to sort out

  • pete

    I’m not entirely sure that most people adore the NHS as much as its employees do and as much as the state wants us to.

    They just fear what might happen if the government decided to end it and replace it with a promise of something better.

    Because it would probably be worse.

  • Paul Marks

    I make no comment about the post writer’s heretical political opinions – but the history the post writer presents is correct. One interesting thing about the work of Francis Channing is that he references, with approval, the political work of “Hume” – a modern reader might believe this means David Hume, but it is clear from the context that it is actually Joseph Hume who is meant.

    Joseph Hume expressed the other side of early 19th century utilitarianism – instead of suggesting new areas for government spending and regulations (as, for example, Sir Edwin Chadwick did), Joseph Hume was famous for his support for “retrenchment” – i.e. for REDUCING government spending. That someone like Francis Channing could not see the utter contradiction of his endorsing Joseph Hume (i.e. less government spending) and such people as David Lloyd-George (i.e. wildly more government spending) is fascinating, horribly fascinating.

  • Mr Ed

    And now, jumping the shark, Her Britannic Majesty’s Government has a post in government, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State or ‘PUSS’, for loneliness.

    Just one, all by herself.

    There are no limits to the reach of the State, only to its competence.

  • bobby b

    Loneliness just means that you can hear your own voice for a change.

    It figures that government doesn’t want us spending too much time alone.

    Where would the left be without the SJW hive mind? Imagine all of those mindless people having to entertain their own thoughts. It would be disorganized.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    This is one of the dangers implicit in representative democracy- the Mandate Creep. Sometimes you get a politician who promises to reduce red tape, but more often a politician will be elected and claim a mandate to extend government powers to whatever problem was mentioned in the winning campaign and this usually means more red tape for someone else to claim to reduce later. Sometimes both happens- our Australian Government has a committee to get rid of ‘unnecessary’ red tape, whilst it still passes new laws every session!

  • Paul Marks

    I dreamt that I had typed “Edward” rather than Edwin Chadwick – but, thankfully, I do not seem to have made this error.

    bobby b – government does want us to be alone, or in associations it controls (regulates and/subsidises) it does not want INDEPENDENT private association undertaking civil society functions, especially not associations influenced by people of independent resources such as local landowners (the Conservative tradition one sees, for example, in the county of Rutland and in Stamford in Lincolnshire – rather more than in Northamptonshire).

    Atomised individuals are dependent on the STATE (for education, healthcare, old age provision, and so on) – and if (for example) they have heretical political opinions they can be isolated and broken – but if they are not standing alone (if they have the support of strong local associations of people – including people of independent resources such as land owners) then such people are much harder for the state to destroy.

    For example what threats could the state make against the old Member of Parliament for Rutland (the smallest county in England) in the days when it had its own Member of Parliament. The Member of Parliament was the leading landowner of Rutland – people voted for him (it was a secret ballot from 1872) because he was a man of independent means and because they were NOT dominated by envy. And even if the state managed to get him out of Parliament – what of it? Members of Parliament were not paid before 1911 – being “driven from Parliament” did not cost a man his living (as it does today), so Members of Parliament could speak freely – without fear that they would lose their income (as they did not get paid for being in Parliament) and their children would suffer.

    By the way – the writer of the post should have pointed out that the Act of 1911 was a copy of the German (Bismark) health insurance act of the 1880s – the idea that any of this is a “British invention” is utter nonsense. The government health “insurance” idea is German, and the system of state owned hospitals offering “free” medical care for everyone was first introduced by the Soviet Union in the 1920s. The British copied the Germans in 1911 and the Soviet Union in 1948.

    Nicholas – yes politicians and administrators are taught to want to “help the people”, it does not really matter (in relation to this) if they are elected or not – so democracy is beside the point. Plenty of Kings and so on in past centuries passed all sorts of crazy laws and schemes to “help the people” – it was the work of the Classical Economists to refute the insane schemes of so many rulers. The “argument” of the German “Historical School” (the historicists) was that because previous rulers had done X then X must be a good thing (when boils down their thousands of words – the “argument” really is that crude). Carl Menger in his “The Errors of Historicism” (1883) tried in vain to resist the rise to power of the, utterly demented, “historical school of economics” that the Germans were pushing.

    Would direct democracy work better than representative democracy? I do not know Nicholas – I just do not know. But I agree with you that politicians who are elected to do X often do the OPPOSITE of what they were elected to do – as their “education” (which teaches them to increase taxes, government spending and regulations) proves to be more important to them than their promises to the voters.

    The education of the people who become the elite – this is the main problem. And the nonsense they are taught at school and university is constantly reinforced by the “mainstream media”, who are taught the same ideology of statism (of “Social Reform”) in the schools and universities.

  • I’m not entirely sure that most people adore the NHS as much as its employees do and as much as the state wants us to. (pete, July 5, 2018 at 12:23 pm)

    I’m quite sure they don’t – and they, here, includes employees, some of whom I am related to. What people say and what the PC allow us to hear is not the same.

    They just fear what might happen if the government decided to end it and replace it with a promise of something better.

    Or not replace it, either de jure (unlikely) or de facto (perhaps the scenario you have in mind). Whatever long-term benefits we might foresee, the short term looks like a large number of people, most of whom have no health insurance and the rest of whom have health insurance priced and predicated on the availability of basic NHS, having to start budgeting for this.

    The concern is perfectly sane. There are answers to it, but in the face of PC determination they shall not be heard, much clarity, gradualism and proof of competence would be be needed. The latter at least is in short supply in today’s political class, even if the will to solve problems were not also in short supply.

  • One thing I predict is that no anniversary celebration will examine in any detail what ‘Nye’ and his Labour colleagues promised the NHS would achieve back in 1948.

    Partly this is for the obvious reasons, but partly it is because those promises were offered to a population who knew what healthcare was like in Britain in 1948. In the very things they concede, promise to improve on or co-opt, the 1948 NHS propaganda unintentionally reveals what UK healthcare was like before the NHS – no news to the people back then but it would be eye-opening to many people today. Socialism is always flushing its propaganda down the memory hole.

    (The OP touches on this.)

  • My BBC documentary podcast linked me to this podcast rather curiously titled Outsider’s View of the NHS. The blurb:

    The National Health Service is the largest and the oldest single payer healthcare system in the world. It is the largest public employer in England and Scotland with around 1.5 million staff and is constantly in the political spotlight. As it reaches its 70th birthday we explore how it is viewed by those who work within it but trained in another country. Doctors, nurses and administrators give the listeners their view of the unique organisation that is the NHS.

    Apparently no patients. The doctors, nurses, and especially administrators sound like the ultimate insiders, regardless of the country of their birth.

  • John B

    Didn’t Nye Bevan resign over the fact the money being collected as National Insurance instead of being used for its stated purpose was being used to rebuild the UK’s depleted post-war military capability commensurate with an imperial power?

    And didn’t Saint Nye remark that the great secret about the National Insurance Fund was, ‘… there ain’t no fund’?

  • Mr Ed

    nstead of being used for its stated purpose was being used to rebuild the UK’s depleted post-war military capability commensurate with an imperial power?

    This appears to be his resignation speech, and here is a quote:

    ‘…At a time when there are still large untapped sources of wealth in Great Britain, a Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer uses the Insurance Fund, contributed for the purpose of maintaining the social services, as his source of revenue, and I say that is not Socialist finance. Go to that source for revenue when no other source remains, but no one can say that there are no other sources of revenue in Great Britain except the Insurance Fund…’

    and some prescient words

    After all, the National Health Service was something of which we were all very proud, and even the Opposition were beginning to be proud of it. It only had to last a few more years to become a part of our traditions, and then the traditionalists would have claimed the credit for all of it. Why should we throw it away? In the Chancellor’s Speech there was not one word of commendation for the Health Service – not one word. What is responsible for that?

    so end Obamacare soon, or be stuck with it.

    He even seemed to think that the NHS would constrain Soviet influence.

    I therefore do beg the House and the country, and the world, to think before it is too late. It may be that on such an occasion as this the dramatic nature of a resignation might cause even some of our American friends to think before it is too late. It has always been clear that the weapons of the totalitarian States are, first, social and economic, and only next military; and if in attempting to meet the military effect of those totalitarian machines, the economies of the western world are disrupted and the standard of living is lowered or industrial disturbances are created, then Soviet Communism establishes a whole series of Trojan horses in every nation of the western economy. It is, therefore, absolutely essential if we are to march forward properly, if we are to mobilise our resources intelligently, that the military, social and political weapons must be taken together.

  • While some other Labourites were willing to work with the Tories during WWII in the interests of defeating Hitler, ‘Nye’ was always too hostile to them to consider it, though he refrained till after the war before calling the Tories ‘lower than vermin’ in public speeches. After the coalition government ended in 1945, he said: “We enter this campaign at this general election, not merely to get rid of the Tory majority. We want the complete political extinction of the Tory Party, and twenty-five years of Labour Government.”

    Lucky for us he didn’t get it. The constraint on government imposed by a realistic possibility of alternation was never his thing.

  • Paul Marks

    The policies of the Atlee government after World War II are the real reason for the decline of Britain in comparison with other countries – the idea that being bombed flat was good for Germany and Japan is NONSENCE.

    In reality the reason why Germany and Japan did better in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, than Britain is because Britain indulged in an orgy of statism under Atlee – nationalisation of basic industries (basically their death warrant), wild government spending and taxes, and endless regulations.

    True the Conservatives reversed some of it after 1951 – but not nearly enough of it, most of the folly of the Atlee government (most of the demented “Social Reform”) was kept – and the present Prime Minister loves “Social Reform”, so forward to British decline in future, as “Social Reform” means (and has always meant) whatever crackbrained statism the “educated classes” (such as Sir Edwin Chadwick as far back as the early 19th century – with his endless, wildly distorted, “reports”).

    Why did “Ney” Bevan resign? Over Proscription charges – charges for medicine and for dental work (if someone was NOT poor).

    “Money for Empire” (or some such words) – I do not think that the British contribution to the Korean War (if that is what is meant – I do not know) can be truthfully described as having anything to do with “Imperial aspirations” or anything like that.

    The trouble with many people (I do NOT mean John B.) is that they take Murray Rothbard “history” seriously – they think (for example) that Woodrow Wilson was a warmonger, or (Jane Fonda stuff) that the Vietnam was about “tin and tungsten”.

    People who think that the Western powers should not have fought back against Marxist invasion of Korea (and yes I do mean Rothbardians – including the late Murray Newton Rothbard himself) are wrong.

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