By Daniel Hannon
A colleague of mine, a Conservative MEP, was cremated last month. Except he wasn’t: the hospital had released the wrong body to the undertakers. A second funeral has just been held with his actual remains — though, of course, nothing can be done for the family of whoever was cremated in error.
We take such incompetence for granted; it doesn’t make the news. Even when something happens that is atrocious enough to generate headlines — the latest scandal being what an official report calls a “systemic cover-up” of baby deaths in a hospital in North West England — no one calls for the system to be overhauled. The truth is that, after 60 years of a state monopoly in healthcare, most of my countrymen are unable to imagine any alternative.
It’s a vivid demonstration of what Milton Friedman called “the tyranny of the status quo”. In most fields of life, Britons lean toward the free market. Our political culture is Anglosphere rather than European, in the sense that even Leftist politicians have to cloak their schemes in the language of liberty and enterprise. But when it comes to the National Health Service, the reverse is true. Every party has to guarantee that the NHS budget will continue to rise, whatever the other austerity measures. No party will contemplate an end to the state monopoly.
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