Tuesday, 15 September 2015

What's Killing Us Now

What would the founders of 'our' National Health Service make of this story - junk diet now killing more of us than cigs? I guess their jaws would drop and they would shake their heads in disbelief, wondering where it all went wrong. The nation was supposed to go on getting healthier and healthier once the State took over, with health education, rising living standards and advances in medicine and hygiene breeding a fitter population, and medical care provided free at the point of use to all who needed it. Indeed, the NHS was seriously expected to shrink and eventually all but disappear - not for nothing was it called a National Health Service.
 What was wrong with this thinking? Simply that it was based on the classic false assumption that underlies most social sciences (especially economics): that people will act rationally and in pursuit of their own best interests. In fact, for much of the time, most people do no such thing; human nature is far more complex and contradictory than that. As Kant put it, 'Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.' The NHS was a classic 'straight thing' project, doomed to fail. But the kind of thinking that gave birth to it is still everywhere apparent, not least in the field of public health - as evidenced by the quotation that closes the Telegraph piece: More government intervention, taxes, duties, subsidies - that will sort it out. No, it won't.

10 comments:

  1. The clue as to how to interpret this report lies with its authorship, Public Health England. Knowing that, it is safe to ignore it as it is just an extension of their special pleading to be allowed to control more of the ignorant and irresponsible masses lives. You wouldn't know it from their 'report' that alcohol consumption is down by over 20% in the last twenty five years. The only figure to take note of - and which negates the spin they want to place on their report - is the substantial and sustained increase in life expectancy.

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  3. The objective seems to be that everyone will live until ninety and then die in perfect health.

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  4. Human nature seems at times like the Sargasso sea, it has no shoreline, human nature has no axis, neither X or Y, no datum point, a freely moving object untroubled by gravitational or magnet forces. Those who would attempt to quantify it are piddling in the wind (whilst trousering a tidy remuneration package at the taxpayers expense.)

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  5. Wise words all. I sometimes wonder if the aim is to get us to live to 110 and never mind the state we're in. The longer people live the grimmer old age gets, and it's all those poor souls staring into space in 'care' homes that are keeping the average rising.

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  6. Perhaps the bigger story here is that smoking deaths have tailed off to such a degree that it's not the biggest killer?

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  7. Quite so - something had to move into the top spot.

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