Politically Correct Medicine

I am always floored by the number of progressives who embrace all kinds of wacky non-scientific health theories.  These are the same folks who criticize creationists as being anti-scientific.  I am not a creationist, but I might be able to embrace it faster than I could, say, the insanity that is homeopathic medicine**. 

Unfortunately, these are the same folks who will likely make up the backbone of the socialized medicine bureaucracy when and if the US finally decides to hand health care over to a consortium of the Post Office and Walther Reed.  So here is a preview of what we will get:

Tom and Donna (not their real names) are professional
shamen. They teach classes in shamanism at a "foundation", where you
can learn "soul retrieval healing", help the dead "continue their
journey into the Hereafter", and investigate "the Fairy Kingdom". These
soul retrievers and Fairy Kingdom investigators also work for the NHS "”
where, according to Tom's foundation profile, they "use complementary
therapies to help those with mental health difficulties". Shaman
therapies are not the only unorthodox treatments for which the NHS will
gladly pay.

Taxpayers are also subsidising Emotional
Freedom Technique (EFT) "therapy", in which, according to one NHS
trust, "subtle energies" are reordered via "tapping with the fingertips
to stimulate certain meridian energy points while the client is "˜tuned
in' to the problem". "¦If EFT doesn't do the job, an NHS foot massage
might help. Reflexologists believe that each part of the foot maps to a
different organ, and that massaging a particular point can treat that
organ. Medical doctors think it's absurd. "¦Most depressing of all for
the rational taxpayer is the NHS Directory for Alternative and
Complementary Medicine, which aims to promote "dowsers", "flower
therapists" and "crystal healers". We've just learnt that some
hospitals are removing every third light bulb to save money, and that
nurses are being paid half the minimum wage "” or being asked to work
for nothing "” at others. That's how bad the financial crisis has
become. Meanwhile, the National Health Service is employing shaman
fairy enthusiasts as psychological counsellors, enthusiastically
providing treatments invented by "an ordained minister and a personal
performance coach" who thinks tapping your body can cure diabetes,
promoting dowsers and crystal healers and spending vast amounts on
therapies that can't be scientifically supported.

Just as with the Walther Reed mess, the left wants to write off this stuff as just bad management, as an exception.  But unfortunately, this is the rule for government management.  It always goes bad.  Mismatched incentives + lack of individual choice + strong unionized bureaucracy most concerned with its own job security + impossibly complex information flows = mess.  Always.  I get very tired of the excuse, as I wrote here, that "if only we were in charge, everything would work great." 

Throughout these years, libertarians like myself argued that there
were at least three problems with all of this technocratic statism:

  • You can't make better decisions for other people, even if you
    are smarter, because every person has different wants, needs, values,
    etc., and thus make trade-offs differently.  Tedy Bruschi of the
    Patriots is willing to take post-stroke risks by playing pro football again I would never take, but that doesn't mean its a incorrect decision for him.
  • Technocratic idealists ALWAYS lose control of the game.  It may
    feel good at first when the trains start running on time, but the
    technocrats are soon swept away by the thugs, and the patina of
    idealism is swept away, and only fascism is left.  Interestingly, the
    technocrats always cry "our only mistake was letting those other guys
    take control".  No, the mistake was accepting the right to use force on
    another man.  Everything after that was inevitable.

Everyone has had a turn running the place (except libertarians, I might observe) and everyone has screwed things up.

** I am amazed I have not posted a rant on homeopathic medicine, but searching through my archives, I don't find anything.  If you don't know, here is the fast answer why homeopathy is silly.  Advocates of homeopathy argue that they can make certain substances more effective by diluting them, and the more they dilute them, the more effective they are.  Go to one of their web sites, and you will see dilution rations that translate into having less than one molecule of the active ingredient in a mass of water the volume of all the world's oceans.  Advocates argue that even though the molecules are gone, some sort of resonance remains.  Uhh, right.


  1. M. Hodak:

    Good read, but it's Walter Reed.

    Interesting point on homeopathic medicine. Homeopathy was the dominant form of medicine in this country until scientific medicine took over early in the 20th Century. The person most responsible for that transformation was John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Actually, it was the head of Rockefeller's philanthropic foundations, Frederick Gates, who pushed the focus on scientific medicine. Rockefeller himself was a believer in homeopathy and avoided real doctors. Of course, Rockefeller lived to 97 years of age, so it's hard to criticize!