Friday 12 April 2013

Thatcher versus 'public health'

From Richard Smith's BMJ blog:

Public health doctors have unanimously hated Thatcher and her legacy, and to show his scorn Gabriel Scally, a public health doctor, tells us on Twitter that his response to her death is to contribute to the memorial fund for Michael Foot, who was truly a great politician.

This tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Thatcher and the mandarins of 'public health'. If, as I can well believe, she was really "unanimously hated" by these people then more power to her elbow. It only goes to confirm that the whole 'movement' is dominated by half-witted left-wingers who should keep their opinions about politics and economics to themselves.

Gabriel Scally is a case in point. Like Smith, he continues to admire Michael Foot, a man who was wrong about every important issue of his lifetime and whose manifesto in the 1983 election is widely regarded as the worst ever. Like every socialist leader in my lifetime, he was rejected by the electorate.

Scally also admires Angela Davis, an unedifying radical far-left activist who was somehow invited to speak at a public health conference in San Francisco.

Members of the American Communist Party talking about Palestine at a supposed public health conference nicely highlights how divorced the movement is from medicine and how far it has morphed into a third-rate student union. If you watch the audience's wildly enthusiastic reaction to Davis's call for "socialism for us all" (at 5.50 minutes), you'll understand why someone like Margaret Thatcher was not a natural partner for the movement.

Smith gives a couple of examples of her time in office which further illustrate the problem:

My first association with Thatcher and health was the attempted suppression of the Black report. It was a report on inequalities in health commissioned by Labour when still in power from Douglas Black, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians. The attempt at suppression was farcical and guaranteed that the report gained far more attention than it would have done if published in the normal way.

Thatcher was indeed no fan of the Black Report, nor should she have been. It was inspired by the socialist academic Richard Wilkinson who later co-authored The Spirit Level and is certainly no fan of her. It was a blatantly political document designed to push the government towards further income redistribution. Thatcher released it on a bank holiday so that it would get minimal publicity, but she was undermined by civil servants who made sure it was well reported.

Also suppressed in those early days was a government report on alcohol that showed clearly that increasing its price was the most effective way of reducing the harm it caused.

How little public health has changed! Thirty years on and they are still treating the law of demand as if it were an exciting new scientific discovery. Then, as now, the doctors never understood that the mere fact that raising the price of a product will, ceteris paribus, reduce consumption is no reason to do. In any case, Thatcher raised alcohol taxes many times when she was in office and her government funded Alcohol Concern from its inception in 1985—two facts that Smith fails to mention.

I was, and still am, keen on public health, and Thatcher with her ideological commitment to individualism and disbelief in society never liked public health.

First of all, that perpetually misrepresented quote about society needs to be read in full:

"There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate."

Secondly, individualism is about self-reliance, personal responsibility and living one's own life without being coerced by the state. Naturally, therefore, it is incompatible with 'public health' in the corrupted sense by which that term is understood today. I am grateful to Smith for reminding us that 'public health' is necessarily at odds with personal liberty. That is why so many of us see it as one of the greatest threats to freedom in Britain today.

By the way, if you are interested in Margaret Thatcher—whether you love her or hate her—I recommend you watch Martin Durkin's documentary on Channel 4 tomorrow at 7pm. 


Dick Puddlecote said...

Is this the same Gabriel Scally who gets angry at the nerve of taxpayers for asking how his profession spends their money?

Ivan D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ivan D said...

It certainly is Dick. He also very publicly resigned as a public health director because he appears to dislike any government that is not aligned with his politics and not prepared to fund him unquestioningly.

We can only hope that financial austerity does dismantle those aspects of the state that allow unpleasant authoritarians such as Scally to do nothing except practice their politics at the taxpayers’ expense for quarter of a century or so.

Ever wondered why the south west is so obsessed with smokefree and diverts scarce resources away from front line care into paying for it? Guess where Scally used to be a public health bigwig.

Unfortunately, Scally appears to be wrong and despite financial austerity, this government seems determined to continue to support him and his kind. Personally, I would prefer that it spent my taxes on sufficient doctors and nurses but we live in interesting times.

Junican said...

While the Government is still led to believe that the cost of Tobacco Control is in 'the millions' rather than 'the billions' (and I am talking about the UN, WHO, Common Purpose, ASH, etc), then we can expect no let up in the persecution. The financial calculation is:
"Cost of persecution, £X"
"Savings to NHS £X times 10"

Only when this calculation is revealed to be false will Government stop funding the leaches.

Ivan D said...

It has been Junican, it is just that politicians prefer to listen to the lies and half truths emanating from the DH because it makes them feel better about promoting hatred and passing illiberal laws. Outside public health, the out of touch upper reaches of the medical establishment and the not terribly bright middle class elite who dominate our politics, people do understand that they are being lied to. It is one reason why we politicians are increasingly despised.

It would help if the not terribly bright middle class elite who dominate the media reported these things honestly and completely. Unfortunately they are part of the same modern day aristocracy as those responsible for the original untruths.

Chris's post highlights the uncomfortable truth that modern "public health" is incompatible with personal liberty. Creeds that undermine liberty inevitably have to lie but what disgusts me is that the media and senior politicians are happy to go along with lies that become more obvious to the rest of us as time passes.

Ivan D said...

Oops the "we" in the last sentence of paragraph one in the comment above is a typo.

I am not a politician nor a member of any political organization.

Junican said...

Phew! Thank God for that, Ivan D!