08.31.2009 0

Paris When It Sizzles

  • On: 09/08/2009 09:30:44
  • In: Health Care
  • by David Bozeman

    With the passing of Labor Day, some are remembering the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Of course, no recollection is complete without some snippy asides to the Bush Administration’s tardy, tepid response to those stranded in New Orleans.

    With the health care debate raging, another anniversary bears remembering. In 2003, an exceptionally harsh heat wave scorched much of Europe, including that haven of enlightened thinking and socialized health care known as France. Nearly 15,000 people, most of them elderly, died when temperatures throughout much of August exceeded 100 degrees. August, by the way, according to French tradition, is when most workers, including health-care professionals, head south for their annual holiday. Author Denis Boyles writes in 2005’s Vile France, “Add the 35-hour work week. . . and the month-point-five of paid time off each year and the endless array of three-day holidays and you have a nation that lives in a more or less permanent state of indolence.”

    As August wore on without any letup, hospitals and clinics, critically understaffed, could not offer care to thousands of sick and elderly French citizens overcome by the heat. Many, in fact, had closed complete wards for the month. Also in short supply were air conditioners, which, granted, are not a staple of French life. The health minister responded (from his vacation getaway) that the death rate was no worse than in previous summers, except in certain facilities.

    He did, however, establish a toll-free telephone system to offer help, basically advising the elderly to drink plenty of water. Funeral homes soon began turning bodies away, leaving them unclaimed in public morgues.

    Other European nations saw lower death rates, mostly in the hundreds. Italy lost around 2000. Soon France, the envy of American liberals, had some explaining to do — yeah right! This was 2003, remember, and about the only nation on the world’s hit list was the US, which, under the leadership of George W. Bush, had just invaded the peaceful, sovereign nation of Iraq.

    The socialists, of course, blamed a government tradition of cutbacks, particularly in health care.

    The French Parliament released a report blaming widespread failure among agencies and health services to coordinate efforts.

    When in doubt, blame the socialists. Why? Because they were in charge. Because socialism, by its very nature, allows little or no competition. Here in America, we suffer the constraints of a mixed economy, which, while not outlawing competition, severely limits it. Ideally, greedy and unscrupulous doctors and insurance companies would fend for themselves in a free market where consumers could starve them by taking their dollars elsewhere. And that is who should dictate the terms of their health care — individual citizens. Liberals defend the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship when abortion is involved. Otherwise, they have no problem with the state dictating the terms, which it certainly will if it controls the purse strings.

    More disturbing than the details of socialist control is the grasping, soul-stealing mentality it imparts. Citizens become wards of a bureaucratic state, compeing for finite resources, their individual impulses and spirit of voluntary cooperation numbed by government edict. The problem with socialism is not merely that it doesn’t work, but that it works all too well.

    Socialism, like any bureaucratic entity, is predicated mostly upon its own survival. Still, when confronted with dire situations, many axiomatically expect that compassionate government agencies will counterbalance the cold, greedy private sector. The European Heat Wave of ’03 certainly demanded extra measures of duty and devotion, but governments are not compassionate, people are, and the best systems are those that allow human goodness to flourish. According to Boyles, even if more doctors had wanted to help, they would have had to bypass the 35-hour rule. The fact that more people don’t rise up against socialism is due to a docile aspect of human nature that it preys upon, another reason this vile ideology should be eradicated from the earth. We should remember the ’03 heat wave, not just for being an example of neglect, but as a reminder of the care and compassion that only freedom provides for society’s most vulnerable citizens.

    David Bozeman is a Liberty Features Syndicated Writer.


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