Every once in a while, I get a call from a reporter who wants to do an article on “Simple Living.” The Amish are frugal, right? Well, then, frugal types must be anti-technological back-to-the-earthers.
And it’s true that I’ve got a pretty good-sized vegetable garden, chickens, compost and other greener-than-thou accoutrements, but it turns out that all of those things are time and money savers. I’ve also got electricity and some pretty cool computer equipment to run on it, and those are time and money savers (or -makers), too.
In other words, I love progress. Why, just in my lifetime, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has gone up from around 70 years to somewhere north of 78! Technological breakthroughs have ensured that more people eat, communicate, live comfortably and generally enjoy a higher quality of life than we’ve ever had before.
My previous article extolled the process by which much technological progress takes place; that is, rich people get access to it first. Once it exists, however, the price and availability improve rapidly. Before long, even the middle and lower classes can afford it.
Can civilizations regress, too? Oh yeah, and more easily than one might think. Just look at Communist countries, for example. Cubans still drive cars from the 1950’s, not because they’re nostalgic, but because that’s all they can get. A North Korean seven-year old is about eight inches shorter and twenty pounds lighter than his southern counterpart. And the world is still learning about the environmental degradation of many areas in the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
Then there’s the regression that happens in the name of “fairness.” The reasoning goes: If everyone can’t have it right away, then no one should. This concept rears its head often in socialized medicine: Even if a patient can pay the full cost of a particular drug or treatment, he can’t have it anyway. This has been the common practice in England. As one helpful guide explains:
“Paying privately for drugs which your Primary Care Trust (PCT) will not fund could stabilise your condition, extend your life, give you an improved quality of life for the time you have left or increase your chances of survival.
Funding your own drugs in this way is a called a “co payment”. However, PCTs will not allow patients to top up their NHS treatment with private drugs. This is seen by the NHS as being unfair to other patients who cannot afford to top up their NHS drug treatment, and it would create a two tier NHS. The argument is that you cannot be an NHS patient and a private patient at the same time. This is not covered by NHS legislation but by Ministerial policy guidelines.”
Seriously? This is progress?
Is it even fair?
What’s the incentive for the wonder drug manufacturers to make more if demand for it is artificially restricted? And who wants to spend the estimated $200+ million to develop a new drug if governmental approval and price controls will be so onerous, there is little chance of recouping on the investment?
Excuse me, but if there’s some great medical therapy in existence that just might save the life of one of my kids, let me worry about how I’ll pay for it. Don’t make it simply unavailable in the interest of “fairness.” I’ll sell everything I own, have bake sales, send Internet appeals, pass out fliers and visit every church in the country if I have to, but I’ll find a way.
And when I’m old and grey, my grandchildren will laugh to hear how expensive this life-saving treatment used to be, when by then anyone with change between their couch cushions will be able to pay for it. That’s what I call progress!
We can only hope that as our own health care here becomes more bureaucratized, that innovation and technological advancements are not stifled. Who wants to go back to the Dark Ages?