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Hayek was right about the National Health Service

Summary:
It has always produced great chortles, even guffaws, Hayek’s idea that the National Health Service was part of that Road to Serfdom. For how can free at the point of use health care make you a slave?Which isn’t, of course, what he was actually saying. Rather, that if a government bureaucracy runs the health care system then at some point down the line our behaviour will be controlled to benefit the health care bureaucracy rather than the service be there to provide us with the health care we desire.Whether or not lockdown was an entirely good idea is an interesting argument but that it was justified by the need to “save the NHS” is precisely what he meant. So too with this:Health chiefs are urging drinkers to take it easy when pubs open on “Super Saturday” - amid fears Accident & Emergency

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It has always produced great chortles, even guffaws, Hayek’s idea that the National Health Service was part of that Road to Serfdom. For how can free at the point of use health care make you a slave?

Which isn’t, of course, what he was actually saying. Rather, that if a government bureaucracy runs the health care system then at some point down the line our behaviour will be controlled to benefit the health care bureaucracy rather than the service be there to provide us with the health care we desire.

Whether or not lockdown was an entirely good idea is an interesting argument but that it was justified by the need to “save the NHS” is precisely what he meant. So too with this:

Health chiefs are urging drinkers to take it easy when pubs open on “Super Saturday” - amid fears Accident & Emergency units could end up overwhelmed....

People should not celebrate the end of a pandemic by going out and getting roaring drunk because this would inconvenience the health service.

Well, perhaps people shouldn’t get roaring drunk for any reason at all, if they do they should put up with the consequences. But it is still true that Hayek’s point gains continual re-affirmation. There is a difference between a health care system that treats our ills, whatever they are, and one that insists upon us changing our behaviour to suit the health care provision system. We’re on the wrong side of that divide too.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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