Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs

This is what complicates the whole issue of “socialized medicine”.

A large number of diseases and deaths are caused by collective problems. Why should the individual have to pay the externalized costs of others? This is particularly problematic as the poor live in the most polluted areas while it is the rich living in the least polluted areas who benefit most from the externalization of costs.

I’ve never come across a conservative or libertarian who can offer a useful response to this kind of data:

Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds

“About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says.”

16 thoughts on “Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs

  1. That’s right, and that’s what the Public Health community has been saying for decades. There are systemic causes of disease, its not only genetics and lifestyle. Another argument in favor of socialized medicine.

    • This connects to the book by James Gilligan in my other recent post. In “Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others”, the author concludes with a discussion of Rudolph Virchow, a 19th century physician (1821-1902). She ends with this quote of Virchow:

      “The improvement of medicine will eventually prolong human life, but improvement of social conditions can achieve this result more rapidly and more successfully. [That is why] physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction. As the science of man, medicine has a duty to perform in recognizing these problems as its own and in offering the means by which a solution may be reached. Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement: we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker. . . . Medicine is a soial science, and politics is simply medicine on a larger scale.”

      So, not just decades, this undestanding goes back more than a century. Why are we still debating the obvious?

      • Because the truth is inconvenient, and people would rather put a band-aid over the symptom rather than address the root cause, especially where there’s money at stake. It just part of the human condition. As I said in an earlier post, if child abuse were eliminated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) could be reduced to a small pamphlet. But child abuse is directly connected to poverty, so its a viscious circle.

        • Just dropping by for a visit. It is poverty but specifically poverty as part of high inequality. Poverty without high inequality doesn’t have the same kinds of problems. This is demonstrated by hunter-gatherer tribes that have little in the way of wealth in often living hand-to-mouth. But is poverty still poverty when there is no high inequality of centralized and monopolized power, privileges, opportunities, and resources?

          Hunter-gatherers, when still living a traditional lifestyle with a traditional diet in their traditional territory, tend to maintain high levels of physical and mental health. Hunter-gatherers typically die in one of three ways: infant and child infections, accidents, and old age. And, if they make it to old age, which is approximately lifespan similar to Westerners, they have a much greater healthspan in maintaining their health to the very end.

          James Gilligan, indeed, discusses inequities. He points out that inequality goes up when Republicans are in power, as inequality goes down with Democrats. Ironically, for all the right-wing bleating, national debt also increases with GOP leadership and, once again, does the opposite when the other party gains control. This is maybe unsurprising with the demented GOP strategy of Starve the Beast and the Two Santa Claus theory.

  2. Here in Florida, hurricane insurance is a hot topic. In this case, the rich tend to live in the MOST dangerous areas; right on the water. Yet they still manage to get the rest of us to subsidize their lifestyles. I’m absolutely certain that those of us who live inland, in non-flood zones are bearing the cost for most of their dangerous decision to dwell in beachfront areas (which imho should remain undeveloped and part of the commons.) I have a friend who, while not rich, inherited a beachfront home; on one side, the Gulf of Mexico was right across the street, on the other, was the Intracostal Waterway. To make matters worse, the house was on a small canal of it’s own. If a hurricane were to hit nearby, you can bet that her house would not only be washed away, it would probably be the site of a new inlet. And yet her homeowner’s insurance bill was no higher than miine, and my house is 5 miles inland and at 45 feet elevation! When I paid my yearly homeowner’s policy, I used to tell her “I mailed your insurance payment today.” The state government is responsible for this inequality because they are in charge of overseeing the private insurance industry and approving their rate structure. Given what we know about the distribution of damage and risk in hurricane events (and I’ve studied the topic for over 20 years) I’d estimate that in a fair market, her insurance should cost her at least ten times what mine does me. Verdict: socialism seems to be OK when it favors the rich.

    • Absolutely, and you can see many instances of this kind of thing if you look hard enough or just take the time to analyze what’s really going on. Socialism is all well and good when it benefits the rich or corporate interests, but when it benefits the average guy all of a sudden it becomes bad. Its the dirty little secret.

    • Good example. I’m always pointing out tht we already live in a socialist society. Some socialism benefits us all such as infrastructure. And some socialism mostly benefits the lower classes such as the social safety net. But a large part of socialism usually only benefits the upper classes such as bailouts, subsidies, and my favorite natural resources on public land being sold at below market value.

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