Wednesday, 5 August 2009

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Pigdogs, privatisation and the pliers

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines.

1. Dog mauling left woman looking like ‘blob of blood’ – A woman jogging down a country road near Putaruru is attacked and badly injured by a pack of eight pig hunting dogs. She has had the first of several operations to her mangled limbs and scalp. The female owner has now been arrested and charged. Assuming Margit Christensen was going about her lawful business, and that there was no reason for the dogs to attack her, the owner of the dogs should be held fully liable for the cost of the medical treatment and the police and ambulance callout (and the dogs should be shot forthwith). Ideally, if Ms Christensen had an insurance policy that covered all the costs associated with her treatment, her insurance company could then recover the amount paid out from the dogs’ owner.
Instead of this, the cost of treatment will be covered by the ACC insurance monopoly, whose premiums are paid at the point of a government gun. ACC will dictate what payments to the hospital are ‘appropriate’, and what help will be offered to Ms Christensen during her recovery. There is no capacity for New Zealanders to purchase a higher level of insurance cover from ACC by paying a higher premium – in the ACC monopoly, one size fits all. Policies are not individualized; New Zealanders are lumped into one amorphous collective, with no distinction made (among those who are not employed) for high or low risk lifestyles. No financial incentives exist for the private citizen who takes extra precautions in trying to keep out of harm’s way.
Just one more reason why accident insurance should be opened up to private competition.

2. Government may support rights plan – Having said they will ratify the UN declaration on indigenous people’s (bogus) rights, the National Party are just beginning to realize what a draconian, backward document it is. At least Simon Power has stated that these imaginary rights are trumped by our constitutional framework and existing law. Which, thankfully, will render the UN declaration toothless. Looks like the Maori Party -- who announced rather prematurely that New Zealand would support the declaration (that the Clark government had so rightly opposed) -- is wagging the dog. If this declaration is ratified and ended up taking precedence over existing law, there would be a never-ceasing series of land occupations and multi-billion dollar compensation claims that would result in pitched battles and bloodshed.
One way to settle all outstanding Waitangi Treaty claims would simply be to issue shares in all Crown land currently under claim by Maori to individual Maori shareholders, not to tribal authorities or tribal leaders. Shareholders could purchase land to the value of their shareholding – first in gets the best land. Let them band together and create co-operative farms, vineyards, kumara patches – or whatever. The key to this is that once Crown land is transferred into private hands, the UN can’t touch it, or tell its owners what to do with it!

3.Westpac looks set to follow BNZ and scrap penalty fees – In the minds of people like Jim Anderton and Chris Trotter our banks, oil companies and other multinational corporations form secret cartels that collude to fix prices, cut services and rip you and me off. Yet here we have banking giant Westpac having to cut fees because of that time-honoured price-chopping market place factor: competition. Now ANZ National and ASB are feeling the heat and inching closer to dropping their fees too. Looks like the grumbles from dissatisfied customers over the past year have made a difference. Marvellous what a bit of rivalry can do – while the banks fight it out among themselves, the winners will be you and I -- the customers.

4. ‘Man pulls out 13 of his own teeth with pliers – from the Daily Mail’s NHS horror file, another victim of the British public health system (along with an equal measure of self-neglect, to be fair). A 42 year old veteran of the British Army in Iraq says he tried to enrol with 30 dentists in East Yorkshire to get some treatment before giving up in frustration and repairing to the garden shed to perform a bit of DIY. This news article comes complete with picture of the amateur toothsmith, complete with gappy smile and thirteen presents for the Tooth Fairy.
Where even in New Zealand would anyone have to try thirty dentists before they could find one who would even see them? What dentist in their right mind would work for rock-bottom non-negotiable prices, while having to keep a small business afloat? Why do you think the goal of ‘equal access to all regardless of ability to pay’ means rationed die-while-you-wait care?

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath


  1. OK, that last one... I don't believe that for a second.

    Last year, traipsing around the UK, I had a tooth fall apart. Really inconvenient, though luckily not too painful. Either way, it was sharp, and needed attention quicksmart. I ended up using the NHS (since, via international agreement, my taxes had already helped pay for it), and while the quality of the work in Nottingham was a bit shit (lasted three days), the quality of the work in Whitby, East Yorkshire, was excellent. No waiting, immediate friendly, professional service by a lovely french lady (ahem, dental service), and away I went.

    That chap must have tried to fail.

  2. I thought dentistry wasn't funded (for those over 18) by the gov'ment?

  3. ...while the banks fight it out among themselves, the winners will be you and I -- the customers.

    I wouldn't be too sure about that Richard. The shareholders certainly won't be winners.

    It's a case of 'be careful what you wish for' Ralph Norriss's comments. The banks don't need these increasingly troublesome retail customers and might just 'shrug' and leave the country.

  4. I'm not so sure about dentists being on the NHS either. Certainly when I was there it was impossible to get a GP to look at you, even if you tried to pay them, but I certainly had no problem getting hold of a dentist (more's the pity), and I'm pretty sure they were all private.

  5. PC and HerrSchnapps (fancy seeing you here): I don't know what it's like now, but it was only March last year, dentistry was definitely NHS funded. I have a receipt (admin fee - sod all - 18 pounds) to prove it! :)

  6. I think there might be two tiers of dentists in the UK, private and NHS funded. I suspect the NHS ones are poorly funded but at least the govt will pay them eventually.

    Ruth - I guess if easing up on penalties brings more customers across from other banks the shareholders will be happy. It will be a profit-driven tactic, you can bet on that!

  7. Most UK dentists have given up on NHS work, or only take a limited amount of it. So, you might theoretically be entitled to subsidised NHS treatment it may be quite impossible to find a dentist to treat you. This does vary regionally.
    Finding a private dentist is easy, though some of those will now only accept patients if they subscribe to a pay monthly dental plan.
    Even if you can access NHS treatment, such fancy new-fangled fripperies as white fillings are not paid for.
    My NZ dentist makes every UK dentist I have attended look like an ill-equipped butcher.

  8. "The banks don't need these increasingly troublesome retail customers and might just 'shrug' and leave the country."

    Unlikely to occur, but nice if it did. Then we could run 100% reserve banking with a gold standard.


  9. Steve W said:

    My NZ dentist makes every UK dentist I have attended look like an ill-equipped butcher.

    I agree - I think NZ dentists are exceptionally skilled - I have had some NASTY work done, and not been subjected to one moment of discomfort.

    UNFORTUNATELY they certainly know how to make you PAY for it.

    I am very keen to go to Thailand for my next major work

  10. Good point Anon - the sooner the NHS folds the better. In a free market the cost of private dentistry would almost certainly drop. I did mention this fellow's self-neglect as a contributing factor to his current situation.

    I had to smile while driving through a village in the Philippines earlier this year, when I saw a corrugated iron shack with no door and the word 'DENTIST' spray painted on the front wall...

  11. Anon's post seems to have disappeared - essentially it said the British guy's effort with the pliers was a good libertarian outcome, after he had tried bludging off the taxpayer via the 30 NHS dentists. Anon certainly had a point there. Of course, without the NHS providing second-rate care and making everyone poorer in the process, AND without licencing laws to keep cheap dentists from setting up, he would have been able to find a cheap dentist privately.

  12. The Tomahawk kid said:

    "I am very keen to go to Thailand for my next major work"

    yes, I was thinking about this. I'm going to need two implants doing in a year or so. Must look into it further.


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