Healthcare US style… or how neoliberalism really works

US healthcare pills and dollar billsRichard Falk is retired and lives in Santa Barbara, Califormnia

Along with several million, I suffer from the eye disease known as glaucoma. It can be managed, rather than cured, by taking eye drops several times a day. Based on the advice of my doctor, I rely on Azopt and Lumigen, two drugs produced by leading pharmaceutical companies.

A week ago, prior to an international trip, I stopped at a local pharmacy to renew my prescription of Azopt (produced by a Texas company Alcon that manufactures 86 drugs) because I feared that my supply would be exhausted during the trip. A day later the pharmacist called me back to say that my insurance would only cover the refill in mid-March when according to their records I should have finished the supply I had, and would be entitled to more. She added that the for 15 ml. of Azopt without insurance I would have to pay $445, which is double what it would cost after the insurance kicked in. I thanked her for letting me know this bad news, saying that I would wait until next month. Continue reading

What Labour can learn from the Thatcherites

6391840805_37db042a8d_mThatcherism wasn’t always as popular as it is today. For David Cameron to be able to introduce the market so heavily into the NHS, universities, even schools, to privatise the Queen’s head, as Dennis Skinner described the Royal Mail sell-off, shows the strength of right-wing politics in Britain. For Cameron to then be re-elected with a majority, and for half of voters to opt either for him or UKIP, a party ostensibly to his right, shows the political consensus remains firmly on enemy terrain. Continue reading

The new mainstream versus right-wing orthodoxy

corbyn and cameron at PMQsOne of the main obstacles to making sense of today’s politics is the insistence of commentators that any shift in political position can only be described as either rightwards or leftwards. This over-simplified and one-dimensional view of the political landscape means that many of the possible directions of political travel – directions that cannot or should not be characterised in such limited terms – are simply not recognised or are overlooked.

When a party elects a new leader, as the Labour Party has just done, this lazy shorthand automatically describes the change as a shift to the right or – more usually and, as in this case – a “lurch” to the left. But such language significantly misrepresents what has happened. Continue reading

The ‘Stalinism’ of Jeremy Corbyn: a reply to the Telegraph’s deputy editor

Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters should get off Twitter and read a book instead. Or at least that’s the somewhat patronising headline accusation that opens the Telegraph deputy editor Allister Heath’s polemic against the left’s contestant in the current Labour leadership contest. It’s a bit rich for rightwingers to accuse leftwingers of not reading enough books. Surely the stereotype is that we read rather too many of the damn things, supposedly rendering us other-wordly intellectuals who remain congenitally unsuited to the genuine rigour required to run a whelk stall?

Heath can rest assured that many socialists are in possession of formidable private libraries, often including the output of our intellectual critics. Because of that, many of us will readily identify the Hayekian provenance of his arguments. Our interlocutor’s assertions are chiefly two; that Corbyn’s manifestation of Labourism is somehow incipiently totalitarian, and that there is no alternative to the economics of the free market right and its political corollaries. Thus the piece starts with an invitation for ‘any gullible youngster … who has fallen for Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist siren song’ to read Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, which ‘may at least jolt them out of their ideological stupor’. Continue reading

Who are the ideologues now?

Thatcher & Reagan on Spitting ImageIt is a truism of today’s political analysis that, over the three or four decades since the onset of the so-called “free-market” revolution that swept across the western world, the centre of political gravity has moved substantially rightwards. Most of those of middle age or younger will have grown up, after all, in a world where it has been widely accepted that markets are more or less infallible, that government spending is inevitably wasteful and a drag on economic development, that running a country is just like running a business, that we all benefit if the rich get richer, and that private profit justifiably and inevitably overrides all other considerations. Continue reading