Sunday, July 08, 2007

The French Economy is Sicko

From Cato's Michael Cannon's review of Michael Moore's Sicko:

"You show how greedy insurance companies deny medical care to American patients. But you ignore the fact that power-hungry politicians do the same thing to patients in Canada, Great Britain, France, and Cuba — they just call it "rationing by waiting."

You extol the virtues of France's economic system, which seems to have socialized everything right down to laundry service. But you never tell your audience that taxes in France are 50% higher than in America, or that the French unemployment rate is double the American rate."

1. Like all scarce goods and services, health care has to be rationed somehow - either with prices, or with time, in the form of long waiting lines and times for medical procedures. The problem with "rationing health care by waiting" is that some could die waiting. Even Canada's Supreme Court said, "Patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."

2. Despite the rosy picture Moore's paints of life in France and Canada with "free" health care, I am not sure most Americans would want to trade our overall economic conditions for theirs. The chart above shows unemployment rates over the last 10 years in France (average = 9.71%), Canada (average = 7.42%) and the U.S. (average = 4.92%), and I think the message is pretty clear: the French economy is pretty sick.


At 7/08/2007 1:01 PM, Blogger happyjuggler0 said...

Call me a cynic but France's plateau ~2003-2004 looks suspiciously stagnant, as in totally nonfluctuating. Seems highly likely that the government was either making up those numbers to avoid going into double digits, or it was engaged in smoke and mirrors accounting by deliberately putting x number of unemployed into programs that are "off balance sheet" so as to keep the number under 10%.

At 7/08/2007 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see any necessary connection between healthcare policy and overall employment rates. Surely there are other factors implicated in employment rates. It is certainly logically possible that of all the things those countries are doing right and all of the things they are doing wrong, healthcare could be more right for their economies than wrong for it. Also, one would have to defend employment rates as a best indicator for quality of life, to make an overall judgment about the success of a social system. There is more to happiness than economic activity, and it seems to me that what people really want in this world is happiness.

At 7/08/2007 5:17 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

You are right, the graphic was not related to the topic of the post except as a metaphore.

But as to the topics you raised, specifically happiness, you must see some causation there. Unemployment is hell, you don't know how you are going to regain social stature by re-entering your field, and that tends to make people unhappy.

So, whether Americans are naturally happy or not is unanswerable, but at least it is not unemployment that is making us unhappy, the same cannot be said for 8.7% of Frenchmen.

At 7/08/2007 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the French economy is in a total mess. There is so much that is wrong with their inability to hire/fire people freely, the near-impossibility of upwards mobility once one has entered the workforce, etc etc etc... I'm just not sure that healthcare is a factor in the nightmarish aspects of French economics. It may be one of their saving graces.

At 7/09/2007 12:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Denying people life saving medical care, even if they are capable of paying for it themselves, is not a saving grace.

In America, if your insurance provider refuses to cover the operation in a timely manner, you can mortgage your house and pay for it yourself.

In France, if your government refuses to cover the operation in a timely manner, you will either die or catch a flight to America.

At 7/09/2007 4:32 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I fail to see any necessary connection between healthcare policy and overall employment rates"...

Hmmm, so you don't see the downsides of socialism inserting itself in all walks of life?

"Also, one would have to defend employment rates as a best indicator for quality of life, to make an overall judgment about the success of a social system"...

Well sure if happiness is stealing from Productive Peter to pay for 'parasitic Paul' then socialism is a good way to go until Peter runs out of money or moves somewhere to get away from the high overhead of socialism...

At 7/09/2007 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Socialism inserting itself into "all walks of life".... maybe not, but certainly, in this creative country of ours, could there not be a that takes care of the people and their health concerns??? Maybe just a little of this and a little of that?

At 7/24/2007 1:56 PM, Blogger ericmarseille said...

From your name I suppose you're French
Where did you get the idea that French gov. could refuse life-saving treatment?
This is the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard
Either it's crass ignorance, in Which case you're not French, or it's a deliberate attempt to diffamate the French system

At 9/15/2007 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure unemployment in France is high, but that is partly fueled by another (not nearly as laudable) part of the french socialist system; ultra-high unemployment benefits.

The data suggests that per capita healthcare costs are lower, coverage is universal and the quality of service is among the best in the world. I have lived in Canada, the US, several countries and europe and to my mind, the system is exceptional and warrants emulating.

At 10/03/2007 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok i am done with watching the movie (Sicko), and being French myself, i totally agree with your 2nd point, Mark (although 1st point is uncorrect). Obviously the French system has to be paid by the population through taxes, big taxes, and French economy is getting really sicko, as you say!! so, ok, everyone's got health for free here -hurray- but workers have to pay SO MUCH for this system to be sustainable and even though we have the highest taxes in the world, we still cannot affort this system!!

actually, workers pay so many taxes that it's better for many people to not work and get unemployment funds instead -> hence a part of the explanation of our high unemployment rate (François Fillon is working on this stupid situation as we speak, hopefully!).

conversely to what the movie shows, people in France cannot afford big houses or big cars, it's just too expensive because salaries are so low after the taxes are paid !! i'm bored with this image of perfect France, Michael Moore: try to get a work in France and pay your taxes here and then you'll understand why this system is so beautiful for those who do not pay health.

At 10/03/2007 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who can read French:

"La volonté politique de réformer profondément la protection sociale n'est pas pour aujourd'hui. Malheureusement, elle compromet l'avenir, car on ne peut pas envisager une baisse importante et durable du chômage sans une baisse importante des charges sociales ce qui nécessite une remise en question de la protection sociale en France. Celle-ci passe inévitablement par le respect des lois mettant fin au monopole des organismes de sécurité sociale."


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