The British media have noted that, in the current debate on Barack Obama's proposed health care reforms, the political right in the US have taken to characterising Britain's National Health Service as being some kind horrific amalgam of Stalin's gulag and the worst excesses of the Third Reich. Setting up anything even remotely similar to the NHS in the United States is being portrayed as an assault on fundamental freedoms, something that will lead to jack-booted Nazi doctors cackling as they deny treatment to your loved ones.
What is amusing about all this is that by any measure, the UK's health care system is better than that of the United States. The NHS costs less per capita than the USA's privatised health care "system", and it provides health care to the entire British population, whereas very large proportions of the US population are without health insurance and so without adequate health care.
So, who are the people in the USA who want to prevent any kind of move towards universal health care provision? I think they can be split into three groups:
1. Libertarians and market fundamentalists – this lot are people who oppose any state involvement in anything as a point of principle, not because they think it will lead to otherwise bad outcomes. I have every respect for the sincerity with which these people hold their beliefs, but their preconceptions are so strange that it is impossible to have any kind of rational discussion with them.
2. The US health insurance companies, and people in their pocket – the health insurers make a lot of money out of the current system, and they have a lot of money to throw around to buy lobbyists, journalists, and politicians. These people have a strong interest in keeping things as they are now, and most likely have no shame in spewing out lies to advance their interests.
3. Nutters who somehow hate universal health care because it would take away their freedom to die young because they can't afford health insurance.
At this stage it is not clear whether Obama's health care reforms will go through. It does seem like the opponents of functioning health care are succeeding in raising doubts in the minds of enough Americans to make the programme's passage far from certain. On the other hand, the people who oppose the health reform plans are adopting the increasingly strident tones that characterised Sarah Palin's supporters in the later stages of the recent presidential election campaign; this could mean that people increasingly see them for the crazies they are.