Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 20, 2003 / 18 Adar I, 5763

Robert W. Tracinski

Tracinski
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The worldwide epidemic of doctors' strikes


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The outbreak of doctors' strikes in America is spreading. So far, doctors in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey have held temporary strikes to protest the prohibitive cost of medical malpractice insurance. Now, doctors in Illinois have announced plans for a one-day strike next week. These strikes, so unusual in the United States, are an early symptom of the spread to this country of a worldwide epidemic.

Doctors' strikes have become a commonplace occurrence outside the United States. A few weeks ago, French doctors briefly went on strike to protest the low price fixed by the government for consultations, as well as limits on the working hours (and therefore the wages) of hospital personnel. In Croatia, doctors have just ended a month-long strike to protest low salaries offered by that country's nationalized medical service. At a major hospital in New Zealand, senior doctors have struck one day a week for the past three weeks and plan to keep doing so for another three weeks, also in protest against low government salaries. In Nigeria, junior doctors have gone on strike to protest the government's failure to pay a promised wage increase, while doctors in Ghana are striking for better working conditions at state-run hospitals.

If you haven't heard about any of these cases, you are not alone. Doctors' strikes outside the United States have apparently become so frequent that they are no longer regarded as newsworthy.

Yet there is something shocking and dangerous in the idea of a doctors' strike. In the industrialized world, we are blithely accustomed to the fact that when an emergency strikes, when we fall seriously ill, or even when we suffer from minor aches and pains, a doctor will be there to diagnose the problem and solve it. We take our doctors -- and the instant availability of their life-saving knowledge and skills -- for granted.

If there is a worldwide scourge that is prompting these people to walk off the job, it is crucially important to discover the cause. A physician investigating the cause of a disease would begin by looking for a common element, a risk factor that is present in all cases. In the doctors' strikes across the world, there is one factor that is omnipresent: government controls. All of the overseas doctors are striking against socialized medical systems in which doctors' fees and work procedures are set, in minute detail, by the government. When the government is short on money or wants more services, its first step is always to squeeze the doctors -- restricting their fees, regulating their services or just plain refusing to pay them. The doctors are left with only one recourse: to go on strike.

We are not used to seeing doctors go on strike -- indeed, they are the last kind of person who does so. That is because doctors have traditionally been independent entrepreneurs. Possessing rare skills that are always on demand, they have been free to negotiate the terms on which they choose to work.

That is why the doctors' strikes are so ominous. In most countries, doctors are no longer entrepreneurs. Over the past 50 years, in one country after another, doctors have been transformed into small-time bureaucrats. The principle behind socialized medicine is stated by a Croatian government official who condemned the doctors' strike in his country: "To strike is everyone's constitutional right, but the people's right to health and a regular health service is even greater." Under socialized medicine, the doctors are always presumed to have no rights, while all comers are presumed to have a "right" to the doctors' unrewarded services. This transformation of doctors into servants of the state -- whose only bargaining tool is the mass withholding of their services -- is the cause of the rash of doctors' strikes.

The recent strikes here are faint echoes of this worldwide trend. The immediate complaint in America stems from this same hostility to the rights of doctors -- in this case, our government's refusal to protect them from arbitrary medical malpractice awards that amount to legalized looting. And now, both Congress and the Bush administration want to expand Medicare, which has been the leading edge of socialized medicine in America, imposing the kind of controls on doctors' fees and regulation of their practices that is endemic in the rest of the world.

We have to learn the lesson of the worldwide epidemic of doctors' strikes. If we make war on the rights of our doctors, we have no right to rely on them to keep working.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.




Comment on JWR contributor Robert W. Tracinski's column by clicking here.

02/13/03: Bad economics in one lesson
02/06/03: Defending America's second front
01/29/03: The self-made state of the states
01/23/03: The Iraq charade
01/17/03: Atlas Shrugs in Venezuela
01/03/03: Goodbye to Gehry's bad joke
12/19/02: The Dems' sorry lot
12/11/02: Venezuela's lonely rebellion
12/05/02: Red-tape conservationists
11/27/02: The craven appeasement of Islam by the West
11/20/02: The real revolutionaries
11/14/02: President must still release himself from political trap
11/06/02: The election we deserve
10/31/02: The rush from judgment
10/23/02: The grand illusion
10/17/02: Loose lips in the pressroom
10/10/02: Permission to speak
10/03/02: The bear market makes the case for privatizing social security
09/27/02: Enron vs. Atlas Shrugged
09/19/02: Bush loses the war, again
09/11/02: What have we lost?
09/05/02: The case for "destabilization"
08/29/02: "Sustainable" development's unsustainable contradictions
08/22/02: The photographing of public art and architecture has apparently been deemed a threat to the Republic
08/14/02: Talk vs. ideas
08/12/02: Blood for oil
08/06/02: The welfare debate we're not having
07/30/02: Newsflash: Hauling CEOs away in manacles makes market soar!
07/23/02: Clearing the way for real airport security
07/16/02: The war on CEOs
07/09/02: Small-time crooks
06/27/02: Martha and the tall poppies
06/21/02: The post-colonialist famine
06/12/02: America's Maginot Line
06/07/02: Time's up for Pakistan
05/28/02: Freedom's defenders
05/22/02: What they knew and when they knew it
05/16/02: The mixed-economy monster
05/08/02: Conference in Cloud Cuckoo Land
04/25/02: The 'Palestinian" victims?
04/18/02: Why Israel must not withdraw
04/09/02: LIVE FROM RAMALLAH: The Theater of the Absurd
03/26/02: Campaign finance corruption
03/21/02: Who is George Bush?
03/14/02: The prophets of defeatism
02/21/02: The war on terrorism and the war on reality
02/14/02: Multilateralism's one-way street
02/05/02: The Powell Problem
01/29/02: A profligate and irresponsible distortion of congressional priorities
01/22/02: Liberal conspiracy theories
01/15/02: Fading shock and fading resolve
01/08/02: Argentina's intellectual collapse
12/31/02: The real person of the year
12/26/01: With friends like us ...
12/19/01: Ending the "peace process war"
12/11/01: The ruthless grip of logic
12/04/01: War powers without war
11/27/01: An Afghanistan Thanksgiving
11/20/01: The end of the beginning
11/06/01: The phony war
10/30/01: A war against Islam
10/23/01: The economics of war
10/16/01: A culture of death
10/11/01: An empire of ideals
10/01/01: Why they hate us
09/24/01: The lessons of war
09/20/01: What a real war looks like
09/17/01: America's war song
09/12/01: It is worse than Pearl Harbor
09/11/01: Out of the fire and back into the frying pan
09/05/01: The UN Conference of Racists
08/28/01: Waging war on profits and lives
08/20/01: The Bizarro-World War
08/08/01: The death toll of environmentalism
07/31/01: Where does America stand?
07/25/01: Barbarians at the G8
07/17/01: The carrot and the carrot
07/11/01: The real Brave New World
07/03/01: The child-manipulators
06/19/01: The scientist trap
06/11/01: The National Academy of Dubious Science

© 2002, CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.