Saturday, March 14, 2020

Italy and COVID-19

Italy started off behind South Korea in terms of its COVID-19 statistics. Now, however, Italy has done much more than leapfrog South Korea: it has left the ROK in the dust. Currently, South Korea has almost 8,100 confirmed infected and 72 deaths directly caused by the virus. Italy, by contrast, has 17,660 confirmed infected and 1,266 confirmed deaths. Why might this be? Well, don't read any further if you're going to mutter about "playing politics in the midst of a pandemic" because, like it or not, politics matters in this situation. Over at American Thinker, the problem is being framed this way:

Italy's in dire need of help.

Its health care system is collapsing. The coronavirus has put the whole country in quarantine. There are now 15,000 cases, along with 1,018 deaths, the last 24 hours bringing in 188 more. The casualty count is the highest outside China. And it's spreading fast. Until a few days ago, the problem [was] concentrated in the north. Now, it has spread throughout the whole country.

Anyone with a heart can feel pity and an urge to help [the Italians]. They need help[—badly].

But don't go asking the European Union.

Turns out the open-borders globalist set-up is stiffing the Italians in their hour of need:

First, the EU created the problem by failing to shut down their borders with China, enabling [COVID-19's] spread into Italy in the first place. While President Trump was acting swiftly to protect America from the lethal virus, the European Union was saying there was no crisis and calling Trump a xenophobe.

Now, with Italy hit hard based on that hate-Trump ['logic,'] its medical system is overwhelmed. Its doctors and nurses are exhausted. There's not enough equipment or supplies, and the patients keep coming. Health care is being doled out by triage, old people being told 'no health care for you.' The Italians are appealing for help with masks, surgical equipment, doctors, anything that will enable them to get through [the crisis] and save human lives—and the EU is not giving [any aid].


[T]he European Union is supposed to be all about lovey-doviness, nations giving of their surplus to help others in need in the name of the greater [good, helping] the poor out, putting people first, so unlike that cowboy regime across the pond.


The hard reality here is that nations act in their own self-interest whether they say so or not. That so much propaganda to the contrary has been mouthed by the European Union in the name of preserving its stateless unaccountable bureaucracy, and is often believed by local citizens, is a sad story. Up until now, the Italians had to have been confident their association with the EU would help them. Turns out that is a load of hooey, and reason enough to leave the EU as if the restive nation didn't already have enough [reasons.] Open borders for disease, closed borders for help with disease[:] what a bargain. One hopes the Italians will get wise to this and finally pull the plug.

That's not the only thing that's being discredited, though.

Globalism, as it turns out, seems absolutely lethal when combined with socialism.

Italy has socialized medicine, the kind Bernie Sanders seeks to push on America, leaving the country way less prepared to handle the pandemic than countries with [free-market health-care] systems.

The central planners don't have enough beds. There's not enough staff. There's no free market to step in and pick up the slack[;] it's not allowed. According to this disturbing piece in the Wall Street Journal, there are signs of a medical system failure, the same kind of thing that[,] in past [socialist-hellhole] regimes, has triggered man-caused famines. Now it's a health-care famine for Italy, because, like Venezuela's oil fields, the cash was spent on today-needs and political [crowd-pleasers] such as "free" stuff, instead of invested in to increase "production" (read: profitability). The net result is the same as it is in Venezuela and all socialist hellholes: underinvestment, leading to shambling, subpar, shortage-brimming results.

I'm itching to rewrite the above article so that it reads better; the quality of the English is pretty awful. But the message is nonetheless clear: be as culturally relativistic as you want, but certain economic and political configurations are obviously better than others at handling crises. In the US, with a legal population of nearly 330 million, there have been only 46 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. I'd say that's pretty damn good healthcare, Dr. John Campbell's negative opinion notwithstanding. Canada has under 200 confirmed infected and only 1 death thus far. As I've repeatedly said, the countries that are open and sharing their information are doing well. We might also include the countries, like Russia (as recently pointed out by Paul Joseph Watson), that have done well by slamming their borders shut.

A tiny little virus has, thus far, presented an eloquently wordless argument for the strict regulation of borders. I'm getting a very War of the Worlds feeling from all this.

ADDENDUM: thanks to a comment I saw on Instapundit, I was led to this educational article that compares the Italian and South Korean responses to COVID-19, with a focus on the nature of each country's healthcare system. Slight spoiler: Italy's system is far more nationalized, and thus stymied as a result. The article concludes this way:
Currently, the Italian healthcare system is overwhelmed by even the tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases it is already facing. They have turned to rationing care to prioritize the young, leaving those most at risk from the virus to essentially fend for themselves. For most, this is just chalked up to the severity and danger of the pandemic. However, the evidence tells a different story. It portrays a situation made far worse by a reliance on government-centralized healthcare that manages costs by de facto price rationing rather than a [free-market] system. While South Korea provides a basic safety net, it is also one of the closest healthcare systems in the world to a free market, outpacing to a significant degree even the US system (which includes a great number of supply-restricting regulations that only drive up costs and hurt availability). As a result, South Korean healthcare did what Italy’s already under-supplied system could not do—cope effectively with the pandemic and manage to get it under control without shutting down the entire country in the process.

If officials in the US seek to effectively handle the rising number of cases in big cities within the United States, they would do well to take lessons from South Korea and start freeing the market for healthcare, rather than bungling a monopolized testing protocol that did not need to be monopolized, thereby preventing people from getting tested. This would not immediately resolve the problems created from bad regulation in the past, but it would certainly reduce the negative consequences of them while improving the ability of the healthcare system to deal with these sorts of crises going forward. It would also have the benefit of reducing the cost of healthcare generally.
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This is the clearest explanation of Korean healthcare I've seen. It does much to change my opinion of Korea's overall system, although I'm still leery of the quality of care one can expect from Korean doctors and hospitals. That leeriness comes from both personal experience and the stories I've heard from friends and bloggers who have been through the Korean system. That said, I guess the Korean system deserves more credit than I've given it up to now, and this explanation also makes clear why it is I don't feel that my monthly paycheck has been robbed in order to service a gargantuan nationalized healthcare network: it turns out the network has a hugely privatized, pro-market aspect to it.

Styx has been arguing for a long time that the reason the US healthcare system is so expensive is that it's hyper-regulated. Make it more of a free-market system, with price competition, and watch the prices of everything from drugs to services drop to reasonable levels. That same competition, meanwhile, will push up the level of quality that consumers can expect from their healthcare providers. Don't cynically shout "profit motive!"—like a good socialist—if you don't truly understand and appreciate its salubrious side.

1 comment:

Kevin Kim said...

Just writing a comment here to apologize to Charles, who left a long comment in my moderation queue that I, dumbass that I am, accidentally deleted while fumbling with my phone.

If I remember correctly, Charles said that he too hadn't known much about the inner workings of the Korean healthcare system, but that his own experience with things like surgery had been positive. He also conjectured that the quality of care in the US system was almost certainly higher than that of the Korean system, but that this didn't make the US system perfect, a point that I completely agree with. I think Charles referred to a "luck of the draw" aspect to the quality of one's doctors; I suspect that that's true no matter what country one is in, which I think was the point Charles was making.

Sorry, Charles! All that writing down the drain.