growth is good
Via Dr David Wall, principle male speaker of the Green Party, I found a website called 'Green the health service'.
It mentions, amongst other things, the disgusting lack of investing in caring for elderly people. This prompts aquestion - not a rhetorical one or one intended just to score partisan points.
The Green Party calls for lots and lots more funding for the health service from the public sector, and certainly not any private sector involvement. They also have a policy of opposing economic growth, because economic growth is unsustainable and pro-growth policies contribute unacceptably to climate change. (These are both summaries, but fair ones, right?)
The problem is that these two policies clash in fairly drastic ways. In the short term, it is possible to find lots more money for the health service, whether it be by scrapping Trident, not building roads, halting airport expansions, taxing polluters more heavily or whatever. It would also be possible to reallocate funds within the current health service budget to spend less on management consultants and more on care for the elderly, say. Of course, there are also other things that they would like to spend money on, but leave that to one side for the moment.
Of all the public services, the health service is probably the one where the year-on-year costs inevitably increase, even without providing any new services. The cost of new drugs, the need to care for an ageing population, the need to build new hospitals with the latest facilities (while obviously never ever closing any existing hospitals, no matter how outmoded they may be).
But no growth in the economy means no more money to pay for any of these things. The one-off savings help a bit, but in the medium term the consequences are a healthcare system which is increasingly underfunded. Even the Tories never tried year on year with no growth of health spending at all, and eighteen years of Thatcher and Major left nurses on the breadline, decrepit hospitals, vast health inequalities and lengthy waiting times for operations.
So what I'm wondering is which way the Greens would go when it came to the clash. Is the priority to stick to no growth policies and prioritise sustainability, even if it means big real terms cuts in public spending and the welfare state? Or, to put it another way, even if it means continuing and increasing the disgusting lack of care for elderly people?