The Great (British) Stagnation

Group of American activists is protesting
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David Wallace-Wells in the NYTimes:

In December, as many as 500 patients per week were dying in Britain because of E.R. waits, according to the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, a figure rivaling (and perhaps surpassing) the death toll from Covid-19. On average, English ambulances were taking an hour and a half to respond to stroke and heart-attack calls, compared with a target time of 18 minutes; nationwide, 10 times as many patients spent more than four hours waiting in emergency rooms as did in 2011. The waiting list for scheduled treatments recently passed seven million — more than 10 percent of the country — prompting nurses to strike. The National Health Service has been in crisis for years, but over the holidays, as wait times spiked, the crisis moved to the very center of a narrative of national decline.

It’s not just the NHS

By the end of next year, the average British family will be less well off than the average Slovenian one, according to a recent analysis by John Burn-Murdoch at The Financial Times; by the end of this decade, the average British family will have a lower standard of living than the average Polish one.

Wallace-Wells puts the blame on “austerity”. I see austerity as more obviously a consequence than a cause of stagnation. Government spending in Poland and Slovenia is modestly less than in the UK and the central government in Poland and Slovenia spend far less than the UK does on health. The question is not why the UK spends less–it doesn’t–the question is why it spends so much and gets so little.

See also Tyler and Tyrone on this issue.

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