- a letter I sent to Ottawa Sun columnist Greg Weston today - I don't expect it to be either published or acknowledged, which gets a bit frustrating at times. Thus I offer it to Babble, where you can make your own mind up as to whether or not you want to read it. (occurs to me I am probably not alone in this - maybe Babble could consider a page of "Letters the MSM don't publish" or something...)
Greg, re Getting the gears on Health Infoway, 25th October 2009
- in which you close with a quote "Get government out of it!'
I would have a somewhat different piece of advice - get business out of it. Or more accurately, get corruption out of it - which, I suppose by definition, involves both business and government. Business is not bad per se, only when it starts trying to make any situation advantageous for itself by rigging the game somehow - and government is not bad per se, only when some of its senior members start accepting money or other favors to help unethical businesses achieve their aims.
Governments exist to provide services to the citizens of their country - first organized protection from predators, but in the centuries since we first organized to dethrone omnipotent kings, we have come to desire other things collectively besides policing and defence - things like national transportation systems, or power and water systems, or health services, and many other things - and government thus very legitimately becomes involved in all kinds of procurement activities involving private businesses.
As someone said a couple of days ago in relation to the Montreal mafia-in-construction situation - whenever you have big piles of money floating around, you are going to have mafia-types sniffing around after it, with their attendant illegal and/or immoral ways of doing things. One of the biggest piles of money in the country is, obviously, the federal budget. It would only be surprising if there were not corrupt and/or criminal elements sniffing around after a cut. And what we are seeing with the various spending scandals of the last 2-3 decades is that 'we the people' have been very, very lax in our supervision of the federal spending - I would suggest (strongly) it's not bureaucratic bumbling we are seeing, it is crime and corruption.
Although a 'democratic government' should be concerned with providing the best possible services at the best possible prices for 'we the people', this basic philosophy has become seriously perverted since the de facto takeover of our system by 'business-friendly' neocon governments in the 80s - and now the major government objective (although not publicly acknowledged, for obvious reasons) has become facilitating the transfer of the maximum amount of the wealth produced by the citizens of the country (and collected through taxes) to the bank accounts of the wealthy banking-business-class rulers, who, as always, are never satisfied with what they have but want ever more and more and more. And like any good modern capitalist, providing the minimal possible service or quality of goods whilst charging the maximum price extractable is the prime directive of business. (yes, there are people around who believe in offering good quality at a fair price, but the capitalist cutthroats who are currently dominant in our system ensure most such people do not long survive).
The design, to take the current example, of a computer system to record and organise the records of patients is fairly straightforward - big and complex, but still fairly straightforward, exactly the kind of thing computers are good for, and we have the infrastructure and no shortage of highly able people in this country who could do such a thing. Look at some of the major things on the Internet now - Google, for instance, or Amazon, handling millions of hits per day, and organizing information efficiently and readily available to anyone, with great stability. Our medical records could be handled basically the same way - there are far fewer medical records to handle than Amazon has books, and the access could be easily restricted to certain people and other necessary security measures - and bob's yer uncle.
But - when you have the need for such a system, and the available competent people, both subsumed to the desire of certain people to charge the maximum amount of money for this service, and provide the minimal acceptable service whilst maximising their own takings from the fees charged (this is a very big potential pile of available money, obviously, those who like big-money-for-minimal-service must be slavering at the thought), and such people are seriously influencing government decisions if not actually making them, the results are entirely inevitable, and pretty much what we are seeing - minimal delivery with the output, and maximum claims on the budget.
(I won't even get into a certain other group of influential people running around all of this these days who are desirous of minimizing government altogether, so have a certain interest in encouraging such problems ...)
I could have this system up and running in a year, Greg, running well and reliably, at a fraction of the current price - not because I am a computer whiz, but because I am honest and reasonably intelligent (like most of my fellow citizens, many of whom could do exactly the same thing), and want to provide the best service at the best price for the average citizen of my country (of which I am one) - I would find an honest, highly competent and reliable business (as indicated by their track record) to get this done, a firm whose goal was not 'fact-finding' junkets to Europe or Australia, or showing off their great expense accounts to their friends or otherwise demonstrating how important they were by lavish spending, but simply providing the best service possible at the best price possible to whoever hired them - in this case the government. But instead of these kind of people, our government is hiring the expense account junketers.
The question is - why are they being hired, Greg, rather than the honest, competent ones? This is not 'socialist bungling' in action, it is capitalist corruption. I know the media likes to call our governments 'socialist', but simply calling someone something does not make it so - you put a socialist hat on a capitalist rat, and you still have a rat, to paraphrase an old joke, and more people are starting to understand this. (the question here would be - what is the media up to, participating in this kind of nonsensical deception, but although certainly related to the current problem, that is a letter for another day as this one grows overlong already)
As you note, this is not a 'party' related situation - both major parties are guilty, from Mulroney's 'dance with the one who brung ya' days through Chretien's adscam stuff and ongoing in every place this kind of money becomes gathered and tempting to some (which becomes less confusing once you admit that the Cons and Libs are now simply two branches of the one ruling party of Canada - the Bay Street Scamsters - now there would be a story for a real journalist to start talking about - unfortunately, it appears that in modern Canadian journalism, you don't get a job if you don't support the principles of this uniparty (capitalism forever!!), or have at least agreed to not talk about this colossus in the room...).
Anyway, just wanted to make the point, Greg, I know no Canadian paper (all owned by businessmen, all chasing similar piles of big money one way or another or in the employ of those who do...) would ever print such a letter - but there are at least a few of us out here who understand what is happening. And our numbers are growing with the advent of non-gatekeeped info on the net - the Canadian people are patient to a fault with dysfunctional governments, and a disinclination to call a well-dressed, fast-talking liar a liar, especially when they get lots of tv time, and a media obviously becoming less concerned with 'we the people' and more concerned with promoting the wants of their business owners, and willing to assume way past the point of normal gullibility that our institutions are actually functioning with at least a few honest people circling at the top levels and democracy will prevail - but there will come a day when all of this is going to stop, when the people at the top become just too distanced from the great herds of average people, when some critical mass of people wake up one day with the realisation that our once great democracy has become very ill, and and some drastic measures are needed to fix it.
Hat Yai, Thailand
Green Island http://www.rudemacedon.ca/greenisland.html