Words And Meaning

I enjoy National Post writer, George Jonas.  He is a purveyor of common sense.  For example on Saturday the 21st of December he wrote about how we are losing privacy.  One of the ways he knows is because the various governments have established Privacy Commissioners.

His theorem is that you do not need commissioners for things in vast supply.  You need commissioners for things in short supply.  Like privacy.  You need commissioners and agencies for things that people want and are presently denied.  Like health, welfare and justice.

The federal government has an ethics commissioner.  I wonder why.

He further postulates that governments often do not articulate their real meaning.  The existence of a privacy commissioner does not imply that privacy is doing well or even protected.  It merely means that people want more of it.  We have a department of health not because people are healthy but because they are sick.

Unfortunately for we the payers, the bureaucracies that purport to work on our behalf in fact work on their own behalf.  The key for them is to obscure and restate their mission to the point that success can never happen and intermediate results are not measurable.  Like the Human Rights Commission.  They have baldly stated that they need more power because the problem is becoming more subtle.  I think “the problem is becoming more subtle” is bureaucracy speak for “The problem is solved.”

At a minimum mostly solved.  Nothing is more useless than spending  to solve a problem that does not exist.

Governments know generally what you want and they organize in such a way to make programs that suit themselves seem to make sense to the people.  For example, high taxes on cigarettes.  Why Because these people are a healthcare burden.  They get sick and the system has to take care of them.  I would be astounded if a logically compelling study exists to support that thesis.  The taxes collected however, are quite valuable to the government.

Smokers die much younger than non-smokers.  They die commonly from heart disease and from various cancers.  Both reasonably prompt deaths.

Given that most medicare expenses are incurred in the last few years of life, it seems to me that someone who dies quickly and soon is a lesser burden on the system than someone who lingers for years.  Again I don’t know of a study, but I suspect that the cost to add a month of life to someone aged 80 is dramatically higher than the cost to add it for a 40 year old.

I have heard a retired general say that there needs to be a war every 15 years or so, else the generals won’t get to play with the toys.  I wonder if the heroic care of the elderly is not a similar playground for the medical establishment.

The Ministry of Health is adding little health for the senior citizen and the cost to add anything at all escalates rapidly with age.  It would be interesting to know what that cutoff cost is, should be, or will be.

Make no mistake, the question will come up and not too far in the future.  Full service medical care, at any cost, is a luxury good.  Given that governments have been profligate with bureaucratic overhead, silly procedures and regulations and the ability to spend astounding amounts of money to solve no known problem, the needed resources will not be there much longer.  You need to prepare.

As Mr Jonas points out in his article, “I said this before but I’ll say it again because it cannot be re-stated often enough: The Inuit were right. Their harsh “Getting old? Build your last igloo” culture made sense. From the community’s point of view, the only good senior citizen is a dead senior citizen.”

While I cannot agree fully with the idea, I can appreciate how it makes sense economically.  Unfortunately for us, things that do not work economically tend to not work at all.  Your government at work.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

don@moneyfyi.com  |  Twitter @DonShaughnessy  |  Follow by email at moneyFYI

One Comment on “Words And Meaning

  1. Yes, someone dying at a young age from smoking-related illnesses is probably overall a lower burden on health care. But the government does invest in young people (social security, schooling costs, subsidized student loans, etc) and those investments should have paid off in the shape of 50+ years of income taxes. If someone dies at age 40 or 50, the government misses out on 20+ years of income taxes. I’m pretty sure that is also a part of why governments spend money to tell their citizens to not smoke.

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