Read another comic (seem to down on the comics this year) Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima vol 1. It's a semi-autobiographical account of the bombing of Hiroshima by a cartoonist who was there.
Found it even more depressing than I expected. Was expecting the usual idyllic beginning, the better to be shattered by the bomb; but it turns out Gen's father was an opponent of the war, for which his family are victimized. Their cornfield is trampled; the daughter is falsely accused of theft, stripped-searched at school, the kids are beaten up, and the father arrested. After that they're nuked and things get really bad.
Artwork is nothing special, but the content makes it pretty compelling. Worth reading. Not sure if I'll look out for the next three volumes though.
Tip: avoid the introduction as it gives away the ending.
Halfway through the Teaching Company's Early Middle Ages course by Philip Daileader. It conveniently starts off where the Ancient Rome one finished, with the final stages of the Roman Empire.
Surprisingly for such an unsexy period of history, it's fascinating stuff so far. Partly that's because it's a very high level overview which doesn't spend too long on any one topic. But also Daileader is a superb lecturer with a dry wit and a knack for relating things to the present. Found myself chuckling out loud a couple of times. Apparently he's a difficult grader though: haha, systematic education suckers.
One thing that annoys me about the regular articles that pop up on Metafilter on Why The American Empire Is Doomed Just Like The Roman: nobody knows why the Roman empire actually fell. The decline of Rome was an incredibly protracted process stretching a millennium from the Third Century Crisis to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. In many places it didn't fall so much as evolve into the modern world, as barbarians were assimilated into the Roman way of life. Ask a dozen scholars Why Rome Fell and you can get a dozen different opinions.
In such a long, complicated process, it's very difficult to disentangle cause from effect from reaction. Did external barbarian attacks weaken the central government, or was it that a weakened central government could no longer resist and counterattack against external threats... or both, or neither? There was increased taxation, military spending and rigid control from the third century onwards: was that a cause of decline, or something that slowed the decline?
As such, the Decline of Rome ia a useful ground for arguing absolutely anything. Want to build up defence spending? Argue the Roman empire fell because it didn't secure its borders against the barbarians. Don't like immigration? Argue that their mistake was letting Visigoth asylum-seekers settle inside the Danube border after fleeing the Huns. Like free trade? Argue like Pirenne that the Arab restriction of trade routes did for it. Don't like religion? Follow Gibbon and say it was weak-minded Christianity that softened it up.
So, I was reading Herring's healthcare diary and this thread in particular. Unsurprisingly, I tend to agree with R Mutt that the UK and the US systems are both pretty broken and we ought to look elsewhere.
1. It's not free at the point of entry like the NHS. You pay and are reimbursed.
2. There is a generous state provision which reimburses most of the cost of essential treatments.
3. Most people have top-up private insurance to fund other treatments and the non-reimbursable portion.
That system works well in quality terms because you have a genuine market. Not a pseudo-market, not a government monopoly on providing the services, not a government monopsony on buying the services. Both providers and consumers have incentives for both quality and cost.
That system is unacceptable to UKians as it would be seen as a dog-eat-dog capitalist privatisation. It's probably unacceptable to USians as it would be seen as Socialist Medicine.
I think the main problem with it is that if the level of state provision is generous, which it is, there's little incentive to keep costs down. The consumers are only paying a fraction of the true cost, and are further distanced by private insurance: they have an incentive to reduce costs, but not a very strong one. So, in choosing the level of state provision you have an inevitable trade-off: too low and the poor start to suffer, too high and costs become unpayable. I think that's inevitable in any system though.
The irony is that I think the US and UK could actually manage that kind of system very well. Our first-past-the-post governments are relatively good at making tough trade-off decisions, so I don't think costs would escalate as dangerously as in France. Shame we'll never get it.
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