A short article on the crisis of health care under capitalism in crisis by Robert Kurz.
Economic Euthanasia – Robert Kurz
In the ideology of political economy, money is a sophisticated tool for the most effective provision of material goods and social services to society; for that very reason, it would be irrelevant in a truly economic sense, as it would not be anything but a simple “veil” over real production and distribution. Marx, however, showed that money, as the self-valorization of capital, is a fetishistic end-in-itself, and that it thus has priority over the satisfaction of concrete needs. Real goods are only produced if they serve this end-in-itself of the multiplication of money; if they do not, their production ceases, even though their production may be technically possible and despite the fact that they constitute a vital necessity. This is particularly evident in such domains as pensions and health care, which are not in themselves direct means of capital valorization, but which must be financed from wages and profits. On the purely material plane there are enough resources available to provide the population with food and medical care, even though an increasing proportion of the population is not part of the active labor force. Under the dictates of the money fetish, however, this objective possibility becomes “unfinanceable”.
The pension and health insurance systems are indirectly subordinated to the dictates of abstract valorization. Under conditions of a budget crisis both are “economized”. This means that they must be managed in accordance with economic criteria in order to be capable of participating in financial flows. Even the medical diagnosis has become a commodity, under the pressure of competition. The goal is not the health and well-being of people, but the administration of drugs to uphold “productivity”, on the one hand, and the management of illness, on the other. The ideal person for the prevailing institutions would be an Olympic performer at the workplace (in order to increase the national product), who should be simultaneously defined as chronically ill (in order to fill the coffers of the health system) and who voluntarily kicks the bucket when he reaches retirement age (in order to not be a burden on capitalism).
It was medical science itself that paved the way for this splendid calculation. It was indeed so advanced that more and more people were living long after retirement. This is a significant example of the fact that competition compels a development of the productive forces that is no longer compatible with the logic of capital. The “mute force of circumstances” (Marx) thus engenders a tendency towards finding a way to reverse these undeniable medical conquests. The production of artificial poverty has a preventive effect. Thus, in Germany, the life expectancy of the lowest-paid workers has fallen from 77.5 to 75.5 years since 2001. Those who are unable to make enough money to survive, despite having worked hard at full time jobs, reach their old age so exhausted that they can no longer successfully explore the possibilities of medicine. Furthermore, they have less access to medical care, which is available according to one’s ability to pay. Now that the Greek hospitals are practically bankrupt, the major pharmaceutical corporations are cutting off their supplies of drugs for cancer, AIDS and hepatitis; and the supply of insulin was also interrupted. This is not an exception to the rule, but the image of our future. At least for the sick poor and the “superfluous”, for those who are not utilizable from the capitalist point of view, all the experts will apply the lesson that King Frederick of Prussia bellowed at his soldiers as they were fleeing the battlefield: Dogs! Do you want to live forever?
Translated from the Spanish translation 3-25-13
Original title: “Ökonomische sterbehilfe”
Published in Neues Deutschland, January 9, 2012