Exposing myths about drug addiction, education and the NHS
Image: Dan Collins
Prison psychiatrist and writer Theodore Dalrymple and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan talked the other night under the auspices of MondayBooks, the publisher of some of Dalrymple's entertaining works.
Dalrymple exposed several myths -
Myth 1 Giving up heroin is a harrowing and dangerous procedure and drug addicts are to be pitied and mollycoddled
Dalrymple's experience with drug addicted patients, which mirrors mine with patients, is that drug addiction is not accidental; it's not that easy to get addicted; and withdrawal, given a certain amount of willpower, is relatively simple. He pointed out that American soldiers who had become addicted to heroin in Vietnam had virtually all given it up after returning home and that when Mao tse tung said opium users would be shot, 20 million immediately gave it up. In the 1960s there were 60 heroin addicts in Britain; today there are 300,000.
Myth 2 Widespread literacy is impossible without government intervention
Dalrymple pointed out that before the Elementary Education Act of 1870 Britain had 93 percent literacy, arguably greater than we have today. Even before there was compulsory education for children, literacy was very high. He also pointed out that in Nigeria and India, many poor people opt out of the government education programme to send their children for a better education at private schools.
Myth 3 The NHS has made a positive difference to the health of the nationIn Dalrymple's opinion, it has made no difference. He noted that the NHS is based on procedural results - did a medical procedure occur - rather than on actual outcomes - did the patient recover and how well. Since 1997 the NHS has increased its personnel by 400,000, but health care has not improved and continuity of care has markedly diminished. International comparisons show Britain quite far down the league tables in survival from cancer and stroke. Dalrymple said that a hospital executive bluntly told him, "The business of the NHS is to get the government reelected" and "The hospital is not in a marginal seat so we won't receive special funding".
Daniel Hannan MEP, left, received Dalrymple's opinion of the Conservative Party without noticeable flinching.
Tony Blair's mental conditionAsked to describe Tony Blair's mental condition, Dalrymple replied, "Delusions of honesty". Asked to describe the Conservatives he said, "They don't stand for anything."
In conversation with him afterwards, we discussed the NHS. To understand the NHS, his recommendation was that I read three authors - Kafka, Gogol and Orwell.