Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Not blogging much this week...

I'm at home this week looking after my wife as she had to go into hospital recently for an operation that is leaving her immobilised for a bit. Apart from making me realise how much she does around the house that I take for granted it's also been a bit of an experience seeing how the NHS works when you need it. For me there have been both plus points and minuses. I have to say my other half hasn't been very pleased. Her first text to me the morning after the op was "I want to go private", which does raise some Blairite type thoughts in my mind. I might blog about this some more at a later date.

I'm still fitting in a bit of work-related stuff in my week at home. I'm currently about halfway through The Economist Guide to Financial Markets which I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in such things. Personally I'm finding that it is very useful in filling in some gaps in my knowledge and it's also (generally) very clearly written. I'm currently on the chapter about securitisation which is really interesting. I had a basic grasp of the area but I wasn't aware of the extent to which it occurs, or how various attributes of underlying assets get divided up. As I'm reading the book I find I'm actually quite impressed at the innovation in financial instruments the more I learn about them.

It makes you wonder a little at how an organisation like Northern Rock - itself obviously a financial institution - could get itself into such a mess given all the different options there are to parcel up and pass on different bits of risk. But it also reinforces the point that businesses are becoming increasingly financialised - these days they try to hedge all kinds of risks and are increasingly dependent on financial markets. As such I want to try and read a decent critique of financialisation at some point this year. This looks like it might a good US one.

Finally, I'm also dipping into Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases which is a collection of essays about cognitive biases, many of them based on research by the pioneers Kahneman and Tversky. A lot of good stuff here.


Charlie Marks said...

Don't imagine private hospitals are marvellous, and you've already paid for the NHS through taxes, so it'd be a shame not to use it :-)

The turnaround is quite quick these days. A friend of mine had a very serious operation and was home within 24 hours - which is probably for the best.

Hope everything's going well, anyhow.

Tom P said...

Hi Charlie

She's doing ok thanks. It was a scheduled operation so we knew it was coming.

I don't plan on going private, and on a political level I'm not in favour of my other half doing it either. But on a personal level it's a much more difficult issue. She's not had a great experience (not just the recent period in hospital but the run-up to the operation too) and I can see why she feels the way she does. I can't with my hand on my heart say "you are wrong, going private wouldn't be any better".

As such I do feel a bit of sympathy with the Blairite emphasis on making the NHS more punter-friendly. And on the political level again if people aren't satisfied with what they get it will make it easier for those on the Right who really do want to privatise the NHS to undermine support for the existing model.

Difficult one!

Charlie Marks said...

I don't believe the Blairites were about choice - I believe they were about moving from a publicly-provided model to one in which the state funds healthcare which is provided privately. Blair himself said it.

The workable alternative - making the NHS democratically accountable, rather than (as New Labour has done) making it more profit-oriented (the notion of generating a surplus), is rejected out of hand because of the prevelant cognitive bias that profit-maximisation equals maximisation in customer satisfaction. Sadly, people die because of mistakes in private hospitals, too. Private hospitals also have issues with MRSA, etc.

The perception that private healthcare is better is a bit odd to me as most people who have this view haven't experienced it first hand. Add to this the fact that my friend had a much-needed operation performed by a surgeon who also works in the private sector doing cosmetic surgery.

Now, I don't blame people for wanting to or actually going private. The solution - as with private education - would be to abolish it. If it is not possible for people to opt out, then there would be greater number of people demanding improvement.

Tom P said...

"The solution - as with private education - would be to abolish it. If it is not possible for people to opt out, then there would be greater number of people demanding improvement."

yep I think that it is probably right.

Charlie Marks said...

"yep I think that it is probably right."

Tom! I advocated the abolition of private healthcare and private education - and you agreed? Hope I'm not being a bad influence on you.

Tom P said...

I'm definitely sure about abolishing private education!

Healthcare is more tricky but I've always thought the point you make - keep the pushy people in the NHS so they demand higher standards - is a good one.

John Gray said...

Charlie, you are clearly a bad influence! Turning our Tom into a bearded Trot! Can’t wait to tell Colin

Charlie Marks said...

I'm far too anti-sectarian to describe myself as a Trotskyist, John... And Tom can think for himself, please do not josh him.

Tom, I wouldn't say the priority is stopping Bupa, but making sure that TMCs aren't leeching of the NHS by reversing the "reforms" and making the NHS accountable to its staff and patients, rather than neoliberal politicians.

John Gray said...

Hi Charlie
This is about poor Tom not you!

The next time I meet him he will no doubt be also wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches!

Tom P said...

err... actually I got a corduroy jacket just before xmas. don't take that as a sign of my political degeneration tho...!

saw Colin today by the way and he hassled me about our favourite fund manager.