The Irony of Capitalist Production In Healthcare

Infant mortality is on the rise in poor neighbourhoods, predominantly Black neighbourhoods, across the US. The current healthcare workers are so overwhelmed that they’ve turned to Cuban medical workers for advice on how to handle the situation. The US healthcare workers are so stuck on how to alleviate the situation that they have to turn to the doctors of a third world country in order to deal with the problem. The Cuban have been more than willing to help the poor in the US as they have with the global poor.

What can Cuba do to help? It has the lowest infant mortality rate of any country in the region (4.3 per 1,000) – lower than that of the United States (5.7 per 1,000 people), according to the World Health Organization. Their levels are even lower than those of some of the economically vulnerable areas like Englewood near Detriot, where the rate is abysmal (14.5 babies per 1,000).

“A health partnership signed between the University of Illinois Cancer Center and the Cuban Ministry of Public Health has teamed up three Cuban doctors and a nurse with their U.S. counterparts during home visits to 50 women of reproductive age in Englewood, according to Kaiser Health News.

“In exchange for a US$50 stipend, the women respond to a questionnaire that includes questions such as: “In the last 12 months, have you had any problems with any bug infestations, rodents or mold?” or “Have you ever had teeth removed or crowned because of a cavity?” (source)

To make a long story short, the problem lies in the lack of available healthcare. Essentially, poor people in the US cannot afford the necessary healthcare. Yet, we see a third world country in Cuba demonstrating that they can provide for their people despite all their disadvantages, most notable, embargoes by the US designed to try and destroy their economy.

So why is this the case? Why is the richest country in the world unable to provide what even some of the most underdeveloped can? The answer lies in the allocation of resources in the economy. In capitalism, scarce resources are allocated according to the market. If a sector is profitable, then money and resources will flow there. If there isn’t a profit to be made, then they will flow away. This is basic free market economics, the foundation of “freedom” according to many.

The problem is that these low-income neighbourhoods don’t have the money necessary to get those resources to the community. According to the social Darwinist logic of the free market, these people should die. “It is right because the market dictates!”, its defenders claim.

So we see the irony here: the richest country in the world, the one with the greatest access to resources, is unable to provide healthcare to its population in full because it “rationally” decides to send it elsewhere. That is irony.