An Unhealthy War of Words

Both China and America face a crises in health care, because many in both countries cannot afford it.

Emperor Wudi (Han Dynasty, 141 BCE) may have made the right choice. Wudi wanted to make sure that peasants could afford salt and iron so his government controlled the prices. The private sector that sold these commodities was upset, because they couldn’t amass the great fortunes they wanted.

Emperor Wudi - Han Dynasty

After Emperor Wudi’s death in 87 BCE, a great debate (similar to the debate over health care in America today) took place.  It was called the “Debate on Salt and Iron”.  It pitted the advocates of a strong central state against those favoring more autonomy for local elites—people who owned businesses in the private sector. In the end, the government program that controlled the prices of essential commodities was abolished.

The results—

1. The imperial court became more concerned with an extravagant social life and stopped doing their job running the country. Greed became rampant.

2. Powerful families manipulated the emperor and his ministers—like corporate and special-interest lobbyists in America today. For a few, fortunes grew while many peasants had to go without.

3. Revenues declined and military affairs were neglected.

4. The Han Dynasty collapsed.

Health is an essential commodity, and Bill Maher makes a good case for this in his piece at the Huffington Post.

To learn more, read “China’s Health Care During Mao’s Time” http://wp.me/pN4pY-br

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