Wednesday 25 November 2020

Can we get free toothpaste too?


I had always thought that the Scottish Parliament was a disaster, but I have seen the light. It has now decided that sanitary products will be free. Not only has it decided this, it has unanimously decided it. Even the New York Times gives Scotland a mention. The first country in the world to have free sanitary products. First Scotland tomorrow the world.

There are lots of products and services that we all need or at least want. There are some products and services that only some of us need. Why hasn’t there been a campaign for free toothpaste in Scotland? After all, if you don’t use toothpaste and tooth brushes your teeth will fall out and you won’t be able to eat anything. But I don’t recall a single mention of toothpaste poverty nor indeed of toothbrush poverty. The problem here is that both men and women have teeth. So, toothpaste poverty doesn’t have that “Je ne sais quois” that will get both the Scottish Parliament and the New York Times excited.

If only women had teeth and men somehow had evolved not to need toothbrushes, no doubt the campaigning MSPs in the Scottish Parliament would right now be campaigning against the injustice of it all. But there is already an injustice that they don’t care at all about. Some parts of the body are more equal then other parts.

Every single part of my body will be treated for free on the NHS except two. Eyes and teeth. When something goes wrong with my eyes and I cannot see things up close and or far away I have to go to an optician and pay for things called glasses. A pair of varifocals can cost £500 pounds or more. Why don’t I get them for free? I need them just as much as I need my broken leg mended, not least because without my glasses I am much more likely to break my leg in the first place.

So too even if I can get an NHS dentist and even if I can get an appointment I still have to pay for a filling or a check-up. Why should treatment for the mouth be expensive while treatment for every other orifice be free? More importantly why isn’t the Scottish Parliament interested? The answer of course is that both men and women have teeth and eyes.

Are women especially disadvantaged in Scotland? Sanitary products are remarkably cheap. You can even buy reusable products. Is it merely that these products are only used by women that makes the Scottish Parliament interested in making them free? Well in that case why doesn’t it make bras and skirts free also. For many women bras are at least as necessary as sanitary products and rather more expensive.

The truth is that there are advantages and disadvantages to being born a girl. Every girl born in Scotland has a better chance of doing well in school than boys and we live on average rather longer, which means that we get all sorts of benefits including pensions for far longer than men do. Not only that. This year we have a much lower chance of dying from Covid than men do. But while the fact that ethnic minorities are at greater risk of dying from Covid is interesting to the BBC and the Scottish Parliament, the fact that half the population is at greater risk is of no interest at all. Imagine if it were the other way round?

Women do have certain disadvantages in life but having to buy sanitary products is not really one of them and if it is a disadvantage it is counterbalanced by some of the others.

But anyway, is it really the job of Government to provide women with ludicrously cheap products that can be bought for almost nothing in the supermarket? The cost of administration will make these products much more expensive overall than if we bought them ourselves.

The idea that women in Britain spend all their money on necessities and cannot therefore afford sanitary products is another one of those myths like the idea that there is widespread starvation in Britain.

Britain has a reasonably generous welfare state. If women are starving and bleeding uncontrollably while living here, how on earth do they manage in Poland or Bulgaria where there is no welfare state and benefits are minimal? Why don’t we send vast amounts of sanitary products to the poor women living abroad rather than virtue signal about a need that doesn’t exist in Scotland?

The truth of course is that free sanitary products just like free prescriptions and the free bridge over the sea to Skye are not free at all. Rather they are paid for by those who don’t use them and don’t need them. This may be popular with those who don’t pay taxes, but all it does is contribute to the percentage of GDP that is covered by state spending.  

If the Government spent zero percent, we would have perfect free market conditions. If the Government spent one hundred percent, we would have communism. The more you can lower state spending the more efficient and productive your economy will be. The more you raise it the worse it will be. So free this and free that, doesn’t make the poor better off, rather it makes everyone worse off. Far from being free it makes everyone including the poor poorer.

The Scottish Conservatives ludicrously have just voted for socialism.

Well done once more Scottish Parliament. You have added something else that is free, which in fact is paid for by someone else. You have done so because you think it is unfair that women have to pay for something that men don’t have to.

But your feminist credentials unfortunately contradict another new reality. It is no longer the case that men don’t use sanitary products. Every single person who benefits from your free pads and tampons could decide at any instant to be a man. In that case you are merely perpetuating the benefits of the patriarchy with your free gifts.

If men can become women and we do not define women by the fact that they use certain sanitary products, but rather insist that they are merely people that bleed, then feminist arguments which depend on an objective distinction between men and women are refuted by the argument that such distinctions are merely subjective. If both men and women can equally have periods, then the feminist motivation for free sanitary products that only women use them becomes false. In that case it is time for the Scottish Parliament to vote for free toothpaste as men and women both use that too.