Friday, June 26, 2009

Universal Healthcare and the "Nanny State on Steroids"

In a January Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Paul Hsieh, co-founder of FIRM, warned that government control of medicine would inevitably lead to further and further loss of freedom. He wrote:

Imagine a country where the government regularly checks the waistlines of citizens over age 40. Anyone deemed too fat would be required to undergo diet counseling. Those who fail to lose sufficient weight could face further "reeducation" and their communities subject to stiff fines.

Is this some nightmarish dystopia?

No, this is contemporary Japan.

The Japanese government argues that it must regulate citizens' lifestyles because it is paying their health costs. This highlights one of the greatly underappreciated dangers of "universal healthcare." Any government that attempts to guarantee healthcare must also control its costs. The inevitable next step will be to seek to control citizens' health and their behavior. Hence, Americans should beware that if we adopt universal healthcare, we also risk creating a "nanny state on steroids" antithetical to core American principles. (Emphasis added.)

The key point here is that whoever pays sets the terms. Ask the companies that received the government’s TARP bailout money and now find President Obama firing CEOs and dictating salaries, among other types of meddling. Ask any teenager living under his parents’ roof. When you hand over your money to government, in exchange for the “security” of “knowing” that you will get your “free” appendectomy or cholesterol pill, you hand over your rights to life and liberty.

It didn’t take long for Dr. Hsieh to be proved right. In a Politico article entitled Barack Obama Says Shape Up Now, Carrie Budoff Brown writes:

Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier — raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before.

Any health care reform plan that Obama signs is almost certain to call for nutrition counseling, obesity screenings and wellness programs at workplaces and community centers. He wants more time in the school day for physical fitness, more nutritious school lunches and more bike paths, walking paths and grocery stores in underserved areas.

The president is filling top posts at Health and Human Services with officials who, in their previous jobs, outlawed trans fats, banned public smoking or required restaurants to provide a calorie count with that slice of banana cream pie.

Even Congress is getting into the act, giving serious consideration to taxing sugary drinks and alcohol to help pay for the overhaul.

Bike and walking paths? As you can see, the government’s controls will extend well beyond any narrow interpretation of what effects one’s health. The list of things that can be construed as negative to your health, and thus represent a cost to the government, is limited only by the imagination. On the flip side, what if you don’t use the brand new bike and walking paths that the government paid for to keep you healthy? If you don’t walk, you can get flabby, and the obesity screener will report this as a potential cost to “the system”. Will you be forced to use the paths, under threat of losing your “universal” coverage, which you paid for through your taxes?

In a free market…i.e., a free country…you are responsible for your own cost of healthcare. If you don’t take care of yourself and end up with preventable health problems, it is not a threat to anyone else’s pocket book. But in a socialized system, where everyone is forced to pay for everyone else’s healthcare, everyone becomes everyone else’s business. And the government, as representative of “the public”, can and will protect “the taxpayers” by regulating lifestyles. Ms. Brown:

The public health community has worked intensively in recent years to build a body of evidence in support of the very initiatives Obama and lawmakers are now embracing. They frame the issue as one of money: Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Emphasis added.)

Money is noble and good, when in the hands of the people who earned it. It represents your productive efforts, which can be used to purchase the things that enrich your life but that are produced by others…i.e., money is a tool of exchange among producers. But when money is increasingly controlled by those who didn’t earn it, control of the lives of those whose work did produce it is also shifted to those who didn’t earn it. Money then becomes not an instrument of freedom and independence, but a tool of dependence, slavery and tyranny.

Dr. Hsieh concludes:

Nanny state regulations and universal healthcare…feed a vicious cycle of increasing government control over individuals. Both undermine individual responsibility and habituate citizens to ever-worsening erosions of their individual rights. Both promote dependence on government. Both undermine the virtues of independence and rationality. Both jeopardize the very foundations of a free society.

The American Founding Fathers who fought and died for our freedoms would be appalled to know their descendants were allowing the government to dictate what they could eat and drink. The Founders correctly understood that the proper role of government is to protect individual rights and otherwise leave men free to live – not tell us how many eggs we should eat.

If we still value our freedoms, we must reject both the nanny state and universal healthcare.

1 comment:

Sue said...

They might as well buy everyone's groceries too. I'm sure that would end up happening! It's the only way to ensure houses are stocked with healthy foods. And since what's healthy or dangerous changes on a dime, those grocery bills will be high and the amount we are forced to throw away will be astronomical!