Universal Health Care Trojan Horse

For quite a while, I have been arguing that universal health care is a Trojan horse for freedom-robbing government interventions into our personal habits (and micro-habits).  Suddenly activities that used to be personal choices that affected only ourselves (e.g. unhealthy diet) become public interest questions affecting government-funded health care costs.

Jonah Goldberg, via Ronald Bailey, seems to agree:

The British government recently unveiled
plans for a massive crackdown on "excessive drinking," particularly
among the middle class. It will include all of the familiar tactics of
public health officials: dire new warnings on wine bottles,
public-awareness campaigns, scolding from men and women in lab coats...

still subscribes to a system where health care is for the most part
socialized. When the bureaucrat-priesthood of the National Health
Service decides that a certain behavior is unacceptable, the
consequences potentially involve more than scolding. For example, in
2005, Britain's health service started refusing certain surgeries for
fat people. An official behind the decision conceded that one of the
considerations was cost. Fat people would benefit from the surgery
less, and so they deserved it less. As Tony Harrison, a British
health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun at the time, "Rationing is a reality when funding is limited."

it's impossible to distinguish such cost-cutting judgments from moral
ones. The reasoning is obvious: Fat people, smokers and "” soon "”
drinkers deserve less health care because they bring their problems on
themselves. In short, they deserve it. This is a perfectly logical
perspective, and if I were in charge of everybody's health care, I
would probably resort to similar logic.

But I'm not in charge
of everybody's health care. Nor should anyone else be. In a free-market
system, bad behavior will still have high costs personally and
financially, but those costs are more likely to borne by you and you
alone. The more you socialize the costs of personal liberty, the more
license you give others to regulate it.

Universal health care,
once again all the rage in the United States, is an invitation for
scolds to become nannies. I think many Brits understand this all too
well, which is one reason why they want to fight the scolds here and

I like his term "socializing the costs of personal liberty."  Its a good description of much of what is wrong with government today.

  • Cam

    It's no surprise that Castro's Cuba has some of the highest life expectancies. When the government controls your personal habits, it isn't all that difficult to ensure a healthy society. Mandatory exercise, the prohibitions of certain activities, etc. Leading up to the war I'm sure Nazi Germany was seeing major health improvements too.

  • Ian Random

    Don't forget that seniors are refused dialysis in the UK, although it might help with Social Security shortfalls under a single payer. 🙂


  • sergio

    I have an idea (please note I am vehemently opposed to socialized medicine):

    I suggest we immediately begin a program of socialized dentistry. All dental costs will be "free", paid-for by the federal government. Let's set it up for 20 or 25 years with a sunset provision, so we can give it a fair try. Before the program begins, let all the proponents put forth their cost estimates for the program and we'll see if they're off by 10x or 100x, typical for government programs.

    After 20-25 years we'll see if the program is a rousing success, dismal failure, or somewhere in between. Then "we the people" can see firsthand if we like the idea of socialized health care in a small way before turning over the entire health care system to the bureaucrats.

    What does everyone think about my radical proposal? Let's try socialized dentistry!!

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