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.
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...Britain
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.