More Recognition of the Health Care Trojan Horse

I have argued for a while that one of the undiscussed problems with nationalized or universal health care is that by socializing the costs of individual lifestyle decisions (e.g. eating, drinking, smoking, wearing a bike helmet, etc) it creates a strong financial incentive for the government to micro-manage individual behavior.  I call this the health care trojan horse for fascism (other posts here).

Q&O has a good post, quoting from Paul Hsieh, on this very topic.

Here's how I understood freedom and liberty worked:

Of course healthy diet and exercise are good. But these are issues of personal "“ not government "“ responsibility. So long as they don't harm others, adults should have the right to eat and drink what they wish "“ and the corresponding responsibility to enjoy (or suffer) the consequences of their choices. Anyone who makes poor lifestyle choices should pay the price himself or rely on voluntary charity, not demand that the government pay for his choices.

Does anyone have a particular argument with that?

In fact, if you believe in freedom and liberty, there really isn't another choice, is there?

But here's what's being offered as the alternative:

Government attempts to regulate individual lifestyles are based on the claim that they must limit medical costs that would otherwise be a burden on "society." But this issue can arise only in "universal healthcare" systems where taxpayers must pay for everyone's medical expenses.

The article has a lot of good examples that follow.  Mr. Hsieh's op-ed is here.

As a side note, I was watching the movie "The Golden Compass"  the other day.  The author and the original book are quite critical of religion, at least of the organized kind, and the evil fascist entity against which the protagonists fight is a world-controlling church.  The movie actually purged most of the religion criticism (or at least made it more subtle) and made the bad buys more generically totalitarian, but hangover criticism of the book stuck to the movie as well.

It was not really a particularly good (or bad) movie, but it had one set of lines spoken by the Nicole Kidman character that I couldn't believe came out of Hollywood.  The protagonist, Lyra, asks Kidman about the contradiction between Kidman's unwillingness to let anyone tell her what to do and the rule-making and absolute obedience that her organization demands of all citizens.    I need to go back and watch the movie to get it exactly right (of course, no one on the movie sites found it memorable enough to post).  But it was something like "Only a few of us are capable of making good decisions for ourselves.  We few have to make decisions for everyone else.  It is really for their own good."  It was really a brilliant summary of the modern political mentality, and slipped through I think only because people in Hollywood took it as a criticism of the religious right, not recognizing it as an equally damning indictment of the left.  (if anyone has the exact quote or a link, please post.  It was on the dirigeable fairly early in the movie, I think).

Update: OK, the Golden Compass lines I wanted start about the 3:00 minute mark in this video [thanks to commenter for showing how to link to a specific point in a YouTube video].  Here is how I transcribed it:

Kidman (Mrs. Coulter):  The Magesterium [the world-girdling totalitarian organization] is what people need, to keep things working, by telling people what to do.

Lyra:  But you told the master that you do whatever you please

Kidman:  That's right, clever girl.  Well, some people know what's best for them, and some people don't.  Besides, they don't tell people what to do in a mean and petty way, they tell them in a kindly way, to keep them out of danger.

Its really hilarious to read through reviews, as I have trying to find this quote.  Apparently (though I missed it at the time) it became a left-right debate about the movie.  The hilarious part is all the left-leaning blogs criticising the right for not seeing how well the shoe fits, without for a second considering that this is a perfect recitation of their end game as well.

Again, about 3:00 into the below:

  • Scott S

    What else is there to say? The thing is, any lie the socialists give about caring about "real choice" or "real freedom" (or equivalent nonsense that ends up violating individual rights for the sake of the group), can be met by the fact that in a free market any consensual contract can exist. If a group of people want to pool their money for health goods/services, and in return want a regulatory body that restricts what they can eat or how they live (so long as they willingly abide by the contractual stipulations), then go for it - no one should use force to stop you from letting another person hold your hand through life.

    The irony is that these government programs are claimed to be needed because people don't care enough about others to ensure their well-being. And yet these socialist schemes are predicated on twisting people's natural care for others (you don't want uninsured to die in the streets, do you?) in order to implement force over all. They have learned from history; there's no need for a military coup or personality cults and prison camps. Just enslave people by using their good intentions against them. Of course it helps to make sure the main source of education fosters uncritical thinking toward government, which makes public schooling a definite success by that measure.

    If there can be any sort of justice when health socialism is implemented in the US, it's that the family of those who hold the levers are the ones left to sit in the emergency room for 12 hours, because the supply/demand curve has been ignored. But we all know their needs will be cared for. Because although everyone is equal, some are more equal than others.

  • Noumenon

    If you ask me, there's villain music playing when she says that.

    OK, the Golden Compass lines I wanted start about the 3:00 minute mark in this video.

    You can link directly to any point in a youtube video by adding this anchor to the end: #t=3m0s (for the 3:00 mark). For example, here's me linking directly to the neat magical carriage at 3:54 --

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVTyfNBFnOk&feature=related#t=3m54s

  • Noumenon

    Hm, I'm not seeing my post and I had a sentence to add at the end, so here it is again.

    If you ask me, there's villain music playing when she says that.

    OK, the Golden Compass lines I wanted start about the 3:00 minute mark in this video.

    You can link directly to any point in a youtube video by adding this anchor to the end: #t=3m0s (for the 3:00 mark). For example, here's me linking directly to the neat magical carriage at 3:54 --

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVTyfNBFnOk&feature=related#t=3m54s

    I don't know how to do this for embedded videos, though.

  • http://geoffjones.com Geoff

    Actually I remember from a BBC Radio4 discussion, paradoxically, its in the government interest to promote unhealthy living - the biggest drain on resources will be oldies who live longest.

    Lung cancer patients, as one example, apparently only live for 1 year or so from diagnosis and consume few NHS resources!

  • ben

    Anyone who makes poor lifestyle choices should pay the price himself or rely on voluntary charity, not demand that the government pay for his choices.

    Does anyone have a particular argument with that?

    I have a problem with it. Well, only of a fairly trivial kind. Who says healthy eating and exercise are "good" and high calorie food is "bad". That makes sense only if you define good as being whatever prolongs life, and bad whatever shortens it. But that's simply a matter of personal taste. Is there any reason not to think the choice to eat high calorie food and not exercise is simply the product of a rational cost-benefit calculation. The great thing about that choice of lifestyle is that you get to go straight home or straight out after work and eat and drink whatever it is that you feel like.

    Personally, I enjoy that lifestyle about half the time. The other half I am in the gym and eating healthy. I have a year on and a year off. Who but me is to say which cycle is good and which is bad?

  • Sean Wise

    I think this hole argument misses the key problem with universal health care run by the government. First of all, the government already pays for nearly half of the health care consumed in this country. Because it is the biggest buyer, it probably sets the prices and compensation level of most in the industry. (How else would nurses in California, who earn more than $100K per year threaten to strike because LVN's were going to be used to spell RN's on break. Their employer wouldn't have argued except there were not RN's to hire. Obviously, it's easy to pass along the costs, no matter how exhorbitant.) And when was the last time any government subsidy reduced the price of anything? The government fee for service model, where heroic solutions are paid for with little question, is what's made the cost per capita for health care twice as high as other industrialized nations. Does anyone expect the government to do a better job at cost control when it controls the whole pie rather than half the pie?

  • Allen

    Sean, you touch on something very interesting. That is, despite as much private care that is out there the US's health care system as a whole is arguably over all more socialized than many if not most other industrialized countries. IIRC most Western European countries never when overboard with stuff like England's NHS. Yet too many here in the US seem to not only think that those are systems are more socialized and somehow incredibly perfect.

  • bobby b

    "If a group of people want to pool their money for health goods/services . . . "
    - - - -

    That would be a refreshing change from the usual situation, where a group of people want to pool MY money to pay for their health care goods and services.