Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Mandatory Checkups and Other Things That Keep Me Up At Night

John Edwards is proposing mandatory "preventative care" for all US citizens.

"It requires that everybody be covered. It requires that everybody get preventive care," he told a crowd sitting in lawn chairs in front of the Cedar County Courthouse. "If you are going to be in the system, you can't choose not to go to the doctor for 20 years. You have to go in and be checked and make sure that you are OK."

He noted, for example, that women would be required to have regular mammograms in an effort to find and treat "the first trace of problem." Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced earlier this year that her breast cancer had returned and spread.

Of course this makes perfect sense. If we the people are going to be paying for everyone's health care from birth till death, then we the people have every right to force you to take care of your self as we think best. It is just good public policy. After all, seatbelt laws have been defended with the same argument for years. When someone objects that not wearing a seatbelt hurts no one but oneself, the response is often, "But I have to pay for your hospital bills if you get hurt."

With this rational, anything that might make the average cost of national health care increase becomes a national threat. Alcohol, skydiving, mountain climbing, wilderness hiking, exposure to the sun, bacon, real made-from-cow-milk ice cream, anything can be controlled, limited, rationed, or banned. I will not even mention smoking, since it is on its way to being banned already.

Some people may think I am being hyperbolic for rhetorical reasons, a habit I am in truth not above. Sit back, however, and think over the last 40 years. Children used to run around their neighborhood playing. Now they can't be in the back yard alone. People used to be able to order a hamburger rare, now most chain restaurants daren't offer the option. We used to be able to walk on to a plane wearing shoes. 18 year olds used to be trusted to drink responsibly (and are still trusted to use fully automatic weapons and tanks responsibly). Little freedoms we used to take for granted are being taken away one at a time. Calls for restrictions and limitations "for our own good" are becoming ever more common. From hanging a picture without a license to drinking caffeinated beer, all aspects of our lives are coming under the control of a government we continue to expect to "do something." After all, it is for the common good. We can't allow you to continue to run around selfishly risking your health, then expecting us to pay for it.

And that is the key. Selfishness. People are selfish. If you tell someone that their rich uncle is buying lunch, they are much more likely to order the steak and lobster. Any plan that would work if only people would be less selfish is doomed. The only way to control selfishness is to ensure people bear the costs and benefits of their actions themselves. If people are not free to both succeed and fail, the incentives are for ever greater risk taking.

HT Club for Growth

Update: Read a similar rant on this here


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