But if the bill for your foolishness shows up in the form of higher taxes on me, then I unwillingly start to care what you do. And, trust me on this, you don’t want me turning my heartless judgmental eye on your foolish lifestyle. Because I’d have no qualms criticizing half the stuff you do.
Do you want that? No. Do I want that? No. And that’s the point. Instituting a single-payer universal health-care system, or even a watered-down version as the government is now proposing, compels me to become a meddlesome busybody in your personal choices. And it will compel you to become a meddlesome busybody in everyone else’s personal choices. It forever douses the beautiful flame of individualism — freedom to act without interference, just so long as you are ready to accept the consequences, whatever they may be.
• The sickening truth
My list of unhealthy activities above requires a bit of explanation. Let’s briefly look at each “health sin” in turn:
Yes, I know that in some cases obesity can have a genetic component — that some people simply have a tendency to get fat. But the majority of obese people are overweight merely because they eat too much and exercise too little. Simple as that. And as a result, they are mostly or entirely to blame to for their own obesity. Now, there are all sorts of excuses offered up in defense of the overweight: They never learned proper nutritional guidelines; their eating is a symptom of underlying psychological problems; they were raised by parents who fed them unhealthy foods; and so on. To which I reply: I don’t care! Grow up already. Get over your immature problems and cut back on the potato chips. Is that so hard? It actually costs less to eat more healthily. And since being overweight is the #1 medical problem in this country, with countless ailments caused or exacerbated by obesity, making people become personally responsible for their physical conditions is the quickest route to solving the issue. If we made all medical treatment completely free, then people would continue to ruin their bodies with food and just let the free doctors deal with the resulting mess. Hey doc — fix me!
Smoking kills you. Slowly. Expensively. Everybody knows that by now. Want to pay for your own medical bills as you lie in the hospital dying of emphysema or lung cancer? Fine. If you’re willing to pony up the cash, then smoke all you want. But if you want me to shell out millions of dollars to pay for the treatments and care you’ll require, then I’m going to come over there and yank that cig out of your mouth right now.
Destroyed livers, car accidents, pancreatic failure, brain problems — the medical effects of alcohol abuse are well-known. The question is: Can we assign “blame” on the long-term alcoholic for his or her behavior? Contemporary psychology tends to give alcoholics and other addicts a free pass on responsibility, but I am less charitable. Every time you pick up that bottle, it is a conscious decision. And once again, under normal circumstances I just wouldn’t care, but if I’m compelled to pay for the expensive reconstructive surgery of a drunk who smashes his car into a tree, then yes, I care, and I blame the drunk.
Stupid people do risky things. Teens who imitate pro wrestling or the Jackass movies in backyard stunts. “Extreme sports” fanatics who jump off cliffs wearing flimsy parachutes. Leaning over the rail and taunting the tigers at the zoo. Eating mysterious mushrooms you found while out hiking. Playing “chicken” in drag races. Car surfing. Auto-erotic asphyxiation. Playing Russian Roulette. Using a hairdryer while in the bathtub. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Me? I don’t do stupid things. I spend my whole life trying to minimize risk. But those who consciously take risks often end up with injuries. Hospital emergency rooms are constantly filled with such people. Now, why should people like me who rarely if ever experience preventable “accidents” have to fund the foolishness of those who throw caution to the wind?
Crime is dangerous. Not just for the victim, but for the criminal too. Gang members are constantly fighting with each other. Criminals often get injured during the commission of a crime, either while fleeing the scene or during apprehension by the police. Every minute of every day somewhere in this country, drug dealers are shooting at each other and stabbing each other in turf wars or deals gone bad. Doctors and hospitals in poor urban areas spend much of their resources treating gunshot wounds on victims who refuse to reveal how they got injured. And once again, the taxpayer is expected to pick up the tab. When was the last time you heard of a drug dealer diligently paying off the $100,000 hospital bill for the reconstructive surgery he received after being injured in a gun battle?
Unprotected promiscuous sex
AIDS. Chlamydia. Syphilis. Gonorrhea. Human papillomavirus. Herpes. Preventable. Preventable. Preventable. Preventable. Preventable. Preventable. Cover your peckers, people! The problem with discussing STDs is that the discussion always gets muddied with moral issues. But let’s try to set that aside for the moment. On a purely cost-analysis level, STDs are a significant unnecessary society-wide medical expense. Luckily, most STDs are now treatable or at least don’t require costly long-term care. With one noteworthy exception: AIDS. I realize full well that it’s totally un-PC to say this, but why should those of us who go to great lengths to ensure that we never get AIDS have to subsidize the astronomically expensive long-term care of those who through their own cavalier voluntary actions contracted AIDS? Once again, the responsible are expected to pay for the costs incurred by the irresponsible. If I stuck my hand in a blender, should I present my hospital bill to a guy with AIDS and expect him to pay it? And this gets to down to the core of why I oppose the notion of socialized medicine: If left to my own devices, I really don’t care about people’s private sexual practices, risky or not; but if compelled to pay for the treatment of people’s STDs, then suddenly I must become a nanny-state moralist, monitoring and criticizing any activities which might lead to an HIV infection. I don’t want to be in that role.
Use of illicit drugs
The social and medical costs of drug abuse are ruinous. Meth, heroin, crack and other drugs cause a plethora of serious medical problems, both short-term (overdoses, risky behavior) and long-term (rotting teeth, heart failure, malnutrition, immune system collapse, etc.). Drug-users fill our emergency rooms and treatment centers, incurring incalculable expenses. Because even under the current system some of these costs are already borne by the taxpayer, I already feel resentful of having to subsidize drug abusers. But under universal health care, my (and most other taxpayers’) resentment would go through the roof. Because I choose to not abuse my body and brain, I incur no costs for others to bear. But addicts give absolutely no thought to the social effects of their actions, and their thoughtlessness has become one of the main reasons to oppose socialized medicine.
All sorts of American subcultures have standard behaviors which increase the risk of medical complications. And I’m not talking about primitive tribespeople walking on hot coals. Instead, I’m talking about upper-class socialites who lie on tanning beds and give themselves skin cancer; street kids who engage in late-night “sideshows” of cars spinning and flipping in crowds of drunken teenagers; immigrants who fish in polluted harbors and feed their kids mercury-laden flounder; congregationalists who try to cure a disease by means of an exorcism; and all sorts of unwise activities specific to different cultural enclaves. Normally, including right now, I tend to think of such things as merely part of the rich tapestry of American society; but if compelled by the realities of socialized medicine to consider the long-term medical ramifications of such traditions, suddenly I become judgmental, condemning these practices and their practitioners solely because I have become partly responsible for paying the bill after the party’s over.
Who among us hasn’t looked on in horror at the grotesque dietary intake of the average American? Donuts, white bread, lard, Coca-Cola, pork rinds, preservatives, sugar, grease and artificial coloring. Little toddlers drinking sweet sodas instead of milk. Teenagers eating junk food instead of brain-building food. Nary a fresh vegetable in sight. Health nuts like me spend our lives trying to treat our bodies like temples, and provide good examples for everyone else; but it’s hard to compete with intense cultural pressure to eat the worst imaginable foods. As above, under normal circumstances I would sigh in mystification and let other people go their merry way, killing themselves with bad food. Yet once I start to ponder the overwhelming society-wide medical costs of keeping millions of unhealthy people alive for decades and decades, my anger grows. I want to ban advertisements for unhealthy foods on TV. I want to outlaw donuts. I want to tax McDonald’s to cover the full environmental cost of their products. I want to do all sorts of quasi-fascistic things that normally I would never advocate.
Because that’s what socialized medicine does: it turns each of us into a little fascist. A nagging nanny who tells other people what to do and how to live.
|Criminal activity often leads to injuries.|
Do we want that kind of society? I don’t. If you look at other countries with socialized medicine, Great Britain being the most glaring example, these invasive and oppressive government dictates have already started to circumscribe people’s freedom, with every kind of potentially dangerous activity or unhealthy comestible being declared forbidden — for the good of society as a whole.
We call it “socialized medicine,” but in the end it pushes us toward fascism.
• Freedom vs. empathy: the final dilemma
Which brings us back to Dr. Sunderhaus. On one hand, we’re headed toward a totalitarian nanny state whereby your freedoms are constrained for the good of others. But at the exact same time we’ve entered the Era of Hurt Feelings where it’s taboo to tell anyone they’re doing something wrong. The solution proferred by the universal health-care advocates is to expand the circle of responsibility to include all of us. So, rather than insult an individual by telling him or her to get healthy, we all have to pretend we’re all equally in need of self-improvement, and we all endure the restrictions and hardships and costs which by all rights should be reserved exclusively for those who earned them.
The attitude of people like Dr. Sunderhaus perhaps offers a way out of this dilemma. Drop the pretense of decorum. If someone has grown obese eating chocolate, the do-gooders would respond by banning chocolate entirely for all of us — to avoid offending the sensibilities of the individual who abused it. Dr. Sunderhaus would just tell the abuser, “Lady, put down that Hershey bar — you’re too fat!” Horrors, horrors!
But if we had a nation of Dr. Sunderhauses, we wouldn’t need socialized medicine. Because each person, at last, would assume complete individual responsibility. And I’d rather that the doctors do the bullying in private to the people who deserve bullying than me being forced to intervene in other people’s private business myself.
Since it’s nearly impossible to sort out who is personally responsible for which ailments, the only logical solution is to let each person pay for their own care, because that way there’s nothing left to argue about. But if we share costs, we share blame, and that’s the origin of resentment and anger that the average American feels about socialized medicine.
Instead of bankrupting the country to pay for foolish people’s foolish decisions, I want to take a giant Sunderhaus finger and poke each American in the thigh and shout: “Shape up!”