Be Healthy or Else!
September 10, 2007
Irvine, CA--Under Democratic presidential contender John Edwards's "universal" health-care proposal, every American would be required to go to the doctor for preventive care in order to keep health-care costs down. In a similar proposal, a Tory panel in Britain suggested that, in order to control the spiraling costs of its socialized health-care system, Britons should be forced to adopt a government-prescribed "healthy lifestyle" or else be denied certain medical treatments. Britons who improve their health by, for example, quitting smoking or losing weight would receive "Health Miles" that could be used to purchase vegetables or pay for gym memberships.
"These proposals are the reductio ad absurdum of nanny-state paternalism," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "According to these politicians, instead of having a government that protects our right to live our own lives, we are to be treated like incompetent children who need someone to force us to visit the doctor and eat our veggies.
"Such proposals are the inevitable consequence of socialized medicine, where the only ways to control spiraling health-care costs are to cut benefits or attempt to reduce demand for medical services by forcing preventive care on individuals. Indeed, the fundamental justification for socialized medicine rests on the view that individuals are helpless to manage their own lives and so need beneficent bureaucrats to take care of them. Under socialized medicine, the government gives us 'free' health care--and in exchange, it gets to dictate how we live our lives. It's like a parent who tells his child, 'So long as I pay the bills, I make the rules!'
"But coercing people into 'healthy' behavior is not only destructive to individual liberty--it's destructive to health. If an individual is to maintain his health and well-being, he must (in consultation with his doctor) make myriad judgments about what is good for his life and what is harmful, given the context of his knowledge, goals, and interests. When the government takes away the individual's freedom to pursue his well-being as he sees fit in favor of coercively enforced collective judgments about what is healthy or unhealthy, it prevents him from making such judgments and the life-promoting decisions they entail. It also leaves him at the mercy of any errors the government makes in its declarations about what is 'healthy.' Imagine the destructive consequences had people been forced to abide by the USDA's now widely discredited 'food pyramid.'
"To protect our health and our freedom, we must reject socialized medicine in any form."
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