Saturday, March 21, 2009


Researched through many sources, including the collective works of Walter Williams, and George Mason University.
Imagine a country where the government regularly checks the waistlines of citizens over age 40. Anyone deemed too fat would be required to undergo diet counseling. Those who fail to lose sufficient weight could face further “reeducation” and their communities subject to stiff fines.
Is this some nightmarish dystopia?
No, this is contemporary Japan.
The Japanese government argues that it must regulate citizens’ lifestyles because it is paying their health costs. This highlights one of the greatly underappreciated dangers of “universal healthcare.” Any government that attempts to guarantee healthcare must also control its costs. The inevitable next step will be to seek to control citizens’ health and their behavior. Hence, Americans should beware that if we adopt universal healthcare, we also risk creating a “nanny state on steroids” antithetical to core American principles.
Other countries with universal healthcare are already restricting individual freedoms in the name of controlling health costs. For example, the British government has banned some television ads for eggs on the grounds that they were promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.
In 2007, New Zealand banned Richie Trezise, a Welsh submarine cable specialist, from entering the country on the grounds that his obesity would “impose significant costs … on New Zealand’s health or special education services.” Richie later lost weight and was allowed to immigrate.
Taxation as a tool to discourage unhealthy behaviors is as popular as ever. Taxation has historically been used effectively to control the consumption of alcohol and tobacco products through federal, state, and local taxes. Despite the addictive nature of tobacco products, studies indicate that tobacco consumption declines an average of 4% for every 10% increase in price. An upcoming Obama "sintax" will add $1 to the purchase of a pack of smokes, and this comes from a closet smoker, ironic at the very least. Not ironic enough for you? The very congress members given the power to regulate our collective behaviors can smoke in their congressional offices, while the general public cannot even smoke closer than 200 feet of an entrance to a public building in California.
Needless to say, the smoking nazi's have done an amazing job on curbing their control on smoking. And it has built their confidence to take on other industries as well. Clearly if one wanted to drastically reduce or eliminate public consumption of any product, one has only to tax it to the point of it not being affordable.
Building on these results, 17 states and the U.S. District of Columbia have placed specific taxes (either through sales or excise taxes) on foods and/or beverages of low nutritional value. The idea is that these taxes will provide a strong disincentive for individuals against purchasing and ingesting these products, resulting in a reduction in obesity counts. For those who still choose to purchase these products, tax revenues from sales could be used to fund healthy eating or obesity prevention campaigns. California's 7.25% sales tax on soft drinks, for example, generates about U.S. $218 million in general revenues annually.
But it won't stop there, threats of sanction or government regulation may force complete industries to self-regulate. Consider the 2006 voluntary agreement signed by soft drink giants Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Cadbury Schweppes, to remove high-calorie sodas from schools by 2009. A 2003 lawsuit filed in California against the U.S. multi-conglomerate Kraft Foods sought to prevent the marketing and selling of Oreo brand cookies, which contained trans fats, to children in the state. The lawsuit was dropped when Kraft announced that it was working to reduce trans fat in its cookies and agreed to cease all in-school marketing.
Another bullet in the gun of the lifestyle police? Zoning laws. Local zoning laws in the U. S. can be used to create a healthier retail food market through several different themes, including (1) rezoning residential areas to restrict development to restaurants that do not serve "fast-food;" (2) providing incentives for developers to offer health food stores among commercial options; and (3) requiring fast food restaurants to offer a minimum number of healthy choices. Zoning laws can justify (1) outright bans of fast food establishments, such as San Francisco's (California) prohibition of "formula retail uses" in a historic neighborhood district, and (2) restrictions, such as the city of Detroit's (Michigan) policy that certain fast food restaurants may not be built within 500 feet of a school.
Is this crazy enough? Take a seat. Lifestyle Nazis aren’t settling on just obesity, they’re targeting meat consumption. Dr. Neal Barnard, president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says, “It’s time we looked at holding the meat producers and fast-food outlets legally responsible. Meat consumption is just as dangerous to public health as tobacco use.” Doing their part to ban meat consumption, professors at law schools such as Harvard, Rutgers, and Georgetown are teaching “animal law” courses. Animals are seen as plaintiffs. Law professors are gearing up by studying old slavery statutes that authorized legal nonpersons to bring lawsuits. Possibly, before long, we might see chickens, cows, pigs, and other critters appearing as plaintiffs in court suing for crimes against animals.
It’s easy to dismiss these people “as only wanting to help” or as having only “limited goals.” Nonsense. These people want to control our behaviors, and take away our individual right to choose. Not all at once, incrementally, like they did on the tobacco industry. Confiscating rights in large chunks creates too much resistance. They started with no smoking on airplanes, to the point where you cannot smoke at all in public in Calabasas, California.
Many of us mistakenly label these people “nannies,” an inappropriate term for those who’d use the coercive, brutal powers of government to impose their values on others. More fitting labels are: tyrants, totalitarians, and yes, Nazis.


Anonymous said...

It’s the slippery slope of universal care that should trouble us all. Wait until medical treatments are withheld to save a few dollars. Decisions about treatment and the quality of life will have to be made by a bureaucrat somewhere. A compelling argument can be made to exclude just about anybody … if not now then very soon. And why stop with withholding treatment? If an unborn baby has a higher propensity for cancer or an expensive liver dysfunction as an adult, wouldn’t it be better just to solve the problem now? Let’s save a few bucks. How can a 50 year old with arthritis enjoy any real quality of life? Let's just solve the problem now.

If we have learned anything from history it should be man’s potential to express incredible evil upon itself. Is it possible for a society to make seemingly good decision after good decision but result in a horrific cumulative effect? I guess it’s just perspective. Many oppressive regimes in the past have made what they thought were really good decisions for them. We might just be ready to crest that slippery slope.

Kim said...

Thanks for your comment, albeit one that is slightly overstated.

I would like to believe humanity would win out over any such financial considerations, but it would be naive to think money isn't a huge determinating factor in American health care already.

I understand the premise, the healthy would bare a financial burden on the behalf of the less healthy. I get it; but they are just going to have to understand that the current under-insured, or uninsured are going to be less healthy than those that enjoy full coverage today.

I can live with this, just as I can live with the financially healthy having to bare a greater financial (tax) burden for those less financially healthy.

Call it a redistribution of wealth if you will, or egiltarianism, or the beginnings of a socialistic society, but this is what we need to do in both areas.

There will be voices to call for governmental actions in order to force the populous to become healthier. Interestingly, there have been no such calls to take actions to force the populous to become more financially healthy, just a mass bailout.

I think that is where geithner needs to focus. Getting America more financially healthy, not through bailouts, but through regulating refinancing to livable mortgage rates, and in targeting credit card companies and their burdenous interest rates to some, if not most.