Friday, May 14, 2010

Health Care And The Lost Horizon

I did a post a few months ago on the constitutionality of the new health care law. The gist of the argument was that if the government can force you to buy insurance, it can force you to buy just about anything. If you expand the meaning of the commerce clause from allowing government to regulate economic activity that people choose to engage in to forcing people to participate in commercial activity that the government chooses to regulate, we are on a very slippery slope to totalitarianism or at least to emulating some 15th century religious fiefdom. Once the government assumes an obligation to pay for everyone's health care costs, it assumes a responsibility to make sure that everyone stays healthy so it can afford what it undertakes. This fact is no different from someone buying a house or car and making sure the carpet is clean or the tires are safe. So what is the most effective way for the government to control health spending? Despite having spent hundreds of millions of dollars searching for some social science style answer to this question, the solution is remarkably simple: pass a law that mandates that every American from 3 to 75 exercise every morning and evening, eat three balanced meals a day, outlaw processed sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes, and if you refuse to buckle under to this ascetic lifestyle, you go to a re-education camp and live like a Gregorian monk until you get the message. Sound far fetched? Of course. But the point is that if you accept the notion that there is no restriction on the government's power to force you to purchase a product you don't want, it can force you to do anything, including controlling your budget. In addition to laying out $500 a month to Aetna or Humana, you will make a weekly trek to some government sponsored health food vomitorium and buy your weekly allotment of bran, fruit, nuts, fresh vegetables, and tree bark. You will also purchase a government mandated membership in a neighborhood exercise cooperative where a government worker will knock on your door every morning at 7 and lead the neighborhood in an exercise routine reminiscent of your freshman gym class in high school. To those of you like me who spend a disproportionate share of your money on alcohol, tobacco, and other fleshly pleasures, your life will be forever changed. But fret not, you will be in the hands of a wise and all knowing government that knows far better than you what your best interests are. So put down that scotch and cigar, pick up a glass of skim milk and water chestnuts, and start doing those jumping jacks!

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