Who Needs Freedom When You Have Obamacare?

“When does regulating a person’s habits in the name of good health become our moral and social duty?” Dr. David Agus asks in a New York Times op ed. The answer, says Agus, is “when all of us are stuck paying for one another’s medical bills (which is what we do now, by way of Medicare, Medicaid and other taxpayer-financed health care programs).”

In other words, one of the costs of Obamacare and other government health assistance is that we lose our freedom to eat what we want and behave how we like. Agus uses this reasoning to argue that, just as we require people to use seat belts when they drive on public roads, we should require that most men over 45 and women over 55 take a daily dose of aspirin.

The gentle readers of the New York Times respond mainly by arguing that not everyone would benefit from taking aspirin or that some other treatment should be mandated as well. Out of 107 comments, fewer than a half dozen mention that Agus’ reasoning takes away people’s freedom.

Of course, this reasoning has been used before to impose bans and/or higher taxes on sugary or fatty foods and drinks. Agus’ twist is to mandate certain behaviors rather than ban them, but either way is a loss of freedom.

Agus does say that such steps should be taken only “when the scientific data clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate that one behavior or another can substantially reduce–or, conversely, raise–a person’s risk of disease.” But all too often political decisions are more about popularity contests than scientific data (e.g., streetcars). Once you decide to allow the political system to make decisions for people, you end up accepting all of its failings.

The Antiplanner enjoys freedom to choose, but unlike some libertarians I don’t believe freedom is an end in itself. Instead, it is a means to other ends, including a growing economy, healthy society, and happier individuals. Those who want to reduce our freedom of choice in our own best interest fail to see the huge costs from that loss of freedom.

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16 thoughts on “Who Needs Freedom When You Have Obamacare?

  1. JimKarlock

    Agus is just another fascist with a degree.

    He presumes to know people want a long life instead of indulging in unhealthy things.

    Worse yet he presumes that science gets it right “when the scientific data clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate that one behavior or another can substantially reduce–or, conversely, raise–a person’s risk of disease.”

    This fool forgets that “the scientific data clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrate[ed]” for eugenics. It took over 50 years to discover that one was garbage.
    Then there is the electromagnetic fields fraud that took a decade or so to debunk.
    Then there is the two decade old global warming fraud that is just now starting to unravel.

    Thanks
    JK

  2. C. P. Zilliacus

    Randal, I must respectfully disagree with you in this instance. I am not especially a fan of so-called Obamacare, but the United States as a nation needed to implement a better way of paying for health care for all of its citizens, not just those fortunate enough to be able to qualify for Medicare.

    Health care consumes an enormous share of the U.S. GDP without delivering substantially better outcomes. That, in and of itself, should be a red flag to a thoughtful observer.

    I have experience with so-called “socialized” medical care in a few EU nations. Even though health care is pretty well universal, it is not always provided by the government (though some of it is). The biggest difference (as compared to the U.S.) is that people in those nations don’t die because they are unfortunate enough to be without medical insurance.

    I am not aware of any explicit social engineering that has gone on there of the sort you mention above. There is plenty of “unhealthy” food (including fast food) and drink (including hard liquor, fortified wine and sweet sodas) available.

    Yes, in urban areas, transit’s modal share is often higher (as compared to the U.S.), but there are many suburbs that “sprawl,” too – and the higher transit use may be due in large part to super-high taxes on motor fuels (again, as compared to the U.S.).

    Wendell Cox has documented much of that sprawl in his excellent Urban Tours by Rental Car series.

  3. Sandy Teal

    There are no healthy or unhealthy foods (except for true poisons). What is “healthy” or “unhealthy” is entirely a matter of specific situations or politics. And all the “science” of past centuries proved mathematically beyond any doubt that the world would all be starving in the 21st century, not suffering from obesity.

  4. bennett

    The bill gets paid either way. The tax payer and insurance holders foot the bill Obamacare or not. Not that I’m in favor of such mandates but Mr. Agus is mistaken if he thinks now that Obamacare is instated somehow the burden is greater. I might argue it’s less.

  5. Dan

    I cannot reply to CPZ, as I am getting an error dialog box

    ERROR:
    Can’t find the ‘commentformid’ div.

    the United States as a nation needed to implement a better way of paying for health care for all of its citizens, not just those fortunate enough to be able to qualify for Medicare.

    That’s right: we pay much more per capita than any other “advanced” country for less care. The countries with universal health care are eating our lunch in competitiveness and efficiency. (except for those held hostage by the IMF and World Bank/ECB).

    DS

  6. JimKarlock

    gecko55—–“Then there is the two decade old global warming fraud that is just now starting to unravel.”
    Really? How so?
    JK————-Pay attention to the details, not the alarmist headlines. Here is a brief outline:

    1. They NEVER produced evidence that CO2 is causing dangerous warming. We both know that unusual weather is not proof that man is the cause; nature puts out 96% of the CO2 compared to man’s 4%; that Al Gore’s ice cores show CO2 increases FOLLOW temperature by about 800 years; that Al Gore’s temperature chart showing a sudden recent rise is a fraud and that the climate was warmer in the Medieval, Roman, Egyptian and Minoan times without man’s CO2.

    2, No one has explained what caused those earlier warm periods AND why that cause is not the cause of the current warming.

    3. The IPCC is controlled by a small clique of “scientists” who admitted a number of inappropriate actions in their emails. Here are a few samples:

    Phil Jones – head of the Climate Research Unit:
    The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.

    I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

    Kevin Trenberth …we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. (…) and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. (…) The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. (. . .) Our observing system is inadequate.

    Michael E. Mann – Creator of the famous “hockey stick” shaped temperature curve:
    As we all know, this isn’t about truth at all, its about plausibly deniable accusations.

    Tom Wigley – Contributing Author to Ch 10 of of the 4th UN IPCC report:
    there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC.

    Keith Briffa – Lead author for Ch 6 of the 4th UN IPCC report:
    I tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC , which were not always the same.
    from: http://www.sustainableoregon.com/selectedemails.html

    4. 1/3 of the alleged peer reviewed citations in te IPCC report are actually greenie propaganda from the likes of the WWF & Greenpeace.

    5. The IPCC predictions are consistently higher than what turned out to be.

    6. The earth’s temperature has been flat for the last 10 years and there has been no statistical significant warming for the last 16 years.

    7. Most of what you read in the popular press is written by scientific illiterates. You can see some of this in the CRU emails where well known writers ask the experts and get deceived.

    8. Millions of dollars are being pocleted by promoters of the scam. See http://www.sustainableoregon.com/bigmoneyscaring.html

    Thanks
    JK

  7. Frank

    The countries with universal health care are eating our lunch in competitiveness and efficiency.

    I’ve already shown this to be false. costs are hard to control in some of these countries. I have provided oecd numbers that show double digit growth in costs in some of these countries. no reason to make s*** up.

    Reality is more complicated than your sound bites.

  8. Frank

    To reiterate:

    While the USA spends the most as a percent of GDP and per-capita, several other countries (all with universal health care) have higher annual growth of total expenditures on health care, in real terms, according to the OECD. (The USA grew 4.3%, 0.4% below the OECD average.) UK spending grew 1.1% more on average from 2000-2009 (and to cherry pick, it grew 7% in 08-09, more than 2.5x than the USA). Spain spending grew at 5.6%, Netherlands at 6%, Greece 6.1%, Ireland 8.4%, and the Slovak Republic led the charge at 10.9%. Of course, several European countries (with universal health) grew at a lower rate than the USA. Germany has one of the lowest growth rates, but its system is highly corporatist.

    At any rate, it is easy to make sweeping generalizations about “Europe” but it is much more difficult to describe, analyze, and understand the rather significant differences and outcomes of each country’s health care systems.

    Costs are hard to control in totally socialized health care systems, but our corporatist health care system has major problems. Again, I think choice is preferable to mandate. I think a truly free market in health care and health care insurance would drive down prices and increase quality.

  9. Sandy Teal

    The biggest failure of Obamacare is that they abandoned the cost-cutting goal. The federal government budget busts every way you look at it with the extremely high health care costs — medicare, medicaid, veterans care, and now Obamacare.

    I guess liberals were happy to saddle the nation with a ridiculous national health care system that would suck up all federal money for decades, but they could then negotiate the wasted money for what they wanted.

    Taxes on medical implants start in two weeks. We are paying for health care by taxing health care. Thinks about that.

  10. Dan

    I’ve already shown this to be false. costs are hard to control in some of these countries. I have provided oecd numbers that show double digit growth in costs in some of these countries. no reason to make s*** up.

    They may be “hard to control” in other countries, but they are as hard or harder to control in the USA, and actual, measurable, per capita total annual costs are still lower in every single solitary advanced country on this planet than in America [as well as total costs as a % of GDP, but let’s keep it simple]. And good old Patriot- and Flag-loving Americans don’t have better outcomes in whatever measure . We have fewer doctors and hospital beds too.

    So growth is one thing, total costs and outcomes are another.

    DS

  11. Andy Stahl

    Individual freedom doesn’t stand much of a chance when pitted against chemical addiction; addiction generally wins. In 1970, 37% of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes, which cost then $0.56/pack (including tax). In 2009, the cost had sky-rocketed to $7.52/pack (incl tax) and the rate of adult use had dropped to 20%.

    Correlation only? I think not. Financial incentives and penalties do affect people’s behavior. Of course, that’s the AP’s point here.

    My corollary is that the biochemistry of addiction trumps the psychology of individual free choice. Most people are biochemically pre-disposed to addictions. And most teens are cognitively pre-disposed to risky behavior. The combination can be lethal.

    Addictive chemicals are not limited to nicotine and narcotics. Nor are the costs of addiction borne only by the addicted. The children of the addicted pay; the victims of the addicts’ crimes pay.

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