Zombie has a new post up that gets to the heart of the reason why Americans are not terribly fond of the idea of socialized medicine.
I have previously discussed several socialized medicine systems here on the blog, drawing in part on my own experience with them. However, my critiques were primarily utilitarian (“would be great in theory, but in practice unsustainable”), as I’ve lived the greater part of my life under various forms of “free” universal healthcare and took socialized medicine for granted until moving to the USA.
Zombie goes much deeper and addresses the most fundamental reason: Americans do not want to be told how to live their lives, what to eat, whom to sleep with and how,… even if the choices they do make are unhealthy or even self-destructive.
I’m speaking specifically of medical problems caused by:
• Cigarette smoking
• Alcohol abuse
• Reckless behavior
• Criminal activity
• Unprotected promiscuous sex
• Use of illicit drugs
• Cultural traditions
• Bad diets
Now, I really don’t care if you overeat, smoke like a chimney, hump like a bunny or forget to lock the safety mechanism on your pistol as you jam it in your waistband. Fine by me. And as a laissez-faire social-libertarian live-and-let-live kind of person, I would never under normal circumstances condemn anyone for any of the behaviors listed above. That is: Until the bill for your stupidity shows up in my mailbox. Then suddenly, I’m forced to care about what you do, because I’m being forced to pay for the consequences.
What I don’t like about the very concept of universal health care is that it compels me to become my brother’s keeper and insert myself into the moral decisions of his life. I’d rather grant each person maximum freedom. I’d prefer to let people make whatever choices they want, however stupid or dangerous I may deem those choices to be. Just so long as you take responsibility for your actions, and you reap the consequences and pay for them yourself — hey, be as foolish or hedonistic or selfish or thoughtless as you like. Not my business.
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.