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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

I had written earlier about the Japanese government acting as health police to force its citizens to slim down. Here’s a CNN video on the matter.

One thing struck me after watching the video — not many people seem that unhappy at what I would consider an outrageous interference into one’s private matters. Well, if they have that attitude, I guess they deserve to have a nanny-state government. One thing’s for sure, I am not moving to Japan.

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One of the dangers of publicly funded healthcare is that it increases the likelihood of the government micromanaging your health and other private affairs. Jacob Sullum wrote an excellent article in Reason last year about the totalitarian implications of public health. The Japanese government is the latest to prove him right.

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.  

Those exceeding government limits – 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women – and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.  

Here is the link to the above article.

And while you are at it, do read Sullum’s article from last year. It is full of truths that are obvious but often not recognized by those in power.

Maximizing health is not the same as maximizing happiness. The public health mission to minimize morbidity and mortality leaves no room for the possibility that someone might accept a shorter life span, or an increased risk of disease or injury, in exchange for more pleasure or less discomfort. Motorcyclists, rock climbers, and sky divers make that sort of decision all the time, and not all of them are ignorant of the relevant injury and fatality statistics. With lifestyle choices that pose longer-term risks, such as smoking and overeating, the dangers may be easier to ignore, but it is still possible for someone with a certain set of tastes and preferences to say, “Let me enjoy myself now; I’ll take my chances.” The assumption that such tradeoffs are unacceptable is the unspoken moral premise of public health. When the surgeon general declares that “every American needs to eat healthy food in healthy portions and be physically active every day,” where does that leave a guy who prefers to be fat if it means he can eat what he likes and relax in his spare time instead of looking for ways to burn calories?

It’s true that, as the anti-smoking activist William Cahan pointed out on a CNN talk show several years ago, “People who are making decisions for themselves don’t always come up with the right answer.” They don’t necessarily make tradeoffs between health and other values in an informed or carefully considered manner. Sometimes they regret their decisions. But they know their own tastes and preferences, and they have access to myriad pieces of local information about the relevant costs and benefits that no government regulator can possibly know. They will not always make good decisions, but on balance they will make better decisions, as measured by their own subsequent evaluations, than any third party deciding for them. Leaving aside the question of who is better positioned to decide whether a given pleasure is worth the risk associated with it, there is an inherent value to freedom: When it comes to how people feel about their lives, they may well prefer to make their own bad choices rather than have better ones imposed on them.

Indeed.

(Link via Reason Hit and Run)

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Andrew Sullivan writes,

A meme is developing is that support for Obama is all emotion, fantasy, hysteria, etc. There’s no question that the emotions behind Obama are powerful. And any fool can see why. His oratory does what oratory should. He is the greatest public speaker in American life since Reagan….But the strongest case for Obama is not emotional; it is as coolly rational as he is … On the most critical issues we face – Iraq, the war against Jihadism, healthcare, and the economy – he makes more sense as a president than Clinton. And when you watch the knee-jerk opposition to him, I think it is actually more emotional and less rational than the support for him. Fear is more emotional than hope.

Check out the entire article. It’s worth it, especially the video at the end.

Elsewhere, Sullivan pinpoints the difference between Obama and Clinton in one sentence.

It’s ‘Yes, We Can,’ vs ‘I’ll Take Care Of You.’

And that is also the best synopsis of the libertarian case for Obama.

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It took a long time coming but it is here at last. Hillary Clinton finally unveiled her healthcare plan this week.

The key feature of her plan is what she calls individual mandate. It requires that every American buy health insurance. A similar law already exists in the state of Massachusetts and is supported by the governors of several other states, including California.

However her clever choice of phrase does not obscure the fact that this is essentially a plan for individual coercion. Forcing an individual to pay money for a service which deals with the well-being of his own body -something that is no one’s concern except his- is wrong, in my opinion.

Most Americans agree that the health-care system needs an overhaul. Hillary Clinton, whose political career has been a mix of leftist righteousness and clever opportunism (displayed for instance by her history of voting on Iraq and her defence of it) realises that healthcare is the issue that will decide this election. Unfortunately she fails to realise – or worse, perhaps realises yet chooses to ignore for political expediency – that the American system is broken primarily because government interference and regulations over the last fifty years have driven insurance premiums through the roof. Plans such as Clinton’s or Edward’s are further steps in the wrong direction. They push health-care towards a heavy-handed bureaucratic system with more controls, apart from being an assault on personal liberty.

A much more reasonable and effective first step would be to distribute vouchers to families that they can use only for insurance, while simultaneously eliminating the regulations on private insurers and retaining one government-owned catastrophic health insurance program. The next step would be to formulate policy that would encourage – for the purpose of basic health needs – a paradigm shift away from insurance. On that note, read Milton Friedman’s excellent article on this subject.

Sadly, the most effective solutions are often not the ones with most political pizzazz.

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