I first heard the argument when it came to cigarettes. Back then my parents both said “just wait. They’re coming for fat people next.” And so they have done, and remarkably efficiently, too. Earlier in the week my plea to be left in peace with my soda was met with the standard response such pleas receive these days.
In so far as much as the cost of treating those affected by soda and other negative dietary habits is absorbed by the society as a whole, your right to do as you please in this case directly affects my right to not have to absorb some of your health care cost. So your liberties would tread on my liberties.
It sounds good when you hear it for the first time. Why of course! We are all owned by our brethren in society and therefore must obey all marching orders designed for the greater good. And now that we have Health Insurance to pay for our illnesses–and it doesn’t matter whether said insurance is private or Universal Healthcare–we have everyone who is out three-sixteenths of a penny for our last head cold to answer to.
Does no one see the two flaws in this logic? I hope they start to because I plan and hope to live a few years yet and don’t want to be fed the same palavar for decades.
Flaw Number One: We Are Entropic Creatures
Every man, woman, and child on this planet began dying the moment they first drew breath. Life is but a march toward the grave, and so many things we encounter in that march contribute to speeding us along our way. If we plan to object to smoking and soda drinking and general icky fatness on the grounds that such things cost insurers money then we should look to the top cost first for elimination. Stop having babies, of course, because that whole thing is just frought with expense. There’s the pregnancy and delivery and then there’s the tubes in the ears and the vaccines and the vaccine side effects and the legs broken when your little six year old walking Bill To Society falls off the monkey bars. In fact, every baby represents a lifetime of health care bills. So stop now! After all, you belong to me because you cost me. While you aren’t having babies you need to also not drive a car or take vacations or run marathons. All of those have high associated healthcare expenses.
Flaw Number Two: Godwin and Aktion T4
I truly apologize in advance for bringing the Nazis into this. I know it is a weak way to make an argument. But unlike Soylent Green–which makes the same argument–this really did happen less than 100 years ago. Once society starts determining that the cost of individuals’ treatment is to negative benefit of the group’s pocketbook, it becomes very easy to “mercy kill” the sick, the old, the infants with birth defects. After all, why should I pay for your Downs’ Syndrome child? I mean, really! The nerve of you! The nerve of you to ask ME to put my precious money on the line for your Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother…she should just be done away with too. After all, isn’t a lethal injection a lot cheaper than paying for two decades of a nursing home or a lifetime of physical therapy for that spina bifida baby?
This is where reducing everything to dollars and cents gets us. We are so busy worried about currency we aren’t paying any attention to the cost to our humanity. By turning every “choice” into an accounting question we cheapen ourselves. Yes, I want to be left alone to drink soda in peace. But, selfishly, I also don’t want society deciding when I’m 67 that my various ailments make me a net liability and therefore sacrificial. People are more than the sum total of what they cost one another.