Wednesday, September 23, 2009

National Health Insurance and the Health Police

William Saletan gets it.
If you're trying to sink health care reform, this is a good way to do it: Show everyone how subsidized health insurance will entitle other people to regulate your eating habits.
You have to wear a motorcycle helmet because the State will take care of your hospital costs if you don't. You mustn't smoke because smoking related illnesses are paid for by the State. You mustn't eat bacon because heart diseases are paid for by the State.
My real interest is in the authors' third basis for regulation: market failure that
results from time-inconsistent preferences (i.e., decisions that provide short-term gratification but long-term harm). This problem is exacerbated in the case of children and adolescents, who place a higher value on present satisfaction while more heavily discounting future consequences.
Wow. This isn't socialism. It's sheer paternalism. It applies even if you cover every cent of your medical expenses. You buy and drink soda because you want the "short-term gratification." Later, you regret this purchase because of its "long-term harm." This, according to the authors, is a market failure that justifies taxation to alter your behavior, totally apart from its impact on public health costs.
When the State takes care of you, you are the property of the State.

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