I’ve said this several times before, but it bears repeating: when other people can make a reasonable argument that they are paying for the choices you make about your body (even if those choices are only perceived choices), then they can claim the right to have a say in your choices.
Take the furor over the Stupak amendment to the recently passed House healthcare bill. I was walking through Harvard Square last afternoon on my way to my weekly voice lesson, and there were congregated at the mouth of the stairs to the station a group of protesters, who desired to get the Stupak language stricken from the (potentially) reconciled House and Senate bill.
I didn’t stop; I’m rather used to Harvard Square protesters. Let’s just say they’re not a particularly rare occurrence.
But I couldn’t help shaking my head and thinking, as I descended the stairs into the station, how those pro-choice, body-freedom people on the left are finally discovering that the greatest threat to their personal choices and freedoms isn’t some corporation or private entity, but widespread government control.
I’ve long heard fauxgressives waxing philosophical about how greater government control at the federal level would loose certain states from fascist, body-controlling regimes. They claim that those who don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions in some way are the extreme fringe social conservatives, who I agree are fairly nuts. But this goes way deeper than that. The abortion debate has never really been about fending off nutty social conservatives, in my opinion. And it’s not just about abortion as a choice; it’s a symbol for the much greater question of government control vs. body autonomy.
That question is at the center of the debate on government’s role in healthcare.
The Stupak amendment clearly illustrates that with few votes to pass it, late at night on a Saturday when most people aren’t watching C-SPAN (though I was, dammit), a large swath of your freedom can be subverted. And though the Stupak amendment didn’t go as far as banning abortion outright, it did quite plainly single out a behavior that was unpopular and discriminate against it.
In the free market, if there’s demand, there’s availability. In a controlled market, there’s a hell of a lot more white noise between demand and supply. It’s not enough that you and your neighborhood wants it, your representative has to want it, too. And then he’s got to be powerful enough that he can band up with other reps, who need to be part of a majority in the country. And that’s assuming that your reps are listening to you at all, and you’re not a lonely city in a gerrymandered district that is locked into political representation with which you fundamentally disagree.
In a free market, if you buy a boat and never use it, and you have a mariner neighbor who would love a boat but can’t afford one for whatever reason, that neighbor can’t blame you for his lack of a boat. However, in a system controlled by the government, there’s a single pie. If you take a bigger piece, you’re necessarily taking from somebody. So your mariner neighbor could claim that you did, in fact, diminish his ability to buy a boat. He might then be in favor of a law which only allows boats to be sold to mariners, since that would be his only recourse. In a free market, next season you might find out that they replaced expensive parts with less expensive parts, and turned out a model of boat that was more affordable, because they realized there was an untapped market for cheaper boats. Everyone wins.
In a free market, if I ruin my health due to various behaviors, my neighbor has no stake in it. If I get an abortion, it doesn’t affect my neighbor at all. If I eat ten steak-and-donut sandwiches a day and suck down more opium than oxygen, it doesn’t make a single bit of financial difference to my neighbor.*
The point of all of this is, those of you who really believe that giving government greater control over healthcare is going to give you more freedom over your body and health choices can take the Stupak amendment as a warning shot. And if you think they’re not going to come for the fatties next or soon, you’re dreaming. As soon as costs rise (and the projected healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP will rise if the current bills on the table pass), and people are getting taxed at higher rates, fined for not having acceptable coverage, or even thrown in prison with up to a fine of $250,000 for not having acceptable coverage, they’re going to clamor that costs can be forced down by regulating the behavior of those with perceived preventable conditions.
Healthcare reform isn’t a fantasy; there are real reforms that can be made which would make buying plans cheaper, give greater access, and yes, even help cover those who have slipped through the cracks, without shackling citizens to some bureaucracy with the threat of imprisonment if they don’t comply (though there’s certainly a larger Constitutional question in all that). But what’s being put forward by Reid and Pelosi isn’t healthcare reform. It’s a giant grab for power and a threat to your freedom to choose.
My Body, Their Choice – Reason.com
House Bill Increases Healthcare Costs – Politico.com
Listing the New Taxes in the Senate Healthcare Bill – Wall Street Journal
Mandatory Insurance is Unconstitutional – Wall Street Journal
Stupak Amendment Threatens the Rights of Every American – The Huffington Post
Rationing’s First Step – Investor’s Business Daily
* Those who assume the insurance system we have now is a free market system are way off the mark, so arguments about the current state of insurance risk-pooling are irrelevant. Additionally, the argument that the uninsured rack up hospital costs for the rest of us ignores that emergency rooms are required to treat those who can’t pay, which is government, not market, intervention.
** Please do not poison the well.