Of Breasts and Money

Or, you know, health care.

This was a comment I made on BL’s last post and she requested that I make it a stand-alone for further discussion. I was so flattered I did it immediately.

Ok, I haven’t read all of this one yet (BL, you have a terrific talent for composing amazingly rich, thorough, well-referenced posts that can take days to really absorb! Wow!) but I’m loving it. Richie, I haven’t read your part of the actual post, but the comment you left above is amazing – it’s kind of like a mirror of BL’s talent; meaning, to be able to put SO MUCH into so few words! In other words, at the risk of sounding gushy, I feel like I’m in wonderful company here.

Deana struck a big nerve with me – that part when people from places with socialized medicine tell us how great it is because it’s free, and that we should have it for free too, always cracks me up. I knew a Swedish woman (oh, she was obnoxious) who used to love to tout what a wonderful economy they had there, and how morally superior they were as a people because all their medical care was “free” and in fact their society was so free and un-greedy that if a stranger wanted to sleep for the night in someone else’s backyard, it was just customary that you let them do so. Even if they didn’t ask first. (Which sounds like trespassing and a dangerous practice, but hey, they’re all just good and non-dangerous and so forth.) Anyway, point was that I kept explaining to her that the word “FREE” did not mean what she thinks it means. I kept asking her what she thought free meant, and her concept of it was so shallow that she really thought it meant that one didn’t have to pay for it.

Look, when I was 15 years old, that’s what I thought it meant too. But when you’re a 40-something year old woman who claims to be a PhD and you don’t understand what “free” means even when someone explains it to you, there’s a problem.

Now, I am coming to a point here, please bear with me. I’m going to do it in a roundabout way. If it’s too long and boring, I won’t be insulted if you skip it; fair warning that I’m long-winded tonight.

Ok, let me start with Patch Adams. Has anyone seen that movie? Because Patch Adams had this dream of a new style of medicine (and I found it pretty gross that even though his idea got his dear friend murdered he still thought it was good, but that’s an aside). Clearly he was an intelligent man and a talented doctor; no argument there. But when he wanted to practice his style of medicine, he and his friends had to raid the supplies of a nearby “stodgy” hospital – the kind that was hampered by the necessity of, you know, PAYING for the stuff they used to help the sick people. In other words, they STOLE the stuff and then called it “free.” And this was supposed to be a good thing. See, if you do it for a good reason, it doesn’t matter what the unintended consequences are (such as, say, the hospital losing expensive supplies that they had bought and thus needing to cover their losses, probably by being horribly mean and charging even more for their services). It was all very light-hearted, and one of those fun “bonding” experiences going into the hospital and stealing stuff for their own patients. It made them the good guys, because they were doing it to help people for free. But it wasn’t free. There are people working for low wages in the places that MAKE those cotton balls and bottle that rubbing alcohol and ship it and drive the trucks that deliver it, and they have to be paid. There are people who harvest the cotton and people who grow it and people who chop down the trees to make the tongue depressors. There are all these millions of people involved in doing the WORK to get those supplies to that hospital.

There are doctors who spend many years in school studying very difficult subjects and sacrificing years of their lives who either have to have rich families, or take out massive student loans which later have to be repaid, then further years working as residents with scant sleep and a very demanding physical and mental task. There are nurses who spend years studying as well, then spend their own years dealing with rowdy drunks who end up in the ER after fights and sometimes get combative, who barely have time to eat and spend countless hours on their feet and putting people on bedpans. There are orderlies who have to do a buttload of heavy work.

Do these people not deserve the money they earn? All of them, from the cotton pickers to the surgeons? What right does anyone have to steal the fruits of their labor or to demand that they shouldn’t receive their salaries? Where does anyone get the idea that just because they themselves might not have to pay for any of it that that means it is FREE? None of it is free.

To socialize it only means to shift the cost somewhere else and add an entirely new level of bureaucracy in order to administrate it, which means that it costs that much more to pay the people who do THAT part of it. Which is, on its surface, a net loss. If you can still find an elderly doctor, the kind who used to hang out a shingle (I have one myself, and it’s a rare treasure) they will tell you that before costs started going through the roof with the first bureaucracy (insurance, and later the worse HMOs) it was little to no trouble to treat most patients at a reasonable rate and have more than enough to treat poorer patients at a reduced rate or for free. But with each new bureaucracy and each resulting increase in COSTS, it became more and more difficult to keep treating people for free or on the cheap, and thus more people ended up *needing* more help, and more bureaucracies and more cost increases, in a vicious cycle.

But what galls me the most about all this occurring and spiraling ever downward is that all these horrible things – that dirty dirty word – that whole **profit** thing, was what went into research and development! The more money the medical profession made and was allowed to actually keep and use, the more nifty new things they could INVENT and learn about. Profit, in the medical profession, translated into BETTER medical care, better machines, new and better treatments, new and better medicines, more help for people to live healthier and more enjoyable lives. But all our entitled people can see is that some of those guys drive a fucking Porsche and dammit, I don’t have one, so why should he? Well, why SHOULDN’T he? Haven’t they helped make things better for us all? It’s the same with everyone being mad at CEOs for getting big bonuses (I’m not talking about AIG here; this has been an issue way before bailouts, which are a different animal.) Everyone wants to bite the hand that feeds them because that hand has a pretty ring on it. Prettier than mine, thus bad.

So the long and short of it is, you socialize the health care further and further, eventually completely, and medical progress comes to a grinding HALT. Doesn’t this bother anyone? Do we think there is no further progress coming? Because human ingenuity, combined with the means, derived from profits, can make amazing progress and can KEEP making progress. What the hell good is free health care for everyone if they’re never going to find a cure or invent a decent machine to even diagnose what’s ailing you? It sounds good now because we HAVE already made so much progress and we think it’s good enough where it is – but it can be better, and why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t it be ALLOWED to become even better as we go? I know they spend a lot of it on bullshit like Viagra and baldness cures, but that’s because there’s a demand for these things, and it isn’t stopping anyone from seeking better treatments for cancer. If they make more money on Viagra and baldness, they can also spend more on lupus and fibromyalgia, can’t they? So why not? Supply and demand WORKS. And pray tell, if doctors are not going to be earning more money than anyone else, or are going to be taxed so heavily that they are just not allowed to make a profit, who is going to spend all that time and money to BECOME one? It’s like that ridiculous comment Obama made that capping salaries in an industry will draw MORE and BETTER people INTO that industry…WTF? Does that even make sense to anyone? So not only does progress stop, we give no one any incentive to dedicate their lives, and so much time and work, into even providing the service. Fewer doctors, not more.

Also, and I think I’m winding down here, the fact is that because supply and demand works so well, and because profits in fact do many good things for many people, for the common good, the market is self-adjusting, IF it’s left alone. So let me veer off into economics, though keep in mind that this applies to medicine just as it does to everything else. Because yes, it IS a business – the supplies, the service – that’s what it is. (People who think it isn’t, don’t bother telling me because I can not comprehend your thinking there; I think I’ve already illustrated why it is in fact a business, an industry.)

Let me compare this with breastfeeding for a moment because it’s a perfect analogy. When a baby is new it will nurse quite frequently, if he’s allowed to do so at will. The breasts, feeling the demand of the suckling by the infant, begin to produce a steady milk supply. If the baby goes through a growth spurt and requires more for a week or two, the breasts quickly adjust to the growing demand and produce even more. When the baby slows down and stops making the same demand on the breasts, in a day or two (though it’s a bit painful for that day or two) produce that much less. It adjusts quite naturally; and any nursing mom knows that if she wants to have some to save or to donate to a milk bank, she has to place additional demand on that breast by pumping when the baby isn’t eating. When the baby weans gradually, the milk dries up and you don’t produce it anymore. Another resource – solid food and other drinks – has taken its place, it isn’t being demanded anymore, so no more is made.

Basically, the body reacts like this: if a breast feels “full” for too long, it sends a signal to the factory that it’s making too much and tells it “too much – make less!” If a lactating breast is suckled and is consistently empty, it sends a message to the factory, “not enough – make more!” Aside: this is why I get so angry when people get bad nursing advice from ignorant doctors, though this is less common now. Basically, breast milk spends 1 1/2 hours in a new baby’s stomach to be processed – so at first you feel like you’re doing it constantly. But if the baby is allowed to continue to demand it, and everything is working properly, the breast will start to produce a much fuller supply; it all ends up being self-regulating. Yet I have witnessed famous pediatricians tell a new mother, whose baby was nursing every two hours (which is pretty good – it can be a lot more often, believe me) that she should cut it DOWN to once every three hours, because she should let the breast become “full” first so that the baby would have more there to drink. Um – if you have read this far, you know what that means, right? It means that her breasts, feeling “full”, would send a signal to her factory saying “too much – make less!” If she took his advice, I can guarantee you that woman was formula-feeding within weeks. If that. This is the whole problem with the practice of “scheduling” – it’s all right to schedule a baby who is drinking formula, to a degree. But if you distort this bodily process with a false schedule, your factory has no way of knowing how much to make and when – this is one reason why about 77% of mothers nurse for the first week or two and then stop – you can’t schedule, or regulate a self-regulating system. It is a *distortion* of the natural process of supply and demand. Now apply this reality to the market.

If there are 10 million prices and the people involved in each industry allow the demand to set the price, then adjust their production of each thing based on the demand for it (which is what happens when they are left alone to do it) then production of some things will go down and others will go up. How in bloody hell can a bureaucracy, from above, attempt to regulate such a system beyond the very obvious things like protecting people’s property rights? (That is, the right to make, own, earn and produce, along with the enforcement of contracts and the protection of them from bodily encroachment.) Every single distortion of this type screws with the natural, self-regulating process of the market. A bureaucracy can not POSSIBLY hope to try to direct the methods in which people ought to employ their capital or their production – it can only cause shortages in one place and overages in another place. We used to use whale oil in this country. When it became too expensive, people couldn’t afford it and it became obsolete, so we started with kerosene. This all happened without the government *telling* people to stop using it or making it – the prices did that. The supply and demand did that. This is why oil isn’t going to “run out” anytime soon – when it gets too expensive, as it did a year + ago, people stopped using so much of it. No one had to force them to do that – they started walking more when they didn’t need to drive, etc. Prices did what? They fell.

Anyway, whether it’s medicine or groceries or any product or service in the world, it’s not supply and demand that has caused problems – it’s distortions in supply and demand by *regulation*. I, for one, do not want to put my health care in the hands of a faceless bureaucracy that, for all its facelessness, can still put me in jail and use deadly force against me. It’s bad enough that so much of the money I work for is taken by this same faceless bureaucracy at the point of a gun – and yes, it is at the point of a gun – they put you in jail for not paying that money, don’t they? That’s force. It should only be used extremely sparingly and for the purposes of protecting people from harm and fraud. This is what the founding fathers fought and died for, and while I know we’re not going to get back there in my lifetime, I’ll be damned if I will allow it to KEEP going further and further in that direction without a fight. This giant isn’t sleeping.

Ok, if you aren’t asleep by now and have actually read this monstrous comment, and if it made any sense at all, please please do have a look at this essay, which explains it all in a charming and entertaining way. It’s Leonard Reed’s classic, I, Pencil. Please skip the foreward by Milton Friedman until after reading the actual essay, ok? It kind of ruins it if you haven’t read it before.

P.S. Did you know that if the AIG bonuses were split evenly among the population of this country we would each get 43 cents? Hehe. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Universal Healthcare and Fat

On the subject of whether universal healthcare is better for fat people than the system we currently have, here are a couple of comments about fat and universal healthcare I thought especially illuminating. One is from deannacorbeil, who left it on my About page because I closed the comments for the other post ;) The others are from richie79 and osxgirl, commenting on a recent blog post on Big Fat Blog.

deannacorbeil writes:

I thought I’d write you here, as you’ve closed comments on your post on libertarianism and obesity and health care.  As a nurse who’s been working in this American system of ours for almost a quarter century (damn!  how did I get this old?), this is obviously a topic of interest to me.  I continue to be perplexed at those who think that socialized medicine might somehow  a) be free (that one always cracks me up) b) improve the quality of care and c) be fairer to those of us who, ahem, don’t “fit” into the prevailing weight standards of today.

I thought you might want to post some of the following links sometime about the problems with socialized medicine.  Most of them are from the CATO institute.  (I’m certain some will discard any of the info on that fact alone, since it is a libertarian think tank.)

1.  Five Myths of Socialized Medicine

and the more detailed policy analysis–Health Care in a Free Society: Rebutting the Myths of National Health Insurance

2.  The Grass Is Not Always Greener: A Look at National Health Care Systems Around the World (This is a pretty recent, quite long and detailed policy analysis—definitely worth reading.)

3.  The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care

I heard one of the congressman here in Michigan (Rep. Dingell) being interviewed about this topic last week.  He flat out denied that there was any sort of problem with waiting periods for procedures/tests in Canada, and then stated that things were so expensive here because we just had too many CAT Scan and MRI machines!!!  Damn those machines, anyway!  And people think they want these idiots in charge of our health system.

Sorry if this was too long….

It wasn’t too long at all, and I think it provides an insider perspective that can be sorely lacking in some comments which blindly promote universal healthcare under the assumption that all the various abuses of the current system would magically disappear or at the very least, dissipate.

richie79, a UK citizen and close observer of the NHS policies (Britain’s universal healthcare system), begs to differ with this fantasy:

richie79 writes:

The healthcare system in the US is totally broken and our only hope is to adopt a universal care model under which all US citizens — regardless of health, age, employment, etc. — will have access to care

Oh don’t you believe it. Whilst I fundamentally believe in universal state-provided healthcare free at the point of use, the fact remains that in the UK we do have such a system (falling apart though it may be due to a population which demands European public services for US levels of taxation) and far from easing the problems of discrimination and resentment against fat people it actually amplifies them – and throws up a whole host of new ones.

The recent shift toward public health promotion and preventative medicine means that there is far more propaganda in the guise of ‘advice’ being peddled through the media, most of it from ‘respectable’ Government sources. And because the NHS at central level is a single monolitic entity with a Cabinet Minister in charge, it’s also much easier for the frankly huge number of single-issue pressure groups, misguided charities and self-styled ‘obesity experts’ to force their frequently extreme views on tackling the ‘obesity timebomb’ onto the Government.

But most importantly, because everyone pays into the system and given the way in which it’s been starved of funding over the years, there’s an increasing sense of public and media bitterness toward anyone who are accused of taking more than their fair share – smokers, drinkers and fat people.

The fact that supposedly respectable news outlets and professional organisations such as the BBC and the British Medical Journal are now blaming fat people for the resourcing crisis within the NHS is keeping the issue pinned to the top of the health agenda.

The NHS is being used as a stick with which to beat anyone who is considered not to be paying adequate attention to their health back into line, and there have even been proposals advanced to deny fat people treatment for conditions related and unrelated to their size, on the grounds that these are ‘self-inflicted’.

With socialised healthcare you add the concepts of fairness and social responsibility to the anti-fat brigade’s arsenal of weapons, and that can’t possibly be a good thing.

Right on, richie!

osxgirl also has a great comment on that same post:

…socialized medicine WON’T fix this problem. In fact, I think in many ways, it will make it worse.

Why do I say this? Well, under socialized medicine, the IDEAL is that everyone gets to go to the doctor, no matter what. And that’s true, sort of. The problem is, in order to control costs, a rationing of supply inevitably occurs. And how do “they” decide how to ration the supply?

I contend that a lot of the rationing will be done based on how morally “deserving” you are of treatment. Accident victims get first priority. People who have diseases get higher priority. Low-ranking will be people with lung and liver cancer (alcoholics and smokers), people with drug-addict-related conditions, and fat people in general. Because, after all, we all did that to ourselves, according to “them”.

It’s what’s happening with insurance now. The reason insurance companies do it is to reduce costs. Government has NEVER been able to do anything cheaper than the private sector. So socialized medicine will be more costly than it is under the current scheme of private insurance managed by the government. (Medicare and Medicaid only come in cheaper because government mandates the prices as cheaper than the market, which is why so many doctors and hospitals will refuse Medicare/Medicaid patients when possible. When there is no market to subsidize the government anymore, the government will have to find ways to reduce costs.)

Given the current popular thinking, what do you think the government means of reducing health care costs will be? I think it will be exactly what we are seeing – set up a system where a certain amount of “blame” for the state of a person’s health is assigned to each person, and that amount of blame will determine the level of care the person receives. It won’t be stated that way, but it’s what it will boil down to.

Even then, assume the system was instituted in an ideal manner. The inherent prejudices of the doctors would not go away. I don’t think fat people would get any better care than they currently get. In fact, I think it would be worse. At least now, if I go to a doctor and that doctor won’t treat me because all he can say is “You’re fat,” I can realize he’s an idiot, and go find another doctor. Under socialized medicine, I would no longer have that choice. How am I going to shop around for help when my entry into the system insists there is no problem that weight loss wouldn’t cure, and refuses to give me a referral to a new doctor? And there’s a waiting list to even get in to see a doctor, and I’m not allowed to just pick a doctor..perhaps I’m even assigned one.

Believe me, I’m no fan of our current health care system, or of the health insurance system as it stands. But socialized health care scares me far more. ESPECIALLY as a fat person!

I also wanted to link to my Universal Healthcare category, that has several other posts where I describe in detail my position on universal healthcare and fat (so I don’t have to always repeat myself in the comments!).

I want to keep these comments open, and in order to do that and fit everything into my busy schedule I’m not sure if I’ll be able to reply to comments on this as readily as the last one. Just a head’s up!

Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two

I’ve often talked about libertarianism and size issues: namely, that libertarians are the best political friend of fat people, and that nationalized healthcare (of which libertarians are the most vehement opposers) will steal away our most precious of civil rights, namely, the right to make choices for our own bodies. How does nationalized healthcare do this? By making others foot our healthcare bills, making those groups of people who are perceived to “raise” costs easy scapegoats for a healthcare model that’s doomed to fail by definition. So when it inevitably fails, it won’t be the model or the voters or the bureacrats who are held accountable, but those scapegoats.

I came across this article from 2006 that cleanly illustrates this effect:

The libertarian assumption is that we should all be free to do what we want, as far as possible, and if some people’s lifestyle choices involve snacking on deep-fried Mars bars and triple-processed cheeseburgers, other people have no business interfering, still less the government.

However, obesity does not concern only the obese. It concerns all of us. Obese parents produce obese children, and obesity places a crippling burden on the National Health Service, quite apart from the many personal miseries involved.

The moral of the story?

Don’t get government involved in healthcare. Don’t place private citizens in the situation where their neighbor can claim to be footing the bill for their perceived choices. It’s NOT a good idea.

UPDATE: Comments are furthermore closed. If you are interested how free markets work, and why nationalized heathcare doesn’t make economic sense, please grab texts in basic Micro and Macro, and especially Price Theory. I also recommend reading up on basic game theory, though that’s a bit more abstract. Additionally, there is a very interesting evidence-based site called The Problems with Socialized Health Care I suggest everyone who wants to comment here at least breezes through.

To Go With The NuVal System

Building on BL’s NuVal post below, meet the Carbon Diet Calculator! (If you think carbon dioxide is a pollutant, I guess.) Now you can add yet another level of calculation to your food – in addition to calories, transfats, NuVal numbers, fats, sugars – and you can hopefully construct a supercomputer to work out the logistics of just what you’re still allowed to eat!

Click and drag your food choices into the frying pan and watch the earth turn red and die!

Son of Porkulus

The news contained in this post is so horrifying that I’m going to put up some extremely cute pictures along with the text to try to offset the mounting terror.

cutie2

The bizarrely massive porkulus bill that just passed the senate, has had some interesting little hidden things in it. And by “interesting” I mean “horrific” and by “little” I mean “enormous”.

The bill’s health rules will affect “every individual in the United States” (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.” According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and “learn to operate less like solo practitioners.”

Look back at the doggie!

cutie1

So never mind that I pay to go to a PRIVATE doctor, whom I expect to keep my fucking business to HIMSELF – now he will have to report my every visit, my every prescription, to the feds? THE FEDS? (I dare say some doctors are going to go rogue on this one – this is an outrage beyond most outrages I’ve ever read of – they NEED to step up and say “NO, we will NOT do this.” A database? A fucking FEDERAL database? You weren’t worried about stupid little things like your privacy, were you? Your autonomy? Your liberty? You can kiss those things goodbye, pal. They were never yours.

dumbooctopus-s448x450-2298-580

Now my doctor weighed me once, the first time I visited him; and has never mentioned my weight to me, or asked me to get on the scale. He is more concerned about things like my asthma and my stress levels. But God forbid he asks me now – the feds will most certainly tell him that I must lose weight and if I don’t I’ll be non-compliant…that won’t help them save money, right? Never mind that IT’S MY FUCKING MONEY I’m spending to get PRIVATE treatment from my PRIVATE PERSONAL doctor.

dorayaki

This is so far beyond a travesty that I’m getting speechless. I could go on about it for weeks, months, and never hit the end, and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Well, frankly I’ve been hearing a lot of people screaming about socialist health care and how we need it. All it costs you is your privacy and your liberty and your autonomy. And MINE TOO. Thanks a fucking lot. All I ever asked is to be left OUT of these plans and to be allowed to live my life – because, you know, the constitution says I have that right. Form all the little socialist societies you want and all the voluntary plans you want, but leave me out of it. Now these people have thrown out *everyone’s* autonomy for them. Nice job. Those of you who wanted it – hope you enjoy it as much as I will. TANSTAAFL, but no one knows this anymore. Pfft. Here’s a pretty good rant on it; most of which I would have said myself. Enjoy. :)

UPDATE: Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties. “Meaningful user” isn’t defined in the bill. That will be left to the HHS secretary, who will be empowered to impose “more stringent measures of meaningful use over time” (511, 518, 540-541)
What penalties will deter your doctor from going beyond the electronically delivered protocols when your condition is atypical or you need an experimental treatment? The vagueness is intentional. In his book, Daschle proposed an appointed body with vast powers to make the “tough” decisions elected politicians won’t make.

The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

Even before socialized medicine inevitably degenerates into mandatory euthanasia à la Logan’s Run, the elderly will be hit hard.

Daschle says health-care reform “will not be pain free.” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them.

It just gets better and better.

BigLiberty on the Michael Graham Show!

This morning I was on the Michael Graham show as a call-in, talking about Deval Patrick’s new plan to funnel $300,000 to employers to encourage employees to lose weight.

Here’s the basic transcript of my argument:

Regardless of how you believe being fat affects health and healthcare costs, the problem is not with fat people, or people with cancer, or women, or whatever group arguably costs “more,” but with a system whose costs are so bloated by regulation and state requirements that people are desperate and infuriated that they’ve starting pointing fingers at whoever is the scapegoat du jour?

Plus, who’s going to pay for the weight loss plans? Those aren’t free. And they don’t work well – that’s why the weight loss industry rakes in so much cash, about 60 billion a year. There has been NO weight loss plan shown to work for the majority of participants five years out.

I will get you the full transcript, and link to hear it for yourself, if I’m lucky enough for it to be put up as a podcast later in the week.

This show is listened to by thousands of people. I was glad to get my view heard, and Michael was extremely receptive to it.

We’re making a difference. Just keep on keeping on!

When Your Body is No Longer Yours

Many civil rights activists agree: your body, you business. If you’re not hurting anyone else, what’s the business of others if they perceive that you’re hurting yourself? In the past, these activist issues have extended to protect freedom of choice to have an abortion, freedom to smoke cigarettes and ingest other substances that might not be beneficial to your mind and body, and other bodily freedoms, as long as they did not, as a consequence, inflict harm on others.

However, the temptation to control the body of a citizen – thereby robbing the citizen of its most essential right, and reducing the citizen to an effective slave to the whims of the State Health Ministry – is very powerful. A society is a complex entity, and a politician who desires a predictable, machine-like State which operates in a certain way towards a particular purpose, will do what he can to control the variables of the system.

Even just one uncontrolled variable can throw the whole complex societal system out of whack, we learn from chaos theory (it’s called a metastable state, for anyone who wants to know), history, and excellent science fiction like Orwell’s 1984.

This push for absolute control has spelled the downfall of other perfectly good societies. Big Brother can’t be everywhere at once, and if there’s one citizen who isn’t completely controlled, then there exists the possibility for chaos to erupt and for the whole system to collapse.

That’s why the road towards tighter and more extensive controls starts with the loss of basic civil rights: once one has been corrupted, the others soon follow. The most basic civil right is the right to body autonomy; it is reasonable to fear that once the right to body autonomy has been corrupted, other civil rights will follow.

Body autonomy has been eroded over the past twenty or so years. The test case – of whether or not Americans could be so bamboozled – was anti-smoking legislation. Get into private businesses to control the bodily decisions of private citizens, and anything is possible.

The logical question in the minds of some politicians that followed from the outstanding success of anti-smoking legislation was: if we can change the behavior of an individual by claiming that behavior is harming others, how do we go about convincing the populace that more general behaviors are potentially harmful to others?

The answer: by first making bodily behaviors your neighbor’s financial responsibility instead of just your own, and then by redefining “harm” to include any arbitrarily “unreasonable” financial burden.

It’s taken a while, but the path has been laid and we’re now firmly traveling down it. Here are the steps towards the ultimate establishment of bodily ‘serfdom’:

  1. Cultivate a “preventative” healthcare system. Get in bed with anyone who’s hawking a bottle of Fountain of Youth Elixir [TM].
  2. Cultivate a fearful attitude in the population. Overestimate deaths, diseases, and average costs from those stereotypical ills a “preventative” healthcare system claims to eradicate. Frame our existence as one in “crisis.” Suggest such ills are contagious, and call their set an “epidemic.” Frame the situation as one in which public health is at risk.
  3. Promote a government-controlled healthcare system by painting private care blackly and public care as cheaper, more efficient, and better quality. Use classist arguments to suggest that only the rich can afford decent healthcare, that their healthcare is excessive, and they should be paying for a more moderate policy plus a few policies for others.
  4. Once government-controlled healthcare is established in some form (all it needs is a toehold, as in Massachusetts), burrow ever-deeper into the hide of Americans, tick-style. Argue that since healthcare is no longer private, the costs of healthcare are therefore shared by everyone.
  5. Use this argument to suggest that those who do not endeavor to follow “preventative” health measures are deviant, and are financially “harming” their fellow citizens via their “irresponsbility.”
  6. Draft legislation which scapegoats certain easily-identifiable groups of deviants which  fines them, enslaves their bodies to meet arbitrary wellness “requirements,” forces their children into camps or otherwise divests the deviants of parental rights, and in general slowly divests the deviants of all their basic civil rights if they don’t “comply.”
  7. If this works, then make up new maladies, and find new ways to finger other groups of people who didn’t before fall into a deviant class. Slowly divest all citizens of their civil rights when they fail to “comply” to be responsible and not cause “undue harm” to their citizens financially or otherwise.
  8. The step after this one frightens me, honestly. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Obama’s focus on “health”

Here’s a quote from a recent story about Obama’s fitness regime, in the Washington Post:

For the small group of reporters tasked with following Obama’s every move, his fitness has become a running joke repeated in the stories they file. They sit at McDonald’s while he exercises in Hawaii. They eat calorie-rich scones while he sweats at Regents Park. One reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, filing his report about one of the president-elect’s gym trips last month, noted: “While Mr. Obama worked at maintaining his lithe look, your pear-shaped pooler spent quality time at a local coffee shop.”

Cool. Glad that’s something apparently enjoyable and important for him.

I just hope that he doesn’t extend his interest in maintaining his exercise and calorie restriction to the rest of us. You know, by subsidizing behavior or food choices, which of course places an automatic hidden tax on the people/industries that don’t participate in those behaviors or buy/sell/grow those foods. Or just outright tax whatever he decides are “bad” foods. Or force everyone (or even just public school students) to work out 90 minutes a day, like him.

Although, he does mention establishing a civilian Health Corps (which could do no harm as simple aides to healthcare workers, or could do a good deal of harm as Food, BMI, or Waist Circumference monitors).

And there are, of course, these official gems, from the barackobama.com official Healthcare pdf:

Underinvestment in prevention and public health.  Too many Americans go without high-value preventive services, such as cancer screening and immunizations to protect against flu or pneumonia.  The nation faces  epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite  all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.8 Our health care  system has become a disease care system, and the time for change is well overdue. [emphasis mine]

So we need to have the government bureaucrat dictate to health care providers which kind of care they ‘should’ be providing, and part of that ‘should’ is preventative care, which obviously includes weight loss programs since obesity is an “epidemic?”

What happens when a provider believes a program will do more harm than good, and don’t follow through? How many more resources are going to be poured down the throats of the already-bloated, useless, stinking corpse of the diet industry? Not only that but shared, federal resources? Am I going to be paying for someone else’s weight loss surgery, or 1200 cal/day semi-liquid no-carb ephedrine diet? And, most importantly, is there someone out there that thinks this is actually going to make people permanently thin?

The Obama-Biden plan  will improve efficiency and lower costs in the health care system by: (1) adopting state-of-the-art health information technology systems; (2) ensuring that patients receive and providers deliver the best possible care,  including prevention and chronic disease management services; [emphasis mine]

How will they “ensure,” exactly? Tax? Subsidize? Fine? Take into custody? Institutionalize? Run out of business? Who — healthcare providers? Patients? Children? Doctors? Nurses?

The next quote speaks to my fears with this administration. I’ll bold the really problematic bit, and then leave you with this obvious : “We can? Really?”

This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease.  An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely.

Why Universal Health-care Should Be Opposed by Fat Activists

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since a my short post on why universal healthcare is not automatically fat-friendly.

I’ve often been confused by what I see as hypocrisy in those who are proponents of both sovereignty of body (i.e. – our bodies, our choices) and universal healthcare, which places the care of, and ultimately the control of, our bodies  into the hands of the state.

Many of the proponents argue that they’d rather have the state, an objective third-party with no profit motive, have control over their healthcare than the profit-motivated private sector.

However, I must take issue with that sentiment. The state is not an objective third party with no profit motive.

First off, the state’s decisions are not objective – they are made by regulators, who are often appointed by politicians, or hired by a committee headed by politicians. The main goal of all politicians, regardless of what they might say to get elected, is power. This is a good and bad thing, of course. We want the good politicians with our interests at heart to have more power than the bad politicians who oppose our interests.

Politicians are not specialized or disinterested third parties. They are not hired based on merit, with respect to the issues they espouse: they are elected by a body of non-specialists. And, as we know, even specialists can be biased and motivated to skew truth to attain personal or institutional goals, so even electing specialists wouldn’t guarantee us diddly squat.

As such, the individuals appointed to regulate healthcare and hence our bodies will be appointed ultimately by politicians. More likely politicians will “contract out” appointments to whatever healthcare organization lobbies the hardest, or has the most friends amongst the Washington elite.

When it comes down to it, the people who have the power to control your body, and by extension your behavior, will be those who crave the greatest power they can get, and will appeal to the electoral body and the misconceptions and fears of that electoral body for healthcare decisions about your body.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not very keen on the electoral body telling me what I can/cannot eat, how much and in what way I should exercise, what medications I should take, and how I should govern the health and safety of my children.

The electoral majority currently believes that I am fat because I eat too much and exercise too little. They believe that diabetes and even certain cancers can be prevented or cured by weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass or a lap-band implant.

They believe there are “good” and “bad” foods imbued with the magical power of health or illness. They believe that processed foods make you fat, and organic, locally-grown foods would keep you generally thinner.

They believe that shunning, chastising, or mocking fat people because of their weight is for our own good. They believe that hanging around fatter people can make you fat, too.

The electoral majority believes that fat adults are stupid, lazy, and lack the power of will. They believe that naturally thinner people are lucky, and that unnaturally thinner people are heroic. “Have you lost weight?” is considered one of the highest forms of praise.

The electoral majority believes that fat children are being mistreated by their stupid, lazy, ignorant parents, especially if those parents are themselves fat (and many parents of fat parents are fat, though of course not all). The electoral majority believes there is a childhood obesity “epidemic,” and that children will begin to have the heart attacks and strokes traditionally enjoyed by 50-somethings with a family history of heart disease.

The electoral majority believes that if you feed children the “right” foods, these days a low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb diet usually only prescribed to people with heart-disease — it will make the children not only permanently thin, but it will prevent heart-disease, strokes, diabetes, and certain cancers, without reference to variable family histories.

The electoral majority believes that the greatest risk factors for heart disease, strokes, certain cancers, and diabetes is fat, and that fatness is the greatest predictor of future or current ill-health. It very clearly isn’t, and even the biggest crackpot medical doctor will admit, when pressed, that fatness is a lesser risk factor than several other factors, with family history at the top of that list.

The electoral majority fears and loathes fat so much, that they refuse to use their common sense, even in the face of overwhelming counterexamples to their misconceptions, like given in the above paragraph.

The electoral majority doesn’t know what certain BMIs look like, or even what “obese” looks like. Their mental images are usually supplied by nightly news scare-footage of individuals who nearly always have the highest BMIs, who are in fact a small percentage of those who are actually technically “obese.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not want decisions made about my body, my behavior, and the bodies and behavior of my family being made by these people.

The idea that there will be some objective institution — some university or government institution perhaps that magically doesn’t have conflict-of-interest funding and their own political interests at heart — which will make objective, rigorously scientific decisions about care guidelines is a myth. I challenge you to give me an example, from any of the world’s universal healthcare governments, of a guideline-issuing body that is scientifically objective and not controlled/funded/influenced by other interests with their own agendas (whether profit or power).

Some people say that healthcare is or should be a right. Well, you can’t successfully institute a right that trounces other rights. The “right” to healthcare is the right of the government to healthcontrol.

That trounces on my personal liberty, the most important part of which is the right of body privacy. You cannot enter, not even with a warrant. The body is off-limits.

Universal healthcare is healthcontrol. It is not, especially in this current climate, a friend to fat people. It will only serve the interests of the electoral majority, who at this time fear and loathe fat, blame fat people for everything from rising fuel costs, to rising healthcare costs, to global warming.

Do you want these people to have control over your body and your health decisions? Do you want these people to have control over what premiums you pay, and what care you are allowed to receive? Do you want these people to have control over the body-monitoring of children in schools and doctor’s offices? Do you, do you really?

I am specifically not talking about relative costs in this article. There are many more eloquent than I who have made the argument that free-market healthcare is vastly more affordable, efficient, and equitable than universal healthcare. And if you think what America currently enjoys is free-market healthcare, you are sadly mistaken. My personal premium in Massachusetts is four times the amount it is in some other states, though I’m receiving the same care. Healthcare premiums are directly proportional to the amount of regulations on healthcare from state to state. (see WSJ.com — it’s in the archives for this week).

For those who believe that universal healthcare will ensure everyone is safe and healthy while under our current system some people are left out in the cold, let me ask you this: why would the complete regulation of healthcare make it more affordable person-to-person, while the evidence shows that regulation only makes premiums more expensive?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to pare down regulations on healthcare so that people in states like mine who can’t afford a $300/mo individual premium, but who can afford a $100/mo premium, would gain the ability to purchase healthcare? How many people would are currently uninsured, would then choose to be on the rolls?

Additionally, without having to pay abnormally high premiums on every individual insured under universal healthcare, the government would have more money in its coffers to offer an affordable plan to the impoverished citizens of our country. Our taxes would remain low, and fewer and fewer people would remain uninsured. We’d never get 100% of citizens insured, which is as it should be — individuals should have the option to opt out of insurance for whatever reason they choose, even if they can afford it.

But even disregarding the economic argument above — even assuming that somehow universal healthcare is the boon many make it out to be — we again face the problems of the electoral majority and healthcontrol.

Taxes will necessarily be raised in order to pay for universal healthcare. All the people who currently do not have policies will need to be subsidized. People who currently own more expensive policies and use more medical resources than others will need to be subsidized by those who use fewer resources. Institutions will have to be created to regulate healthcare, state hospitals will be built, employees and maintenance and so forth will be hired.

Given also that greater regulation means more paperwork which means hiring more people and building buildings to house those people and so forth, individual premiums will certainly be more expensive, on average, than they are now, under universal healthcare.

In short, there is no way that the current average individual premium could possibly go down under universal healthcare. It will only go up.

How is this efficient? Same quality of care for more money? Who’s paying? The taxpayers. Who will get angry when their taxes go up, and look for someone to blame, some group of people who are “more expensive” members of the healthcare community, those who have, unlike older people (who are always going to be more expensive), brought their ill health “upon themselves”?

This argument is already being rehearsed.

Nearly everywhere you hear — even in America — people claiming that fat people are making the country’s healthcare premiums go way up. People are angry that they are being made to pay for weight loss surgery (I agree with them. I do not want to pay for someone else’s weight loss surgery). They blame heart disease, certain cancers, strokes, and diabetes largely on fat, so when they hear about how expensive it is to treat these conditions, who do you think they’re going to blame?

Taxpayers—the electoral majority—who hold all the misconceptions I listed above (obviously there are some exceptions, like those in the FA community), are going to believe that fat people are costing them money, through their irresponsible, ignorant, lazy behavior. Do you see where this is going? Do we see how it has gone in some other countries, even states in our own union, who want to make fat people pay more for healthcare, or be denied health services with no option to turn anywhere else, just because they are fat?

We are very lucky to currently be able to state, “My fat is none of your business,” when encountering fat hatred, or “My fat has nothing to do with you. I’m not hurting anyone.”

Under universal healthcare, we will no longer have that freedom.

Under universal healthcare, they will believe that our fat is indeed their business, because it is costing them money. They will believe it has everything to do with them, and that it does indeed hurt them and their desired lifestyle. They will believe that they couldn’t afford to send their kids to private school because of fat people. They will believe that the government couldn’t afford to send the proper equipment to the troops because of fat people. And so on, and so forth.

Do you understand? Do you get what I’m trying so desperately to convey?

The only way we can fight our fight and win is to retain our sovereignty over our own body. Once our body becomes common property, the misconceptions about fat will turn fat people into easy scapegoats, and will institutionalize fat hatred. We will no longer be able to say, “Hands off!” We shall be immensely less free, and will become institutionalized second-class citizens. And brother, whatever you say about our practical second-class citizenship currently, it is peanuts compared to what we’d suffer as institutionalized second-class citizens.

Universal healthcare should be opposed by fat activists.

Fat Americans, universal healthcare is not your friend. Regardless of how you believe the current heavily regulated market economy healthcare is broken, at the end of the day, we still have sovereignty over our own bodies. We can opt out of discriminating plans, we can choose to pay more, some plans still do not discriminate against fat, and, above all, nobody else can honestly claim the right to dictate our health or our choices to us.

Human rights cannot contradict each other. Beware of anything people claim to be a right which does.

By adopting universal healthcare so we can redistribute income in the direction of the poor, we will put the currently uninsured 15% on the rolls, but we will lose something much, much more important: The fundamental right to govern our own bodies.