Hare Krishna–Style Government
The People's Republic of Massachusetts is blazing a trail toward affordable health care for every man, woman, and child, according to Gov. Michael Dukakis, by enacting the Health Security Act of 1988. As he signed this bill requiring employers to provide health insurance for employees, we could virtually hear Massachusetts businesses packing up.
The most serious problem with all of the proposed schemes, including Dukakis's, for mandatory health insurance, however, is not the immediate financial cost. Debate this year in California over a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists presages the way government involvement in health will encourage unrestrained government control over our lives.
Proponents of helmet laws have had a difficult time justifying their cause. An un-helmeted motorcyclist is, after all, only a risk to himself. The chief consequence to a car owner who collides with a motorcyclist is that he must stop at the car wash on the way home to clean the biker guts from his chrome. The likely result for the motorcyclist is that the next wheelie he performs will be in biker heaven. Helmets have not been required in California, despite repeated attempts over the past 20 years, primarily out of respect for the individual's right to pursue happiness—even if some folks' version involves multiple head contusions—as long as no one else gets hurt.
But supporters of the proposed helmet law say that someone else does get hurt: the state. A motorcyclist who does not have enough health insurance will be given medical care at the expense of the state. So motorcyclists should be forced to wear helmets to reduce the potential cost to the state.
This circular logic is a perfect Orwellian caricature of Big Government doubletalk. Here the politicians must have learned something from the Hare Krishnas.
Sometimes when you walk through the airport an orange-robed, bald-headed Krishna will sidle up to you and shove into your hand a "free" book. Before you have time to open it, baldy will ask for a "donation." The implicit logic is that he gave you a book, so you should give him something in return. The Hare Krishnas actually raise money this way.
Some people reason, however, that they never asked for the damn book in the first place and they don't want to pay for it now. When this happens, baldy usually snatches back his book and goes on to the next person.
Do-gooder politicians are going to pull the same ruse with mandatory health insurance. They will justify government regulation of every aspect of an individual's private life on the grounds that the government is, after all, providing health care and thus has an interest in seeing that citizens act at all times with a government-sanctioned degree of prudence.
Cigarette smoking will probably be the first to go. U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop no doubt has a fat file on his desk full of data linking smoking and all kinds of diseases. Won't the government have a right to tell you not to smoke if it's paying for your health care?
Maybe you're not a smoker and don't care. Unless you drink alcohol, because that might be next. Or fatty food.
Even if you agree with Koop's decisions about what you should or shouldn't eat, imposing your, or his, opinions on others will imprison people who enjoy taking risks. This is unfair. And besides, it is people who enjoy taking risks who founded America, civilized it, and have defended its shores ever since. Let's not decide now to change our motto from E Pluribus Unum to In Loco Parentis.
With national health care the government is going to outdo the Krishnas in one significant way: you'll have to take the insurance whether you want it or not. When smoking or drinking or whatever becomes illegal and you're arrested, it will do you no good to walk into court and say, "Excuse me, your honor, but I should not be punished for violating this law because I never asked for the health coverage in the first place."
It will be as if a Krishna could walk up to you in the airport with a gun, force you to take his book, and then force you to pay for it too. This is a scary thought: Michael Dukakis acting like a Hare Krishna with a gun.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Hare Krishna–Style Government".