Could National Health Care Be Behind Britain's Anti-Drinking Campaign?
My friend Jonah Goldberg thinks it might be and explains why you should care. To wit:
The British government recently unveiled plans for a massive crackdown on "excessive drinking," particularly among the middle class. It will include all of the familiar tactics of public health officials: dire new warnings on wine bottles, public-awareness campaigns, scolding from men and women in lab coats…Britain still subscribes to a system where health care is for the most part socialized. When the bureaucrat-priesthood of the National Health Service decides that a certain behavior is unacceptable, the consequences potentially involve more than scolding. For example, in 2005, Britain's health service started refusing certain surgeries for fat people. An official behind the decision conceded that one of the considerations was cost. Fat people would benefit from the surgery less, and so they deserved it less. As Tony Harrison, a British health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun at the time, "Rationing is a reality when funding is limited."
But it's impossible to distinguish such cost-cutting judgments from moral ones. The reasoning is obvious: Fat people, smokers and — soon — drinkers deserve less health care because they bring their problems on themselves. In short, they deserve it. This is a perfectly logical perspective, and if I were in charge of everybody's health care, I would probably resort to similar logic.
But I'm not in charge of everybody's health care. Nor should anyone else be. In a free-market system, bad behavior will still have high costs personally and financially, but those costs are more likely to borne by you and you alone. The more you socialize the costs of personal liberty, the more license you give others to regulate it.
Universal health care, once again all the rage in the United States, is an invitation for scolds to become nannies. I think many Brits understand this all too well, which is one reason why they want to fight the scolds here and now.