Nanny State

Don't Like Government Health Nannies? Blame Government Health Care.


New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent soda ban clearly stems from a longstanding nannying impulse. But as The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein argues, it's also a natural extension of the increased role of government in funding health insurance and care: 

…Bloomberg highlighted a comment from a supporter of the ban, who wrote, "Anyone who pays taxes and thus bears the health care costs of obesity should support this."

In a free society, individuals are able to take risks and make decisions detrimental to their own well-being—be it smoking, drinking, excessive eating or anything else—because they'll bear the ultimate costs of their decisions. But when government assumes a greater role in the health care system, suddenly there's a societal cost to individual risks. This provides an opening for those who believe in a paternalistic role for government to make their regulations seem pragmatic. Bloomberg used the "health care costs to taxpayers" argument during his previous drives to ban smoking in bars and restaurants and to outlaw the use of trans fats.

In 2010, government at all levels was responsible for 49 percent of health care spending in the United States. Once Obamacare is fully implemented, overall government spending on health care will soar, giving elected officials even greater justification to limit individuals' choices about what they eat or drink.

Already, Michelle Obama has made the war on obesity her major cause as first lady. And the health care law includes numerous food regulations. Buried on Page 1,209, for instance, Obamacare details that "the Secretary [of health and human services] shall establish by regulation standards for determining and disclosing the nutrient content for standard menu items that come in different flavors, varieties, or combinations, but which are listed as a single menu item, such as soft drinks, ice cream, pizza, doughnuts, or children's combination meals. … "

More detailed information on the contents of your kid's Happy Meal may seem harmless now, but if Obamacare goes into effect and the government becomes desperate for ways to control health care costs, it's inevitable that lawmakers will go much further. Perhaps they will mandate exercise, or require Americans to maintain a certain waist size. Sound unrealistic? In 2008, Japan, which has a government-run health care system, passed a law requiring waist sizes no greater than 33 1/2 inches for men and 35 1/2 inches for women.

The bigger the stake that government has in paying for health care, the bigger the stake it has in controlling individual behaviors and decisions that affect personal health. You can't separate public health financing from public health nannying. Public officials won't mind their own business about what you eat, drink, and otherwise put into your body as long as it's their business to pay to keep those bodies healthy. 

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Ronald Bailey Reviews Jim Manzi's Uncontrolled

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The increased ability to tell people what they aren’t allowed to do is a feature, not a bug, of socialized medicine.

    1. I’ve been saying this since the Clintons first tried to commandeer the health care system. I’d go so far as to say that the goal isn’t control of the industry, per se, but the resultant control of the citizenry that it implies.

      Remember that part in “The Devil’s Advocate” where Keanu Reeves asks Al Pacino why Satan chose the law? “Because it plugs us into everything!” was the reply. Close, but no cigar. Health care plugs you into everything because you don’t even have to ever need health care to be subject to its prior restraint provisions.

    2. I’ve been making this point to people who have a history of being stripped of their rights in the name of health-care costs.

    3. If Suderman would connect just a few more datapoints, we’d realize that it’s Drug War all the way down.

  2. …Bloomberg highlighted a comment from a supporter of the ban, who wrote, “Anyone who pays taxes and thus bears the health care costs of obesity should support this.”

    You know, some of us actually said this was the downside of socializing medical care.

    We are all the chattel property of the state now.

    1. When you sell your soul, don’t be surprised if the Devil claims the right to monitor your maintenance practices.

      1. I didn’t sell my soul, it was stolen by a simple majority of officials elected by a minority of the population.

    2. You know, some of us actually said this was the downside of socializing medical care.

      And people told us we were being paranoid.

    3. The obvious response to this is:

      “I never wanted you to pay for my healthcare, and I fought tooth-and-nail to not pay for yours, because this is what we said the outcome would be.”

  3. sometimes you get the govt you deserve. Supporters of socialized anything would do well to remember this.

    Interestingly, car insurance – which has managed to avoid being a govt racket – has tied behavior/habits to rates for years. Bad drivers pay more. What a concept. Some health providers charge smokers higher premiums; I would suggest they do that with the heavy, too.

    1. I don’t even think it would cost that much more. People look at the costs of obesity, smoking, etc. over a lifetime. So while their costs are higher, they’re not significantly more on an annual basis.

      See:…..9611001366 [basically, obesity is associated with $656 higher annual medical care costs]

      1. Goddamn it, we need to raise taxes on jogging shoes, bike paths and tofu NOW!

    2. sometimes you get the govt you deserve.

      I wouldn’t mind that, but unfortunately, I seem to be getting the government that other people deserve.

      1. have one internet, sir.

  4. This has been the case for a long time. I remember 20 years ago when I was a little kid asking my mom how the government in a free society could force people to wear seat belts and her answer involved socialized health costs. You are of course correct that it is getting / going to get much worse, however.

    Hopefully Obamacare will be struck down and it will at least slow some of the insanity.

  5. Until recently,only libertarians (and some conservatives) ever talked about “free riding.” The whole “user fees” meme of libertarians evolves from paying for what you use and not paying for what others use. I can recall conservatives being pissed at Quakers in the 60’s because the Qs wanted to get out of war taxes and conservatives called them free riders.
    Now that so-called progressives have taken up the chant – at least for health care matters – does anyone have any clever way to turn it around on them, other than by telling them the solution is the same as when you are caught on the train without a ticket – you are put off at the next stop?

    1. The ‘free rider’ problem only arises when you board the train voluntarily, not when you are in a Stolypin car.

      1. The problem’s gonna be when the trunk opens and it’s a clown car. They’ll just keep coming and coming.

        1. “Stolypin car” = zek slang for the rail cars that the KGB used to transport prisoners.

    2. You wouldn’t call someone who is forced onto your bus at gunpoint a “free rider” just because they haven’t paid the fare, would you?

      1. What about the driver?

  6. I keep trying to tell my “progressive” friends that someday something they care about will be banned or interfered with. They refuse to believe it.

    1. Skinny jeans pose a health risk.

      The skinny jeans ban is coming. That might get their attention.

      1. Tell them there is going to be a Birkenstock ban.

    2. It’s quite easy to see what that will be- abortion and birth control. Obama is busy mandating it, but the next time conservatives get control of Congress and the White House, they’ll try to ban the government from paying for it. In the meantime, the government mandate will mean that you won’t be able to get it elsewhere at any reasonable cost, so once the government pay for it, it will effectively be banned.

  7. Just so y’all know, I plan to keep smoking, drinking, and jumping out of second story windows so, if you want to blame someone for your soaring health care costs, I’m to blame.

    I’d try to be overweight as well but my metabolism doesn’t permit it. Would you be okay if I just work to spike my blood pressure and HDLs?

    1. Just so y’all know, I plan to keep smoking, drinking, and jumping out of second story windows so, if you want to blame someone for your soaring health care costs, I’m to blame.

      Nope, it’s that guy over there with a gun pointed my direction, telling me to make out a check to Pi Guy’s doctor. That’s who to blame.

      1. I think I’m gonna start stocking up on Twinkies. I figure the black market prices will be enough to finally turn in my rented monocle for one I can call my own.

    2. I’d try to be overweight as well but my metabolism doesn’t permit it.

      Sure it will. Just cut the animal fat and protein, then eat lots of sugar, soy, white flour and corn. Oh, and don’t forget all that “vegetable” oil (since when are rape, soy and corn vegetables?) they process with hexane.

      1. As soon as I posted I had a feeling you were going to set me right on that.

        Okay, then – I’ll be overweight too. Hit ’em on all fronts!

  8. Physical inactivity costs $6.8B a year to taxpayers

    Coming soon… mandatory exercise.

    If you read that article the answer (especially in Canada) is never to rethink socialized health care, but always “how do we coerce people to do what we want?”.


    1. You! In front of Telescreen B17XQ93! Morning calesthenics!!

  9. Yeap. In fact, did you know that Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents’ plan once they reach 19. Companies cannot do that any more. Search onilne for “Penny Health” and you can insure your kids if you are in the same boat.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.