Each presidential election some well-intending politician like Senator Barack Obama reminds us of the injustice of millions of Americans living without health care and of how he plans, if elected, to sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of his first term in office.
The intentions may be good, but why should any government offer free health care to people who do not care for their own health, except perhaps for congenital problems, diseases, and accidents?
It makes as much sense to offer a universal dental care system to people who refuse to brush their teeth or a universal auto insurance system to demolition derby drivers.
Our current educational system is a fitting example of what would become of a universal health care system. Unless a student is actively engaged in his own education by taking rigorous courses and studying, it does not matter what school he attends, whether or not he is hooked-up to a computer or whom he has for teachers. This is why it is important for parents to help their children develop good habits before they leave home to rule themselves.
Whatever happened to President Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you, [but] ask what you can do for your country?"
This point is evident in Michael Moore's recently released movie, "Sicko," in which he documents the failings of the American health care system. Michael Moore is a good one hundred pounds overweight and he thinks every resident of America must have free, universal health care for life. Reality check: Yo, Michael, you are the problem.
A clear-thinking politician ought to propose a pro-rated national medical coverage plan that is free for all citizens who exercise regularly, do not smoke, drink in moderation, and do not let their weight vary more than five pounds a year. Let those for whom obesity is not a congenital defect pay for their own health insurance in full.
The essence of American democracy is rooted in self-governance, in the people's ability to take control of their own lives in a meaningful and moral way.
American politicians are becoming more like jovial matre d's who want to accommodate our every desire than leaders who challenge us to do what is in our own best interest and therefore America's. It seems they are more concerned with speaking in effective sound bites, as well as their appearance, as measured by the cost of some haircuts.
In all of this, I am reminded of Socrates' discussion of politicians in a city, state, or nation of self-indulgent citizens:
And isn't it also amusing that they consider their worst enemy to be the person who tells them the truth, namely, that until they give up drunkenness, overeating, lechery, and idleness, no medicine, cautery, or surgery, no charms, amulets, or anything else of that kind will do them any good? . . . The person who is honored and considered wise in important matters by such badly governed cities is the one who serves them most pleasantly, indulges them, flatters them, anticipates their wishes, and is clever in fulfilling them.
Socrates' point was driven home while I was seated in my doctor's waiting room. An overweight gentleman beside me greeted an equally overweight gentleman who entered the office. They struck up a conversation, and I learned they were both there for their annual check-up and knew the doctor was once again going to prescribe exercise and dieting to lower their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They laughed and their conversation turned to the topic of having lunch after their appointment at some local steak buffet with a name like Steaks R Us. Oh, well.
Imagine the frustration of physicians whose days are filled with seeing patients whose problems result from drunkenness, gluttony, promiscuity, and sloth. I suspect the patient's worst enemy would be the person who tells them the truth.
It is time our politicians acted more like leaders who spoke the truth, rather than panderers who put on a face and act as if they are our friends.
And so it goes. *
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." --Thomas Jefferson