Check out this article on JFS today: Public health – the collective act of prevention
Here’s a quote (the first part is commentary by Dr. Steven H. Woolf, M.D., MPH, of the departments of Family Medicine, Epidemiology, and Community Health at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, the second is Sandy’s beautifully terse, and quite accurate, summary):
History teaches that citizens and leaders make sweeping changes when they sense a mutual threat. Lifestyles change and schisms give way to accommodation when national security feels threatened (eg, wartime, climate change). Finding the economy and public health in decline may be what rouses the public to get serious about prevention. Self-interest (living longer and healthier) and common interest (economic stability) may inspire the personal sacrifice of getting healthy and the collective sacrifice (by the private sector and the state) of mobilizing the resources to make it happen.
In other words, the duty of citizenry is a collective act of healthism. We already know where this philosophy has led humanity in the past.
As a libertarian FA blog, I thought that it was important for me to emphasize her point, here, and the thrust of the article. Though collectivism often has grand and good intentions (all people prosperous, happy, healthy, etc) it has had historically disastrous consequences (often resulting in a fascist, power-hungry, insider-network state where millions can be eradicated with no media protest – read up on the Stalinist regime).
In fact, the attempt to achieve collectivism has often resulted in the very opposite of that for which it was intended — instead of equality, there is institutional classism based on whatever set of defining, categorical characteristics is expedient at the time (often economic, though as we’ve seen from Sandy’s piece, these could also be healthist); instead of prosperity, there are food shortages for the great mass of people, and housing a mere step up from squalor; instead of happiness, there is rebellion, and anger, and a sense of great betrayal.
Everyone goes into collectivism thinking he is getting a Big Brother to take care of his worries — and he ends up with a Big Brother who cares more about setting and maintaining arbitrary and harmful controls on his person and his ability to speak, move, live, and think freely, than taking care of even his most basic needs.
Some of the greatest philosophers of the modern era have written about the necessity for government, at the same time protecting the economy (the marketplace) and individuals (the marketplace of ideas) from unreasonable encroachment. They defined “unreasonable” as equivalent to whatever encroaches upon a just definition of liberty (that is, liberty with standard rules of interaction, and moderate taxation to provide for moderate, necessary services that a private company would not reasonably undertake, like maintenance of roads).
And, with these definitions, the country prospered at a far faster rate than any other regime in recorded history. Poverty was no longer a life- or generation-sentence. It could be individually eradicated (not always, of course, but in comparison to other regimes of institutionalized poverty based on class, it was, and continues to be, a soaring success). The encouragement of a marketplace of ideas saw technological advancement on a scale historically unheard of, and a discouragement of discrimination based on religious or philosophical dogma (again, there are exceptions, but comparatively another soaring success). The marketplace of ideas also saw eradication of slavery on a massive scale, and later gave birth to the civil rights movement. Considering how long slavery and race/sex discrimination had been the norm — ten-thousand years? — to be addressed and for the most part systematically discouraged or eradicated in two hundred years is a testament to the success of liberty and individualism, rather than control and collectivism.
Do we really want to turn our back on the most successful, egalitarian, prosperous working model of a government in history? Do we really want to give into fear and adopt a Big Brother in the name of healthism, when our health has done nothing but improve over the past 100 years?
Know this: government, unhindered, is a dangerous thing. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Collectivist dreams are just that — dreams. The reality is far more gruesome. There’s one thing we can say quite confidently about government institutions — they’re always lobbying for more power and money. Behind the institutions are non-profits who want more power, and corporations who want to take advantage of a flaw in our system which is pipelining cash into their pockets (note: if the flaw didn’t exist, these corporations would not have this power).
I’m going to post further on healthism, and its parallels to other classist systems. But for now, I’ll leave you with a few thoughts.
The flaw in our system which is allowing corruption, and henceforth the push for a healthist collectivist regime, is the allowance of and non-disclosure of interest. If interested parties were forced to disclose or, even better, not allowed to contribute to writing policy which could potentially serve their interests, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Power cannot be wielded in the absence of trust. Hence the great danger in propaganda: if the people trust you, they will believe anything that comes out of your mouth. Then you can make them afraid. And when people are afraid, they’re at your mercy. They will jump off a cliff if you tell them it will help beat back that thing you fear, especially if it helps save your children. Every political babe in arms knows this. Don’t you see why it’s absolutely necessary government be constrained and not allowed to grow too large, or obtain enough power?
There’s a fine balance to maintain between the people and the size of their government, and it requires eternal vigilance. That is the greatest, and most unique observation by Publius. It is the reason for the success of political democracy, and we’ll damn ourselves and our children to fascism, control, poverty, murder, and fear by rejecting it.