Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two

I’ve often talked about libertarianism and size issues: namely, that libertarians are the best political friend of fat people, and that nationalized healthcare (of which libertarians are the most vehement opposers) will steal away our most precious of civil rights, namely, the right to make choices for our own bodies. How does nationalized healthcare do this? By making others foot our healthcare bills, making those groups of people who are perceived to “raise” costs easy scapegoats for a healthcare model that’s doomed to fail by definition. So when it inevitably fails, it won’t be the model or the voters or the bureacrats who are held accountable, but those scapegoats.

I came across this article from 2006 that cleanly illustrates this effect:

The libertarian assumption is that we should all be free to do what we want, as far as possible, and if some people’s lifestyle choices involve snacking on deep-fried Mars bars and triple-processed cheeseburgers, other people have no business interfering, still less the government.

However, obesity does not concern only the obese. It concerns all of us. Obese parents produce obese children, and obesity places a crippling burden on the National Health Service, quite apart from the many personal miseries involved.

The moral of the story?

Don’t get government involved in healthcare. Don’t place private citizens in the situation where their neighbor can claim to be footing the bill for their perceived choices. It’s NOT a good idea.

UPDATE: Comments are furthermore closed. If you are interested how free markets work, and why nationalized heathcare doesn’t make economic sense, please grab texts in basic Micro and Macro, and especially Price Theory. I also recommend reading up on basic game theory, though that’s a bit more abstract. Additionally, there is a very interesting evidence-based site called The Problems with Socialized Health Care I suggest everyone who wants to comment here at least breezes through.

6 comments on “Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two

  1. vesta44 says:

    We don’t have to have national health care for people to say that, they’re saying it already with those of us who have health insurance, whether that insurance is provided by an employer (and for which we pay some of the premiums) or whether it’s medical assistance provided by the state. Because the high cost of health care isn’t caused by pay-for-performance measures, or unnecessary procedures ordered by doctors to cover their asses to keep from being sued by patients, or doctors who are over-booking patients and making mistakes and getting sued for those mistakes, or by those who keep lowering diagnostic standards and listing more and more diseases as “lifestyle-caused”, nope, all those higher costs are caused by us fat asses who refuse to eat less and exercise more and therefore get “thin and healthy” (even though thin people who eat a shitty diet and don’t exercise and have those same “lifestyle” diseases aren’t blamed for the high costs of health care/insurance). The government already has its foot in the door on health care and it’s too late to slam the door on them now. People think they’re going to get something for nothing by having the government pay for health care, and what they don’t realize is that they are the government, through their elected congresspersons and the taxes they pay. When it comes to government, there is no such thing as a free ride, we all pay for it, one way or another, and I’m afraid fat people are going to be paying the biggest price of all.

  2. Tiana says:

    You know, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this since the first time you mentioned it, but I still don’t get it. Certainly it would be nice if the government kept its nose out of healthcare, but how on earth would that solve the problem? How would that keep the diet industry, the food industry and whoever else is involved in this mess from manipulating doctors, scientists and insurance companies? No matter what happens, they will always find someone to bribe.

  3. bigliberty says:

    Tiana, I’m not saying it would keep the diet/food/pharma/other private industry from doing what it does. That’s not the point. The point is that nationalized healthcare won’t do that, either, and it will turn fat from a sometimes irritatingly extra expense (as it can be now with some ins companies) into a social engineering project.

    If ins is allowed to remain in the free market, then a smart company out there will one day realize that fat people do not cost more, and that there’s a huge market to be cornered in providing affordable insurance to fat people. That’s how the free market works — the profit motive is the great equalizer.

    Part of the reason why some of these pharmas and so forth have so much power over the ins companies and medical research is because they’re successful lobbyists. Ins standards are currently defined by state governments, so there’s a good deal of price theoretical “white noise” mucking up the ins payer’s premiums. That’s of course because certain groups have lobbied effectively that such-and-such needs to be covered (like WLS, which is a boon for certain segments of the pharma and healthcare industry).

    The point I keep trying to make with concrete examples and a few ideas from price theory, is that government involvement has gotten us into this current mess where already groups of people are being single out to recoup costs of being forced to cover a certain number of so-called maladies, depending on the state in which the ins company is operating — and further involvement will only make it *worse*.

    The answer is to go back to a system of choice and private standards, like with most car insurance. The individual has the choice to buy a certain kind of plan, or not at all. Their personal choice to opt out of some coverage will mean that indeed, they are responsible for the pitfalls inherent in that choice, and not other people. It will be them and their families, not the neighborhood, that go bankrupt for a particular choice.

    Really, that’s the kindest system around. Individual choice means that you yourself spare the neighborhood from tragedy, which lowers costs for everyone, which makes a better plan with better coverage more affordable. And so forth.

    I hope that clarifies things a bit.

  4. gabfly says:

    I’m having problems with this kind of argument, in part, BigLiberty, because of things you’ve written about. Your last blog was about private companies — fertility clinics — that are discriminating against fat women. Why, then, is our for-profit private system so good for the fat? Worse yet, we never have any choices because there’s the illusion that you can go into the so-called free market. If healthcare were universalized and we had the Senate healthcare for all, we would have more of a voice in our healthcare. Yes, I understand that that puts us in the realm of politics, and that politics are messy. But, the situation we have now is really terrible for fat people, for the uninsured, and, yes, even for the insured that are constantly managed and thereby prevented from getting basic healthcare. I also feel that a lot of the demonizing of the “unhealthy” is being done by the for-profit corporations, who would rather have us blame our soaring prices on the fat than to look at their fat profits.

    If we’re going to have a government supported private system that props up the for-profit insurance companies, I’m not sure I want that. That would be the worst of both worlds.

  5. bigliberty says:

    ^Baloney. Right now I have the option to go to midwives, or to find fertility services that don’t discriminate against fat women (which there are, and which I’m currently finding several).

    The free market has no power to impose general rules that all other companies must follow. The government does (and has and will, as in the UK. The UK imposes general rules – such that women with BMIs over 30 can’t get IVF – that ALL providers must follow, *or else*). It’s power that’s the issue, gabfly. And I’m not here to argue in length about the pitfalls of nationalized healthcare — that’s been done better elsewhere (search through the Hoover institution for articles by economists on the subject, or read about what’s going on in the UK for instance).

    The point of this blog entry was to illustrate that power. And if you think that you as an individual gets a voice in nationalized healthcare via their vote (or nationalized ANYTHING), you’re dangerously naive. Additionally, if you think a government committee or Ministry of Whatever can make better healthcare decisions than your private doctor (because that’s what happens in nationalized systems, despite the fantasy pro-nationalization advocates promote of individual or expert choice having any place in how things are run), I strongly encourage you read up on your current events (NHS), history (Communist-run anything), and science fiction (Orwell is good – 1984 and Animal Farm).

  6. bigliberty says:

    Furthermore, I want to state generally that the profit motive is a damned lot less destructive than the power motive. Politicians are governed by the power motive. They deal in votes. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if consumers will want the product they force down their throats, as long as they have such-and-such in their pocket during campaign season.

    And naturally, when you’re dealing with majority-rules, 50% of the country is going to get shafted in any given government “decision.”

    Private companies dealing in dollars, however, must answer to the consumer directly. If the consumer doesn’t want what they’re selling, then they have to retool or lower the price. If the consumer wants something new, then they will try to provide that, because the company that can give the consumer what he/she wants will get the most money. And, of course, since they’re not dealing with majority-rules, there are many more options, prices, and flavors of products/services/care out there.

    Lastly, before I suddenly get a barrage of individuals who haven’t taken a sufficient amount of economics courses arguing economics with me, please do your own reading. Pick up a Macro 101 text, or a Price Theory text. *I* did. Learn what the hell you’re talking about before waving your hands, hoping to create magical fantasy Utopias that will as magically become true. Game theorists have long been telling us how certain interactions maximize the good of all, and when it comes down to it, “greedy” systems (where some take more than they give, and others give more than they take) are bound to fail. That is the system under which less than 50% are taxed to pay for the services for everyone else. That’s the system where some people get things for free, without having to give anything.

    The best system, the most stable social/economic system, is the system whereby if you have a dollar, you can get a dollar’s worth of goods. No more, no less. That’s the free market.

    I can speak with authority in this because this is my research area. So sod off with the hand-waving Marxist magic. IT DOESN’T WORK. It never HAS in the history of history, and it never WILL. There’s MATHEMATICS and LOGIC behind social systems. Some systems work fundamentally, some don’t. You can’t argue with that. You just end up sounding like a fool.

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