Points for Peggy

Peggy Noonan seems to be doing everything right this week.

First, she is now on Twitter – success.

Second, she has an interesting column out about how she thinks that Obama’s healthcare efforts may be completely thwarted. And in her reasons for why she is worried about the government in our healthcare lives, she brought up a salient point that I really hadn’t considered before:

We are living in a time in which educated people who are at the top of American life feel they have the right to make very public criticisms of . . . let’s call it the private, pleasurable but health-related choices of others. They shame smokers and the overweight. Drinking will be next. Mr. Obama’s own choice for surgeon general has come under criticism as too heavy.

Only a generation ago such criticisms would have been considered rude and unacceptable. But they are part of the ugly, chafing price of having the government in something: Suddenly it can make big and very personal demands on you. Those who live in a way that isn’t sufficiently healthy “cost us money” and “drive up premiums.” Mr. Obama himself said something like it in his press conference, when he spoke of a person who might not buy health insurance. If he gets hit by a bus, “the rest of us have to pay for it.”

This is the principle downside to the “we’re all in this together” mentality. No one always exhibits healthy behavior, and we still argue about whether some behavior is healthy or unhealthy. But when we make the health of any one individual the pecuniary responsibility of all, then we have implicitly sanctioned a very non-fraternal relationship between the most unhealthy among us and the rest of society.


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