Tag Archives: health

First They Came for the Smokers….

Selling other people’s stuff is a very profitable business. Ask any burglar. It works just as well when the ‘stuff’ is intangible. Ask any government.

It has become common practice to persuade people to vote for restrictions on activities that they do not participate in. Don’t ride motorcycles? Then you probably won’t mind if there’s a law requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Don’t own a gun? You probably won’t mind if there are more legal restrictions placed around gun ownership. Don’t smoke? You probably won’t mind if smokers are taxed more heavily, and limited more in where they can smoke. Don’t drink? You probably don’t mind if legal limits on blood alcohol are lowered to the point where having a bottle of beer in your refrigerator can make it illegal for you to drive. Not overweight? Then you probably won’t mind if overweight people have to pay more for health insurance, are maybe told how much they can eat, how much they have to exercise.

That’s a common refrain these days. This or that lifestyle choice–smokers, the overweight, people engaging in ‘risky’ behavior–are driving up the cost of health care. They are costing us money. (Whenever someone talks about someone’s behavior costing ‘us’ money in healthcare, what they really mean is that they are costing the insurance companies money. Keep that in mind.) They are a problem to be solved.

That sort of thinking is very troublesome. Everyone, you see, uses some sort of freedom that some other people don’t. Thus, everyone can be turned against everyone else, and in the end we all lose.

“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” — Pastor Martin Niemöller

The old Roman saying, divide et impera is usually translated as ‘divide and conquer’ but that’s not quite right. A better translation would be, ‘divide and rule.’ Divide the people against each other, and you can always gain the support of one group in putting down any other. “He who robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.” A cynical old aphorism, but our government today exceeds it. Now they rob Peter to pay Paul one year, and then rob Paul to pay Peter the next, and so gain the support of both.

We have forgotten something, here in America. We cluster in our little tribes–Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Christian, Muslim, white, black, smoker, non-smoker, Mac, Windows–and we forget that ultimately, we are all in this together. If the country, if society as a whole, suffers, we all suffer. Eventually, the government will want to take something from you, and your neighbors will be more than willing to sell it to them. Just as you were willing to sell their stuff to the government.

Maybe it will cost us a little more money, allowing people to drink, smoke, be overweight, eat meat, drive cars, participate in sports. But isn’t freedom worth paying for? If it’s not, then what is?

Perhaps it is time to close ranks, at least on this one principle. Perhaps it is time to say, “No. Our freedoms belong to all of us, and they are not for sale.”