Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Michael Moore says he made the film, "Sicko," to "ignite a fire for free, universal healthcare." How absurd is it for someone seeking proper healthcare to take an odyssey to Communist Cuba? That Moore's camera-rolling entourage would receive the same healthcare as a Cuban citizen stretches even a child's imagination. His film should be renamed "Another Celebrity Falls for Dictator's Dog-and-Pony Show."

People like Moore believe capitalism is the disease and government takeover the cure for our healthcare ills. They think people have a "right" to free healthcare simply because they need it.

If so, why stop at medicine? Couldn't we claim the same "right" to other necessities? Take food, for instance. What if the government seized control of the food industry and fed us for free with a new entitlement, "Foodcare"?

Initially Foodcare will empty the horn of plenty into your lap. With your appetite and wallet parting company, the lobster you ate only on your birthday will become regular fare, as will your favorite Belgian chocolates and filet mignon.

Because the same idea occurs to 300 million others, costs skyrocket, and a Foodcare crisis develops. Big Brother can no longer foot the bill for your busy mouth, so he must limit your mastication. This requires new agencies, bureaucrats, and a 100,000-page rulebook.

You visit your favorite restaurant to find it changed. Gone are the tablecloths, flowers, and cheerful hostess to greet you, enhancements you had gladly paid for in the price of your meal. The Department of Restaurants eliminated them as frivolous indulgences of the people’s resources.

The menu is reduced to a few modest offerings. Missing are the savory specials of the talented chef, whose last creation took forty pounds—not of ingredients but of paperwork—to gain approval from the New Recipe Administration.

You want steak, but getting it requires that the chef call a central office to obtain pre-authorization. With the clock ticking and a long line waiting to slide into your barely warm seat, you order hamburger instead. You notice your neighbor eating steak—and sitting at the best table. You remember when he was laid off and you bought him dinner. Back then, he thanked you for your charity and quickly got another job. But now that he has a “right” to food, he's stopped working to eat courtesy of your tax dollars.

You barely recognize the frazzled chef buried in paperwork. The once happy figure doting over your every need now slaves for a new master, one that denies his fee for serving Cognac, second-guesses his decision to make cheesecake, requires a Certificate of Need to buy an oven. You know that under Foodcare he's merely biding time till retirement. When he goes, you doubt he’ll be replaced because enrollment in chef’s schools has dropped as the number of bureaucrats hounding them has risen.

As time passes, everyone forgets how it started, but the crisis worsens. Michael Moore makes a pilgrimage to North Korea in search of adequate food.

You realize that the amount you pay into Foodcare exceeds what you had paid when you bought your own food and didn't obtain it for “free.” Then you didn't pay for bureaucrats and inspectors to tell you what to eat, or for those milking the system like your neighbor. Besides emptying your wallet, Foodcare has drained all the pleasure you once derived from eating.

Politicians blame their scapegoat, the capitalists—grocers, chefs, food manufacturers—and pass laws to prevent any from owning a Mercedes while someone goes to bed hungry in America. They tell us profit is evil and free food for all is a moral ideal.

You wonder: Is there something wrong with this picture? The ideal isn't the private system, with happy chefs and grocers earning a good living in return for their talent and entrepreneurial skill, and satisfied customers enjoying a Shangri La of affordable food. The ideal isn't a spectacular abundance, with everyone's standard of eating—including the poor—raised dramatically, and this achieved without government force—without fleecing taxpayers and robbing consumers and suppliers of their freedom to make their own personal choices and to interact voluntarily. Instead, the ideal is to transform free, self-determining individuals into state-controlled puppets.

The Foodcare scenario is actually playing out in healthcare. Once the gold standard of the world, American medicine has fallen to its knees from decades of crippling regulation, with the final blow about to come from universal healthcare.

To stop this despotism we must repudiate the notion that healthcare is a right. No one has a right to demand for free the goods and services produced by others. We have the freedom to take action to further our own lives—to work, earn money, and pay for the things we need—while respecting the same rights of others. We don't have any right to enact laws to seize people's money, control their activities, and force them to provide services on terms dictated by Big Brother.

No good can result when the means used to achieve it are plunder and coercion. Universal healthcare merits the label "sicko"—or more accurately "tyranny."

Genevieve (Gen) LaGreca is the author of
Noble Vision, an award-winning novel about a doctor's fight for freedom in a state-run health system.