Losing Choice in More Than Just Health Care

Michael Pollan, in a New York Times op-ed, reminds us that as the government is allowed to take away the ability of Americans regarding their health care, it will become interested in more of the choices Americans make while living their daily lives. Specifically, the choice of what to have for dinner.

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet.

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That’s why our success in bringing health care costs under control ultimately depends on whether Washington can summon the political will to take on and reform a second, even more powerful industry: the food industry.

Mr. Pollan calls on Washington to intervene dramatically in the market for food in order to force Americans to give up their choices to make unhealthy (if delicious) meal choices.

Mr. Pollan even seems to consider the ability of fast food restaurants to offer cheap food as a negative thing, and it’s worth asking how many would have to go without affordable food (or would have to become a part of a larger welfare system to afford their meals) in the name of eliminating unhealthy choices from America’s diets. (Never mind that it’s not the availablilty of cheap fast food, but the poor decisions made when eating it, that probably lead to obesity problems.)

But the editorial is bang-on when it says that if Americans’ health care decisions become public business, so will a good chunk of the rest of their lives.