Click for audio Vile Victuals (RealAudio)

Be glad America didn't buy into President Clinton's government takeover of health care in the early 1990s. Otherwise, the big campaign issue discussed on the network news and around breakfast tables across America might be—hospital food.

That's what it was last fall in Manitoba, Canada, where bureaucrats overseeing the system of socialized medicine began shipping in frozen meals as a cost-saving measure. Never mind that they tasted like cardboard. The meals became a symbol of government efficiency.

How does hospital food become a political issue? Take any matter that people normally resolve peacefully and privately by their own choices, turn it over to government, and watch as factions arise, conflict ensues, and problems appear.

Michigan Congressman John Dingell's National Health Insurance Act would move us toward the Canadian model. Yet, four out of five Canadians are unhappy with their health-care system. Almost half of Manitoba's doctors have left in the past decade. More than 200,000 Canadians were on waiting lists for surgery in 1998. The average waiting time—more than 13 weeks.

Canada proves that politicians can't be trusted with the care hospitals provide, any more than they can be trusted with their hospital food.

For the Mackinac Center, I'm Catherine Martin.