Pass the Soylent Green

This weekend, millions of Americans marked the passage of the health-care bill the only way they could: by reverently retiring the Stars and Stripes that fly at their homes and running up the Maple Leaf. That’s unfair to Canada, but since when have we Yanks felt bad about that? The Canadian and European single-payer health-care plans are a model of transparency and efficiency compared to the Rube Goldberg, Pontiac-held-together-with-spit-and-string contraption our Congress just rolled out.
At least in European socialist countries, the private sector is pretty much locked out of health care. All the money is collected at gunpoint by the government and spread throughout the system, like portions of mystery meat at a high school cafeteria. It’s not very good, but at least everybody gets the same amount, and it’s hard to game the system. Of course, there’s little freedom: If you pack a lunch, it will be confiscated and redistributed — or eaten by a teacher. You can’t save money by dieting, or load up after you’ve exercised, since the portions are prepaid and standardized. On the up side, the kids don’t need to worry about getting enough, or bringing lunch money, or even picking items from the menu: Onto each tin plate splats the same size ice cream scoop of grey, gelatinous protein dosed with vitamins and fiber. Call it Soylent Green.

The system we seem about to establish is much more like a school that privatizes its cafeteria to the Russian mob, then lets the vendors get rich serving foie gras and caviar at jacked up prices. To fund the system, huge thugs named Boris roam the hallways shaking down those kids who didn’t spend their lunch money on porn and cigarettes.
With uniquely American ingenuity, we’re combining socialist coercion with corporate greed and sleazy price-fixing, all justified by recourse to envy, guilt, and fear. The trial lawyers will continue to drive our doctors out of business — and the price of services up. The insurance companies will pass along to all of us the cost of “insuring” new patients who only sign up once they’re diagnosed with stage-three cancer. These companies will reap a giant windfall, since now private citizens will be legally obliged to buy their products — like those little green uniforms in Maoist China. (Imagine what a killing those clothiers made!) Hospitals run by apostate nuns will finally be able to get reimbursed for all the services they’ve been rendering to deadbeats — so funding a few abortions here and there seems a trivial price to pay. And that “pro-life” executive order Rep. Bart Stupak bravely fought to put in place? Give federal judges five years with this system, and taxpayers will be funding sex changes in Catholic hospitals for illegal immigrants, while hard-working citizens argue with bureaucrats that continued chemotherapy isn’t a “heroic intervention.” Like Borat, I love Amerika!
The pink cloud of “human rights” unanchored in any responsibilities will keep on getting bigger and spreading thinner, and the ever-expanding secular state will go right on crowding Christians into the corner. When 60, 70, or 80 percent of your work and wealth go straight to the government, what room is left for apostolic work or private charity? If Europe is any model, the answer is, “Not much.” I can count on one hand the number of private Catholic colleges in Great Britain. Why should a state that cossets and hobbles you from cradle to grave stop at micromanaging how you educate your children? No wonder homeschooling is outright illegal in growing swathes of Europe. The very principle of private action itself seems now suspicious, somehow “selfish,” even to some un-Christian.
Some people are simply relieved to trade their liberty for security. Their cultures worn out after centuries of greatness, chaos, religious wars, genocides, and ideology, all Austrians, Belgians, French, and Irish seem to want is one sterile generation of bourgeois prosperity and peace — to subsist in a pink cloud of low expectations and little risk, where no efforts (however heroic) are rewarded, and no vices are really punished. Just please make sure that life has no sharp edges, pointy corners, or cabinets full of toxic cleaning products where citizens might injure themselves: Western Europe is a child-safe environment designed for adults, who guard their claim by keeping it also child-free. Then the Muslims can have the place, and mazel tov to them.
Imagine if our government could socialize the effects of diet and exercise. (If it could, it surely would.) Thus every time you got on the miserable treadmill for an hour, it helped reduce the average obesity in America, while the upshot of eating a bag of White Castle burgers was to nudge the national pants size up one hundred-millionth of an inch. Only hard-core lunatics would continue to exercise, while everybody else bellied up to the Shoney’s breakfast bar to fight over trays of bacon. That is how socialism affects the human soul, that thing we are meant to build up by the sweat of our brow in a fallen world, since we were driven for our soul’s safety out of the Garden. That is the vision of human dignity treasured by coercion-hungry Catholics — who can look forward to my column after Easter, where I will shred the “seamless garment,” then use it as little strips of cloth to fly on a kite.

  • John Zmirak

    John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as editor of Crisis.

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