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Politics and Pathogens

December 1, 2002

I am seeing all these annoying signs, "Buckle Up," around town. Also, television and radio carry an unrelenting flurry of "public service" announcements telling us how to care for ourselves.

I guess the government really cares about our health. It's not about raising revenue by issuing traffic tickets, or controlling people's lives in intrusive ways, after all. Or is it?  Given my healthy skepticism about all things political, I decided to ponder the relationship between health and the state.

The leading cause of death in the United State is heart disease; stroke is third, and high blood pressure is thirteenth. High blood pressure is of course a major factor in stroke and heart disease. Emotional stress is a major cause of high blood pressure and therefore stroke and heart disease. Stress is also a key factor in other leading causes of death such as cancer (smoking) (2nd), accidents (5th), suicide (11th), cirrhosis (drinking) (12th) and homicide (15th).

Thus, stress is causally related to the first, second, third, fifth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth and fifteenth leadings of causes of death. Death, I understand, is bad for your health. What causes stress? Let me go out on a limb and suggest that financial difficulty is one of the leading causes of stress.

What is the single largest financial expense for most Americans?  Taxes!  What is another large expense for most Americans?  Inflation, which makes our money worth less each year. What is the source of these pathogens?  The government or state, if you will. Government is bad for your health!  It is a virtual panopathogen.

I have not nearly rested my case. Government is implicated in numerous other causes of deadly stress: the stagnant economy, lack of good jobs, the need for two-income families. Talk about stress!  Two-income families often turn into two-residence families. Financial problems are a leading cause of spousal abuse and divorce, which causes no end of stress and financial hardship. Lack of money and hence time leads to fewer opportunities for healthful vacations, recreation and exercise.

Having less income leads people to live in more dangerous neighborhoods, drive older, more dangerous cars, and live in older, less healthful houses and apartments. Government agricultural policies increase food costs, intentionally, thus contributing to malnutrition. Government intervention into health care has increased production costs and artificially increased demand leading to much higher prices all around, ultimately reducing access to medical care.

Aside from these and other indirect negative health effects, state action is also more directly involved with death and disease. The prohibition of the sale of hypodermic needles in most states was a major factor in the spread of AIDS in the 1980’s. The FDA, by withholding drugs from the market causes many thousands of anonymous deaths.

The "War on Drugs" greatly increases the homicide rate. It also increases the incarceration rate in our squalid prisons where infectious disease thrives. Law enforcement agents kill hundreds of suspects each year, often by mistake or as part of the pointless drug war. This unnecessary "war" also accounts for many of the police officers killed in the line of duty each year.

Foreign and domestic terrorists prey on innocent Americans as revenge for the United State's numerous and obnoxious foreign interventions. September 11th was bad for our health, but war is the health of the state. About the state of our health it is less concerned.

Mises was an early prophet as regards the relationship between health and the state. "Social insurance has thus made the neurosis of the insured a dangerous public disease. Should the institution be extended and developed the disease will spread. No reform can be of any assistance. We cannot weaken or destroy the will to health without producing illness."

Weakening and destroying the will to health is a major occupation of the state, which makes its public service announcements, prodding us to take care of ourselves, something of a joke.

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