When Private Becomes Public

Many people advocate socialist-style policies while arguing that they lead to better lives and more freedom. It is a very seductive idea — what could be more free, they suggest, than not having to spend time worrying about whether they can, for example, afford health care? Think how great it would be if not having (or finding) a job did not mean you had to give up your home? How wonderful it would be if every schlub in a minimum-wage job could afford a nice three bedroom house — not to mention the big-screen TV, DVD player, home computer, designer sneakers, SUV, etc. and so forth? There are many problems with the concept in reality, but one of the biggest is that when individual well-being becomes the business of “the people”, a.k.a. The State, your life becomes everyone else’s business.

There is a recent trend I’ve noticed in the news regarding various employers firing people for smoking. Now, I don’t mean negligence such as smoking around flammable chemicals or asthma patients. They weren’t even fired for smoking at work. They were fired for being smokers, period. In one case, Weyco Inc., a company in Michigan, fired four people for refusing to take tests to determine if they smoke. The company’s argues the rule “was designed to shield the firm from high health care costs. ‘I donâ??t want to pay for the results of smoking,’ [company founder Howard Weyers] said.” Meanwhile, in Tampa Bay Florida, the police department has decided that it will not hire anyone who uses any tobacco products, on duty or off. One of the reasons cited is that the policy “could lead to lower health insurance costs for the agency”

As reasonable as such an argument might seem to some, the assault on freedom should be obvious. Corporate paid health insurance has had a snowballing effect over the past century, to the point that it is practically a requirement for employers to provide it. This has also had the effect of making health care difficult to afford for anyone who does not have it provided to them though a job or somesuch. Now we have reached the point where employers are dictating what you may or may not do in your private life. If history is any indicator, this trend will surely grow.

Big Brother has arrived.

If such decisions are allowed to stand, it will be a tremendous blow to freedom in this country. As soon as smoking (a legal activity, mind you) is abolished, what’s next? Where does it end? Pardon me, but Ding Dongs aren’t good for you. Promiscuous sex spreads disease. Should your boss be able to fire you because you’ve had one-too-many sexual partners, or a few too many cupcakes?

News flash to the Florida Police department: whether your employees smoke in their spare time is none of your goddamned business.

Ultimately, the problem here is not that these organizations want to save money — any business wants to do that. The problem is that health care should never have become so socialized in the first place. This gross invasion of privacy is the natural extension of “collective” systems, which is another reason that such systems simply do not work. They are antithetical to freedom of choice, because the results of your choices, by definition become the responsibility of the caregiving body (be it government or the quasi-governmental Health Care monolith).

When we were children, we were provided for by adults. We were fed, and clothed, and entertained, all by the largess of our parents (or whomever raised us) — but we were never truly free in this time. If our parent’s didn’t like something we did, they could ground us, or cut our allowance, and we had nothing to say about it. They were the Authority, and we were the Ruled. As children, this was necessary, as children do not generally have the mental, emotional, or social capacity to make the major decisions that our parent were making that whole time. We were free of responsibility for ourselves, but only because they controlled us.

As adults, that reality has not changed. If we want to be “free” from responsibility, we can only achieve that by giving up our true freedoms and having someone else take care of us.

If this trend in the workplace is not reversed, and reversed quickly, there is literally no end to it. If an employer has the “right” (more accurately, “the power”) to forbid you from doing something perfectly legal on your own time, they have the “right” to forbid nearly anything. Your liberty is no longer your own.

Update: This discussion has been continued in a further post: De facto Socialism

5 Responses to “When Private Becomes Public”

  1. Not important Says:

    Ever hear of employment "at will"? You can be fired for not wearing the right color tie, let alone lighting up on your break. It’s not a gross invasion of privacy and precursor to socialized reform. It’s called a free market, buddy. Hire whoever the hell you want.

  2. Strider Says:

    Yeah, but fired for lighting up on a Saturday at home? Should they fire you for not wearing a tie on your day off?

  3. Not important Says:

    You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking babysitter. You have the freedom to split rent with a non-smoking roommate. You have the freedom to hire a non-smoking employee. And, yes, you have the freedom to smoke if you want to. Nonetheless, employers and taxpayers should not have to pay for those who voluntarily self inflict the health cost burden. It is all about freedom of choice.

  4. Strider Says:

    Discussion is continued in a different post: http://striderweb.com/blog/2005/03/...

  5. Jon (UK based) Says:

    So here we are in 2020..

    Do you think the health insurance situation has got worse or better?

    I’m UK based and work with a lot of health insurance companies and personally I think its gotten worse.

    Great site by the way.

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