A Facebook friend pointed me to this article. If you’re fat in Japan, you’re breaking the law. The government there is mandating that companies reduce overweight employees in 2012 by 10% and 25% by 2015.
This is a good example of government begetting more government. This means that a previous government intervention caused problems. That fact goes unrecognized, and it is believed that more government intervention can solve it. The idea of undoing the previous government intervention to fix the problem doesn’t get much play.
In this example, the initial government intervention was government health care. This weakened incentives for individuals to take care of their health, since they won’t have to pay directly for the medical care resulting from their poor health.
Of course, you might retort, That’s not a big incentive. Taking care of yourself so you can live a healthy life is incentive enough.
That sounds good, but let’s consider a benign example.
Let’s say you have borderline high cholesterol that could be addressed by diet and exercise or taking a cholesterol lowering medication that has a real cost of $150 per month, of which you pay $10 and insurance or government pays $140.
If you paid the full cost for that medicine, you may be more inclined to modify your diet and exercise habits. But, for $10 a month, you feel it’s worth it to make no behavior modification.
So, one approach to improving health is to put more of the individual incentives back on the individual. In this case, the individual could be given the choice to pay the $150 per month or modify their diet. Despite what we want to believe, incentives do matter. Either way saves $140 per month of taxpayer money.
But, this approach is rarely taken. Bureaucrats almost always opt to give themselves more to do. The next wave of government intervention in this example is the mandate lower the percent of overweight people.
Lots of people go along with this type of action based on this logic, “If we’re paying for your health care, you owe it to us to take care of yourself.”
Of course, it’s curious that they never say, “Pay for your own health care and you can do what you want.”
Do they not consider this option?
Do they think it sounds harsh (harsher than controlling other peoples behavior because you think you’re paying for their benefits?)?
Or, are they concerned that saying this may lead to paying for their own health care? And, if this last question is right, is it because they don’t feel like they take good enough care of their own health?