Good luck getting the needle near me.

I can’t find an alternate source to verify this story, which I like to do when I read the types of claims made in the story. However, in this case, I think that has more to do with it being about Belarus than anything. The details are probably accurate. Regardless, they make for a good thought experiment if the facts don’t check exactly.

Officials from Belarus’ Ministry of Health on Friday formally rejected the idea of circumcising most men in the former Soviet republic as a means of controlling the spread of the HIV virus. “This is not something we are considering,” said Mikahil Rizhma, a government spokesman, according to a Korrespondent magazine article. “In our opinion using a condom is much more effective.”

That’s a wise move, and not particularly surprising┬╣. Countries without at least a history of routine circumcision (i.e. English-speaking countries) are unlikely to adopt such an irrational over-reaction based on a few recent findings. That’s not really news. This, however, is instructive:

News reports of a possible plan to mandate circumcision operations for most men had caused consternation in Belarus, as the state-run health system routinely administers flu vaccines en masse to government workers, whether they wish it or not.

Now let’s forget circumcision in the story and focus on forced preventive health care. Is it irrational to believe that the United States could take that path? We’re already seeing a trend to ban smoking and trans fats because they’re bad for health. “That’s bad for you” to “this will be good for you” is a short leap. What’s to stop health busybodies in a single-payer system from mandating (or at least trying to mandate) preventive health measures? Other than rationing based on inviolable economic laws, of course.

As the title of this entry suggests, I wouldn’t put up with it. I suspect many Americans would agree when it pertains to their body. The outcome will depend on the success of the statist busybodies in seizing control. But assuming they can’t get control, we still must get back to circumcision. As practiced in the United States, it rarely involves doing it to one’s own body. It’s almost always done to a child who can’t fight back. Considering how many don’t question the procedure now, resistance to mandatory circumcision will depend more on who makes the political decisions, not the economic waste (and ethical obscenity) of circumcising the healthy genitals of infant males.

┬╣ This is not good, though:

HIV-consciousness is low in the country, with most health officials treating the disease as an infection endangering intravenous drug users, but not the general population.

Cultural blind spot or potential flaw in a single-payer health system? It’s probably the former, but such blind spots could show up in the single-payer health system based on political pandering.

21 thoughts on “Good luck getting the needle near me.”

  1. We’re already seeing a trend to ban smoking and trans fats because they’re bad for health.
    The government has been banning contaminants in the food supply for a long, long time, Tony. This “trend” (as you call it) is hardly a new phenomenon.
    What’s to stop health busybodies in a single-payer system from mandating (or at least trying to mandate) preventive health measures?
    The Constitution, of course. This ain’t Belarus.

  2. I know it’s not a new phenomenon, in terms of the government butting in. But in the context that I discuss it, I imply it’s an unacceptable activity because I don’t see it the same as contaminant. Not that this is the entry to debate contaminant.
    I love the Constitution, and I agree it prevents the government from mandating preventive health measures. However, legislatures and courts haven’t been quite so receptive to what the Constitution says. If the text is inconvenient, it’s reinterpreted to provide a friendlier expanse of government powers. Having the government involved in providing health care to the point it is isn’t justified. Not letting that be a bother, what’s to prevent going further?

  3. …I don’t see it the same as contaminant.
    Whether you call them contaminants or something else is beside the point. You don’t seem to appreciate the serious threat to human health that these substances pose and that really irks me.
    …courts haven’t been quite so receptive to what the Constitution says.
    If the courts refuse to uphold the Constitution then that’s where the real problem lies. It’s not right to blame the single-payer system for the failures of our judiciary.

  4. I absolutely appreciate that trans fat pose a threat to health. I’ve said that I don’t eat foods that include them. I also don’t smoke, drink, or consume caffeine. I’m not interested in unnecessarily damaging my health this way.
    But I also value liberty. Some people don’t “value” their health, or appreciate the risks fully. That’s a shame, but because I don’t want people forcing me to live their way, I won’t force them to live my way.
    I’ve said I could live with mandatory labeling without protestations. That addresses the lack of information, while leaving people to enjoy their lives as they desire. For example, McDonald’s offers nutrition information, but it doesn’t stop people eating there. Should we ban McDonald’s? Does it matter that McDonald’s offers healthier food now, without government mandates?
    I agree that the problem with poor constitutional interpretation rests with the courts. But we can’t say “oh,well” and then feast on the results from such misinterpretations.
    It’s not an indictment of the single-payer system, but it leaves us debating that system when we wouldn’t have to. So we have to attack the flaws of that system. Instead, the market should be figuring out the solution.

  5. I’ve said I could live with mandatory labeling without protestations.
    Mandatory labeling is a mickey-mouse half-measure. It’d be like someone posting a sign next to a nuclear waste repository in lieu of a concrete barrier.
    Instead, the market should be figuring out the solution.
    I’ve already seen the market’s “solution” and I’m not impressed.

  6. Trans fat is not the same as nuclear waste.
    I don’t like every solution provided by the market, but I’m not about to try to use the power of government to impose my wishes. There are companies already voluntarily switching from trans fats to other ingredients.
    The threat of government action is a powerful motivator. Point conceded. But if the threat is enough, why go all the way to prohibition, if not to control other people? Information will lead people to the better decisions, if that’s what they want. If they don’t want it, government prohibition serves no other purpose than to reduce individual liberty. That’s not an acceptable trade-off.

  7. Trans fat is not the same as nuclear waste.
    Public safety requires more than merely warning people about known hazards. That was the point I was trying to make.
    …government prohibition serves no other purpose than to reduce individual liberty.
    If the ban were aimed at individuals, your argument might hold some water, but that isn’t the case. The ban is aimed at businesses.
    Individuals are still free to contaminate their own food if they wish. Or jump off a tall building or whatever.

  8. Re: public safety, point taken, although I still disagree. No one is forcing trans fats or second-hand smoke or any other such danger on people. If you want to argue that people don’t know what’s in food, then mandatory labeling solves that. Going further demands a presumption that people aren’t qualified to make “correct” decisions for themselves.
    That’s what I see as one of the major problems in the circumcision debate. Too often I read of parents saying they must circumcise their child because of the dangers and he wouldn’t choose it himself, if given the choice. They’re making the responsible choice for him. It’s the same thing here.
    And saying the ban is only aimed at businesses is simply not true. Individuals purchase the products of those businesses. They’re directly affected by the ban.
    But let me work under your assumption for a moment. If individuals are still free to use trans fats, will businesses be allowed to sell them if they’re sold separately (i.e. not included in prepared recipes)?

  9. No one is forcing trans fats…on people.
    Maybe not at gunpoint, but if food vendors refuse to sell a trans-free version of their product, I’d consider that to be a form of coercion. One that shouldn’t be allowed.
    They’re directly affected by the ban.
    But they’re still free to contaminate their own food. Isn’t that wonderful?
    If individuals are still free to use trans fats, will businesses be allowed to sell them if they’re sold separately (i.e. not included in prepared recipes)?
    Yes, as long as they’re not marketed as a food or food ingredient and their label makes it clear that they’re not fit for human consumption.

  10. So mandatory labeling works when selling the ingredients separately, but it’ insufficient when selling the ingredients mixed because purchasing such food is coerced, despite the fact that there are other prepared food vendors and grocery stores that compete with the “contaminator”?
    There are far too many assumptions in there that don’t make any sense.

  11. …there are other prepared food vendors and grocery stores that compete with the “contaminator”…
    If the products of these “competitors” are contaminated also, then it’s misleading to say that they’re competing. But even if their products aren’t contaminated, they may not be similar enough to the ones that are, and thus, many consumers won’t be willing (or able, in some cases) to accept them as an alternative.
    Consumers shouldn’t be put in such a situation. Consumers deserve better than that.

  12. If their products are “contaminated”, as well, labeling will inform customers. That should be enough, I think, but this is contradictory:
    But even if their products aren’t contaminated, they may not be similar enough to the ones that are, and thus, many consumers won’t be willing (or able, in some cases) to accept them as an alternative.
    That is an excellent summation of my argument against this ban. I don’t think it helps your stance. Consumers get screwed out of something they want. Not need, just want. That may be bad, given the health implications, but demand is enough in a society committed to liberty, since the only person potentially hurt is the person making the decision. Consumers deserve better than this kind of control over their behavior.

  13. That should be enough…
    Labeling shouldn’t be used as a substitute for contaminant removal, when and where the latter is possible.
    I don’t think it helps your stance.
    It does help my stance because if trans-free versions of the contaminated products were available, the vast majority of consumers would most likely choose them instead.
    Consumers get screwed out of something they want.
    Real consumers (the ones who want trans-free versions of contaminated products) are already getting screwed out of something they want and I consider them to be more important than your hypothetical trans-loving consumers.
    Left unsaid here is the rather obvious fact that if the FDA hadn’t approved these contaminants in the first place, it wouldn’t be necessary to ban them now that they’ve entered the food supply. Should I infer from your statements that you want to abolish the FDA too?

  14. Your first sentence leaves you with complete prohibition if you want to be consistent.
    You don’t know that the vast majority of consumers would choose them. I suspect they would, too, but how would labeling not achieve the same thing? It would be slower, as restaurant’s would need time to figure out that people aren’t buying trans fat foods. But it would happen. So why the need to infringe on liberty in the interval?
    Saying that only those who want trans fat free foods are “real” consumers is an assumption not based in reality. But if they’re being screwed out of something they want, they should go into the food business themselves. They’re not doing that. I can only assume it’s because it doesn’t matter that much. They’re probably eating at home, since there they can control their food choices.
    That leaves only my hypothetical consumer eating at restaurants, who you’ve now left with a ban on what he wants.
    But if people who don’t like trans fats are left eating at restaurants, it seems like you’re saying that consumers who want “good” things have a right to them, but consumers who want “bad” things don’t have a right to them. That’s anti-liberty because it’s subjective.
    You should not infer that I want to abolish the FDA. However, I don’t assume that because it exists, it’s operating correctly or all of its mission is legitimate. For example, it continues to prohibit all gay men from donating blood in the U.S. There’s no legitimate reason for this. It’s purely institutional discrimination on outdated biases. Why should I suspect it’s free from other biases, whether to permit trans fats originally or to be against them now?
    But to the point, just because the market continues to offer something “bad” does not mean there’s a market failure. Again, I keep coming back to this, but it’s about liberty. People should be free to abuse their bodies if they wish. It’s not my place to stop them.

  15. Your arguments become weaker and more unpersuasive with each new comment, Tony.
    There’s no point in me responding to what you said because I’d just be repeating myself.
    This blog entry was originally about your opposition to the single-payer system. I don’t happen to agree with your anti-single-payer position, but at least I can understand why you feel the way you do in that particular instance (I don’t like the idea of having government bureaucrats running things either, but sometimes the alternative is worse).
    When it comes to the trans fat issue, though, I’m honestly dumbfounded by your stance. It makes very little sense to me, and moreover, it tars and feathers you as a rigid ideologue of the “fringe” variety.
    Ordinarily, I wouldn’t waste my time debating someone who espouses the kind of radical “pro-liberty” views you do, because I see them as being out of touch with reality. I also see them as being circumcision-friendly (because of their characteristically unbending support for parental rights) and this fact repulses me.
    You’re the only “pro-liberty” writer I’ve ever read who rejects the insane “parents should be allowed to do whatever they want to” crap. It’s lamentable that you don’t have the same attitude toward the “businesses should be allowed to do whatever they want to” crap.

  16. I don’t think I’m an ideologue, but what I think you’re referring to, I think of as principles. We’re talking semantics and subjective interpretation of those semantics, so yeah, not much point in beating them further.
    I’ve encountered pro-liberty writers who meet your definition of them that liberty means parents are free to cut their children. They don’t understand liberty. In its simplest form, liberty is the right of people to live their lives as they see fit and to engage in voluntary transactions with others.
    (By “transactions” I don’t mean just monetary. I mean any mutually-agreed upon exchange or interaction. I could write at least another entry detailing that. Some other day.)
    Even though we’re unlikely to come to any agreement, specifically on trans fat, but more generally single-payer and other economic issues, I enjoy the debate. It helps me learn more about what I believe, as well as to understand what I don’t. It helps me (hopefully) avoid characterizing those who disagree as ignorant, irrational, whatever. Thanks.

  17. The ideologically motivated position your fellow libertarians have taken with regard to infant circumcision is anything but principled.
    Their position with regard to the environment isn’t exactly principled either.
    They seem to think that businesses should be allowed to dump whatever industrial waste they want to into nearby rivers, lakes, creeks, etc.
    I remember reading one libertarian blog that even suggested we abolish the EPA.

  18. I had a whole bit written going on the environment and what I think genuine libertarians are arguing. But I was speculating, and it’s not my area of experience yet. So I’ll leave it at that.
    Where I will argue is strictly on the circumcision argument. Libertarians who support routine infant circumcision are indeed unprincipled, but I don’t think it’s intentional. Just like most Americans, they see it as a legitimate parental choice. That’s just the flawed cultural lens we’re stuck with right now. So they incorrectly push that crap idea through their principles and come up with the unprincipled mess that allows (justifies, even) the mutilation of a child’s genitals based on parental wishes.
    They are wrong, of course. Mind-numbingly wrong. I suspect much of this comes from them being circumcised, as well. Either way, I’ve argued with libertarians on this point, so I’ve definitely seen what you’ve seen.
    But it’s not libertarianism that’s to blame. The principle of individual liberty, which rejects routine infant circumcision, is consistent and valid, even in the hands of an unskilled intellectual. I’ve seen libertarians come around on this issue, and I’ve seen libertarians who understood it from the beginning. Libertarianism involves unlearning conditioning along with learning to think liberty.

  19. Just like most Americans, they see it as a legitimate parental choice.
    What about libertarians who live in other countries? Are you suggesting they don’t support this parental choice?
    The principle of individual liberty…
    Many libertarians also seem to support the “principle” of group rights which is very dangerous because group rights are frequently used as an excuse to trample over individual rights.
    Allowing businesses to discriminate against individual whites (because minority group rights are considered to be more important than the individual rights of those whites) is one example of this. Allowing members of certain religious and cultural groups to mutilate their children (because their group rights are considered to be more important than the individual rights of their children) is another example.

  20. I’m not making any comparisons across countries or specific to America, just about a general libertarian principle and how some apply it incorrectly.
    As to the group rights, I don’t follow the first example of discriminating against individual whites. That specific example makes no sense to me from a libertarian sense and can’t imagine any intellectually-serious libertarian arguing that. I’d need more elaboration before I could speak to my opinion.
    As to the second (religious groups), I don’t think many libertarians buy that argument. There’s no group right, only the individual right to free association. Libertarians tend to be skeptical of religious groups, but feel no concern over voluntary involvement. This is what makes something like a homeowners association acceptable, even though it puts limits property rights. When voluntary, there’s no objection.
    On the circumcision issue, it’s just a circular argument back to misunderstanding individual rights, or a misunderstanding that circumcision isn’t just a harmless little snip with a few potential benefits. I’m sure some libertarians pay more than lip-service to circumcision as a religious group right. I just don’t know any of them. I’m open to examples on.

  21. Your position with regard to circumcision is clearly not representative of the libertarian mainstream. You say that libertarians who disagree with you are misapplying libertarian principles, but I’m sure most of them would argue forcefully that it’s you who’s misapplying them.
    I don’t think you’re going to find much difference between American libertarians and libertarians who live in other countries when it comes to the issue of circumcision. I suspect if you asked a libertarian in France whether they thought parents should be allowed to circumcise their children for religious or other reasons, their answer would be the same as their American counterparts (this, of course, contradicts your suggestion that American libertarians are somehow heretical or atypical because of the “cultural lens” factor).
    Libertarians don’t seem to think children have any rights independent of their parents. This fact alone speaks volumes about libertarians and their “principles”.
    One glimpse at some of their stated goals is enough to convince me that libertarians want to reduce the power of our government to an extent that’s both extreme and unwise. And probably unworkable.
    Libertarianism, in its purest form, is an ideology that closely resembles anarchism. Most people rightly reject anarchism and would almost certainly reject libertarianism also if they understood just how similar these two ideologies are.

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