A friend of mine that is a primary care physician was on his soapbox a couple of days ago. Actually, he was quite entertaining as well as informative.
“I have patients,” he said, “that eat Twinkies and watch TV for a hobby. Not surprisingly, they have high blood pressure. They don’t want high blood pressure, but they also don’t want to take blood pressure medicine. And, by golly, they’re not about to give up their hobby. They whine to me, ‘But, Doc, that’s my hobby!’”
I have a lot of respect for my friend. A few years ago he was overweight and out of shape. He finally decided to take some of the same advice he had been giving his patients. He went on a healthy diet and exercise program and dropped a lot of weight. Now he does triathlons.
“I had a couple in my office today,” my doctor friend ranted, “that do dope as their primary form of recreation. They want me to give them some kind of magic pill that will take away all of the negative physical effects of their drug abuse. In today’s world,” he groused, “you’re not supposed to take away anyone’s personal recreational activity. Oh, no, that would be wrong.”
We live in a world that increasingly promotes a disconnect between choices and their consequences. In many cases, we teach that it is wrong to hold people accountable for their choices. We tell people that they can have their cake and eat it too. When groups have sufficient political clout, we protect them from their choices via public policy (and public money).
When we as a society continually send the message that you are not accountable for your choices and that you can have whatever you think you ‘deserve,’ regardless of whether you have paid the price for that outcome, is it any wonder that we have Twinkie popping, dope smoking dolts looking for a doctor that will mystically make their consequences vanish (all for a $25 co-pay)?
We’re creating a moral hazard. Too many people expect to be bailed out of their bad choices.