Enslaved to Ron Paul

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies,” the senator said. “It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me.”

“It means you believe in slavery. “It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.” – Rand Paul

Rand Paul (R-Craters of the Loon) is a tough man to like, but I have to give him credit for being remarkably consistent, if not wholly, about his Libertarian beliefs. He believes that toilet regulations are an affront to capitalism that will destroy the vaunted American plumbing infrastructure. He similarly believes a human right to health care is slavery.

Pity the Poor Conscripts
It seems Rand is afraid that as a doctor he’ll be “conscripted” to give health care to a goldbricking, unemployed cancer victim living in an AMC Pacer currently parked in front of their foreclosed home at 1313 Mockingbird Ln. Rand doesn’t mention that he’ll likely be paid handsomely for his conscription. He also hasn’t given up his own health insurance in order to throw off the terrible shackles of slavery.

There are a number of arguments about whether the right to health care or free-flowing toilets are any business of government. There are still logical debates to have, as there should be. However, Rand’s penchant for ideological absolutism and absurd comparisons like health care = slavery cheapens an important debate and makes it impossible to get any work done.

It also makes him look like he has the IQ of a ham sandwich, but that’s a whole other post.

Excuse Me But the Cracks in Your Fidelity are Showing
Although Rand’s often off-the-chart comparisons may sound like total fidelity to his principles he often injects quirks and oddities that left unchecked would harm the country much more than help it. They also point out cracks in his passionate fidelity.

For example, slaves got food and water (two other items Rand thinks aren’t human rights). They got those services because slaves were too valuable to do otherwise. Providing services, even to those you hate, doesn’t make slavery. Slavery comes from the single pin that the enslaved have no choice. Which isn’t the case in Paul’s descriptions.

Paul is a Presbyterian. Can we automatically decide that if he complies with God’s every command that God has enslaved him? After all, God’s slavery is infinitely more total and absolute than a government decree (which isn’t the case, nor will it likely be) that health care is a human right.

I wish Rand would choose his battles, and especially his analogies, more carefully. All they do is muddy the water and keep the country in perpetual rancor and decay.

In other words, stop enslaving the rest of us with your silly, distracting speeches.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Health Does Not Equal Health Care

In a post on KQED's Healthy Ideas blog, Alameda County Public Health Director Dr. Anthony Iton agrees that "access to a high quality system of affordable health care is an important human right and a necessary strategy for improving health and quality of life and reducing health disparities," but argues that to truly guarantee the highest attainable standard of health for Americans, we need to look beyond just reactive health care.

With health care reform a major national priority, we have a tremendous opportunity to make strategic investments in primary prevention that will reduce the burden of chronic disease and eliminate health disparities. The current health care reform debate is driven in large part by concerns about ever-growing, unsustainable costs. Immediate cost-containment efforts are necessary, but they alone will not solve the long-term problem— more lasting changes are needed. Chronic disease rates are the major force driving up the costs of health care. Primary prevention is a systematic process that promotes healthy environments and behaviors before the onset of symptoms, thus reducing the likelihood of an illness, condition, or injury occurring. The bulk of those preventive strategies, particularly the community-level strategies, occur outside of the health care system and are strongly influenced by social and economic policies particularly policies shaping land-use, employment, transportation, income, and education. California’s experience with tobacco control is arguably one of the clearest examples of the benefits of primary prevention on health status, mortality and health care costs.

Iton provides several example of community-level strategies that compliment insurance reform, including policies of mixed-use housing/zoning to encourage more walking and less pollution, universal preschool, and funding public transit. To maximize these effects, Iton argues that we must have new partnerships across governmental agencies, so that health departments are working in concert with other city and county agencies.

While Iton focuses on the community-level, his point has resonance as we consider how federal funds to help the economic recovery are being used. This is a crucial opportunity to being to think about how infrastructure and policies around transportation, education, and housing all directly impact the health of ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our communities.  This is a crucial moment in how Americans think about their health, and we must use all available avenues—from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to health care reform--to not just treat our illness, but to build a system that supports and encourages healthier lives.

For more on how you can support a human right to health care in the United States, visit the Amnesty International USA Action Center.

For more on The Opportunity Agenda's work on health and human rights, visit our website.

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Cocoa and Human Rights in the Côte d'Ivoire

If you bought your honey a sweet box of chocolates today for Valentine's Day, you likely paid a pretty penny. While just about every commodity today is experiencing severe deflationary pressures, the one exception is world cocoa prices which continue to climb. London cocoa prices jumped by 66% last year to reach a 23-year high in December at £1,820 a tonne. New York cocoa prices, which are less dependent on African producers climbed 26% year over year but 53% over two years. The reason for the high prices is the on-going civil war in the Côte d'Ivoire which produces 35% of the world's cocoa. Three years ago, the Côte d'Ivoire accounted for 40%.

Though native to the Caribbean Basin, cocoa is now grown in more than thirty-five countries worldwide. The cultivated area covers between 3.5 and 4.5 million hectares. This area yields an annual production of approximately 2.7 million tons of cocoa beans. The largest producers after the  Côte d'Ivoire are Ghana (20% of world production), Indonesia (12%), Cameroon (5%), Nigeria and Brazil (4% each). The world's most highly prized cocoa (cacao criollo) comes from Colombia and Venezuela.

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