My, my. So, the official position of many administrators and supporters of the NHS is that, since the public's bad lifestyle choices are overburdening the system, we need to introduce a never-ending avalanche of tax penalties, incentives, bans and so forth in order to encourage them to put down the fags, the booze and the pies.
I understand the motivation, politically - in an age lacking grand ideas, look to minor but concrete improvements for salvation. We're so wonderful, we reduced the incidence of heart disease by two percent! Hooray for us!
And yet. To invoke a strained comparison, I recall the kerfuffle when the cops wanted to buy a load of pepper spray, and then more vociferously when they demanded tazers. Don't let the cops have this stuff, those silly civil liberties types warned in their annoying, finger-waggy way. They'll find excuses to use it on petty criminals and members of the public, all the time. And what will they want next? Military hardware?
Now, we're celebrating the London Olympics by deploying missiles, warships and cutting-edge sonic crowd-control weaponry. It's going to be one hell of a party!
When I hear about stuff like this enthusiastic game of Space Marines, I'm inclined to think that the nation's security services have maybe got a teensy-weensy bit gung-ho Modern Warfare 3 out of control mad as a box of frogs, and that maybe we need to think about reining them in a little. Or alternatively, think about defunding their departments and firing as many of them as we possibly can, as quickly as is practicable.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this. If you use the NHS's creaking resources as an excuse to create a complex system of pedantic, interfering, nagging, nudging horseshit to poke and prod the public into obeying your every whim... Well yes, you may very well achieve better health outcomes and relieve the strain on public services.
On the other hand, congratulations! You've just given the man and woman in the street a whole series of very good, very personal reasons to vote for junking the entire NHS and getting themselves some health insurance that isn't basically an excuse to tell them how to live their damn lives.
That's a hard trick to pull off, in a nation which regularly votes the health service as one of our greatest achievements. Good work, ladies and gents.