Death Panels, All the Way Down

Did former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have her facts wrong when she asserted that ObamaCare — the evolving health care “reform” bill working its way through Congress — included a provision for government “death panels” which would pass judgment on individuals’ health care needs and condemn the elderly, disabled and chronically ill to involuntary euthanasia?

Yes, she got it wrong. The provision in question actually simply provided (past tense because it’s now been removed from the Senate version of the bill) for reimbursement to doctors who counsel patients on living wills, hospice options and other “end of life” matters.

That said, I have to say I’m surprised that Palin seems upset at the prospect of government “death panels” anyway. The label is an apt description for just about every government department, agency, commission, bureau, what have you, in existence … and so far as I can tell, Palin is no anarchist.

Every time you’re pulled over by (or otherwise encounter) a police officer, that cop is a de facto one-man death panel. He will pass judgment on the question of whether or not you represent a threat to the people or property around you.

If he decides that you do (or maybe if you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, get caught up in a situation where you’re inadvertently “in the way,” or even just, well, piss him off), he’ll attempt to arrest you. And if he decides that you represent a threat to him during that process, he’ll put you down like a rabid dog without a second thought.

If you make it through that encounter, you may find yourself in the custody of “corrections” personnel with the same powers and prerogatives, or under the jurisdiction of a court empowered to find you guilty of a crime and order that you be strapped to a gurney and injected with a fatal drug overdose.

Of course, that encounter may never happen. Maybe you’ll just come down with a disease for which the best available treatment is still under review by, or has been rejected by, the Food and Drug Administration. Thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands, of Americans die every year at the prohibitionist hands of (or due to the bureaucratic delays of) FDA’s death panels.

Walk into any Internal Revenue office, and you’re at a death panel way station. These guys routinely rake little pieces right off the top of your life by confiscating part of the wealth you earn. Resist the rake-off, and they may just take the whole thing, albeit likely through secondary death panels described above (police, courts, etc.).

If one government death panel decides to put on a war, another such panel may be called upon to decide who gets to attend … whether they want to or not … and the other panels will enforce that panel’s determinations.

An old anecdote tells of a lecturer (Stephen Hawking thinks it may have been Bertrand Russell) who was giving a talk on celestial mechanics — the orbit of the earth around the sun, the movement of the stars in their courses and so forth — when a lady objected, and insisted that the earth is actually a flat disc resting on the back of a giant turtle. When the lecturer asked what was under the turtle, the lady answered “it’s turtles all the way down.”

The essential claim of the state is that it controls and disposes of your life by right. Every government process is an exercise of the prerogative of determining who gets to live (and how well, and for how long) and who must die (and when, and how). Government is death panels all the way down.

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