Mark Twain On The Dictatorship Of Health

A famous smoker
I have quoted these words from Mark Twain many times. They never lose their relevance:

There are people who strictly deprive themselves of each and every eatable, drinkable and smokable which has in any way acquired a shady reputation. They pay this price for health. And health is all they get for it. How strange it is. It is like paying out your whole fortune for a cow that has gone dry.

I am willing to sink to my knees and plead with any bureaucrat to explain Twain’s simple meaning. I will not succeed and convert my audience more than five times out of every five hundred, but I will do my level best.

With the coming of Obamacare, the reign of the progressive mantra “Right to Choose!” is over—to be replaced by a “right” to listen to government “guidelines”, which will be mandatory. You may not choose to smoke. You may not choose to drink a pop over 16 ounces. You may not eat, drink, or smoke that which the government and its Enlightened advisors fears.

Why? Because health is all that matters. Quantity of life will replace quality of life as the ne plus ultra of medicine. Living here and now and for as long as possible, when all there is, as we will increasingly be told, is nothing but the here and now, will be our only goal.

Until one becomes too old. Paradoxically, once people pass an age where they are too unattractive, or deemed unfit to serve society, or it is gauged too expensive to prolong their lives, seniors will rightly fear having wandered into a 1970s-era Charleton Heston movie.

Here are just a sample of what we will see in the tsunami of regulations about to appear from Obamacare.

  1. Ever-present calls for more spending. Bureaucracies are like malignant cancers which grow without restraint unless their food supply (money) is cut off. This has happened in every country which implemented socialized medicine.
  2. An increase in disease. Rather, an increase in diagnosed diseases, and not necessarily in real rates. And a rise in the number of new, mostly mental diseases or mild but exaggerated somatic “syndromes”. These findings will lead back to #1.
  3. Rules, bannings, regulations, and then more of the same.

As evidence of the last, this simple list built in just five minutes internet searching. I invite you to add to it. As the government will invite itself to do, ad nauseum.


  1. Katie

    It follows that while smoking Marlboros is bad, then marijuana has untold health benefits. While legal in some states, the next step is for the acquisition of said substance to be encouraged and subsidized.

  2. Peter

    Our government is obese. It is fatter in 2012 than it was in 1982. We must restrain its food supply.

  3. Ken

    Consider Ben Franklin’s observations:

    In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.

    The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.

    There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or augment our means – either may do – the result is the same and it is for each man to decide for himself and to do that which happens to be easier.

    Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.

    I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.

    Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.

  4. Briggs


    There’s Ben a change: “The living Constitution gives people the right to happiness as defined and funded by Congress.”

  5. Ray

    In the good old days the public health officials tried to protect you from external threats like cholera and typhoid. Today they are going to protect you from yourself. You are now a menace to public health. There is no reason to fear big brother. They are doing this for your own good and you should be grateful.

  6. Speed

    Deaths from cardiovascular disease has fallen over the last several decades due to improvements in diagnosis and treatment (drugs, surgery and behavioral change) implemented by individual choice rather than by fiat.

    The fraction of US adults who smoke has been steady at about 20% for the last decade but rates vary by geography (10% in Utah but 26% in Kentucky and West Virginia); demographics (men/women 24%/18%, multiracial/American Indian-Alaskan Native 30%/23%); education (GED/Graduate degree, 50%/6%) and income (31% of adults below the poverty level). High school smoking has dropped from 36% in 1997 to 20% in 2009.
    These differences are not due to laws or regulations but through personal choice driven by education and, for want of a more precise term, sociology.

    The government gets involved for the undefined “greater good” and will soon add “because the government will have to pay for treatment, it will save the taxpayers money if we outlaw unhealthy behavior.” Prohibiting skydiving, motorcycling and professional football as well as beef, pork, alcohol and gardening without a hat and sunblock will be added to the prohibited list.

    And we know how effective government prohibitions are as evidenced by the almost complete eradication of illegal drug use among americans.

  7. Briggs


    I’ve been searching for a good line to summarize this. I’m going to steal yours.

  8. Alex

    Sugar is bad, milk is bad, fried food is bad, even thinking may soon be declared as unhealthy, ……….but cannabis is good, very good for one’s health.

    and when your old and still alive and kicking because you lived a healthy life they bump you off the first time you visit the clinic for a check-up. This happens in Holland, Europe and the new philosophy has now crossed the pond.

  9. Sander van der Wal


    Don’t be daft. Nobody in Holland gets killed because the doctor says so. People are treated and treated and treated and treated, and then still die. Euthanasia is legal, but not compulsory at all. We also do not have a ban on Big cokes, not even in Amsterdam.

  10. Katie

    In the UK, elderly patients were being put on the “pathway” (how benign! how pleasant!) to the other side without the consent of themselves or their families. One woman survived because family members gave her water through a straw. The reporting has captured the attention of some politicians who vow to stop the practice–or at least inform the relatives before grandma is sent on her way out the door.

  11. MattS

    @Sander van der Wal,

    Holland is also not run by US polliticians.

    Callifornia clearly demonstrates that no attempt at producing an ad absurdem scenario for purposes of satire will produce a scenario absurd enough that the US government wouldn’t try to implement it if it occurred to them.

  12. GoneWithTheWind

    It would help if there was any real consensus on what is healthy and what is not. Arkansas wants to ban peanut butter and jelly! Other experts want to ban milk! I have even heard so called experts who disapprove apples because of the amount of sugar in them. No matter who you ask about what food is healthy you will get totally different answers.

  13. Sylvain Allard

    You forgot in your list:

    Forcing women to have unnecessary ultrasound (at their own cost) before having an abortion. Of course, at first the state of Virginia wanted to force the trans-vaginal ultra-sounds. So the state basicly want doctor to rape women in the name of the state.

  14. jfw

    @Sylvain Allard
    Agreed. It is completely unacceptable to ruin a gentle, utterly non-invasive, (and especially non-transvaginal), and completely atraumatic procedure such as an abortion by imposing a brutal, rape-like ultrasound.
    The more important question is why would the state be involved in any healthcare decision, but…

  15. ErisGuy

    Obama voters got what they wanted. Now they will get what they deserve.

  16. Rob

    My wife and I have joked about school authorities inspecting lunch boxes, but we were absolutely stunned speechless (no mean feat) to see in Costco a brand of cookie called `school-safe`! It was actually marketed as being acceptable by school snack inspectors!

    All we could do was walk away shaking out heads, thankful that we didn`t have children in school.

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