The term “health fascism” is often bandied about in relation to the banning tendencies of the Righteous, but equally it is often dismissed as a crude and simplistic term of abuse directed at what are really high-minded and altruistic policies. However, once you look into it, the term actually contains far more truth than might seem at first sight.
I have recently been reading Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. This is an American book and so uses “liberal” not in the usual European sense but referring to a broadly left-wing viewpoint favouring greater State control over the economy and people’s lives. Goldberg’s central thesis perhaps goes beyond the remit of this blog, but in a nutshell he argues that Fascism is essentially an ideology of the political Left, not the right, and although modern leftwingers are not in an objective sense “fascist”, the two views share a common ancestry in the “Progressive” movement of the early 20th century, which sought to harness the power of the State to improve the human condition, and in the process might well end up eroding the rights of individuals.
This links very specificially to the modern tendency to wish to modify people’s lifestyles and economic choices in the interest of the “greater good” – something that was very much characteristic of Italian Fascism and German Naziism.
The following passages show how the Nazi approach to individual health and lifestyle has its close modern parallels:
The Nazis used the slogan “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz” – “the common good supersedes the private good” – to justify policing individual health for the sake of the body politic. This is the same rationale used today. As one public health advocate wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Both health care providers and the commonweal now have a vested interest in certain forms of behaviour, previously considered a person’s private business, if the behaviour impairs a person’s ‘health’. Certain failures of self-care have become, in a sense, crimes against society, because society has to pay for their consequences. In effect, we have said that people owe it to society to stop misbehaving.”There was a classic example of this in the pretty odious views on individual health expressed the other day by Dr Kailash Chand. Now, if he isn’t a health fascist, I don’t know who is.
Compare all this with a typical admonition found in a Hitler Youth health manual: “Food is not a private matter!” Or, “You have the duty to be healthy!” Or as another uniformed health official put it: “The government has a perfect right to influence personal behaviour to the best of its ability if it is for the welfare of the individual and the community as a whole.” That last official was C. Everett Koop (former US Surgeon General).
And read the book - it will open your eyes.