Thursday, January 3, 2013

Six-toed Health Care

I watched with amusement and dismay a report today concerning the cats of the Hemingway House. My son and I visited the house in Key West on our vacation last summer, and he was charmed and fascinated by the population of felines, many of whom had six toes on their paws, and some, even seven. These cats were a special favorite of Hemingway, and he mandated their care and the maintenance of their kind in his will. Now, his house, which is a museum open to the public, is a haven for them - dozens of them.

Today Fox News reported that a federal government agency has been sending undercover agents to the house disguised as tourists to follow and photograph the felines. This was done, the government declared, in order to enforce a 1966 animal protection law which it is alleged the Hemingway estate is violating by, the bureaucrats argued before a court, using the cats to lure tourists to a commercial enterprise.

Now, as I understand it, the 1966 statute was intended to protect animals that might be in danger of exploitation. Specifically, it was meant to ensure that animals used for commercial purposes such as circuses, petting zoos, television commercials and movies, are not mistreated. But in this case, the law was stretched by anonymous and officious government bureaucrats to include a historical museum, where no less than People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals examiners found the cats "fat, happy and relaxed." (My son and I saw this ourselves: They just about run the place, and seem perfectly comfortable, even in the presence of gangs of tourists, who wonder at them and dote on them.) Not so the purveyors of big government and more official intrusion. They went to court and secured an order that would require that the Hemingway cats be rounded up every night and put in cages, rather than being given the run of the house, which they have had for decades.

This is pernicious nonsense, of course. But what is really disturbing about it is that at no point in this process of government meddling and spying (on cats!), did any bureaucrat in the hierarchy ask: Are you kidding? The cats own the house (as all cats do), they are well fed, lovingly cared for, allowed their liberty, and even PETA has given its blessing to the Hemingway estate for the quality of their care.

But we are not dealing with care or reason or even reality here: We are dealing with government bureaucracy. And that means that nothing - not facts or truth or humanity - can be allowed to interfere with the enforcement of regulations. And so, unless the court order is overturned, Hemingway's beloved cats will become wards of the state, which means, among other things, they will be rounded up routinely and caged for their own good.

You can, I suppose, see where I am going with this. These are the same kinds of people who have just been given responsibility for the nation's health care system. And if these brainless bureaucrats, secure in their anonymity and freedom from firing, will do this to cats, what do you think they will do to human beings? We will, no doubt, be rounded up and caged (metaphorically) for our own good by functionaries who are accountable to no one, and for whom regulations trump reason, and compliance substitutes for conscience.

Congratulations, America: You are about to get the "free" health care you so eagerly desired. I just hope that the cats survive.