An article by Emily Holland at the very end of a special “Innovations in Health Care” section of last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal illustrates the seemingly benign manner in which government is insinuating itself into our lives. The headline itself is (or should be) chilling: “Government’s Role in Fighting Loneliness“:
Some experts say programs are needed at the national, regional and local levels to teach people about loneliness and health, and to destigmatize the problem, so that people will seek help. That could mean discussing loneliness in health-education classes in schools, beefing up campus wellness offerings for college students who feel isolated and making loneliness part of the curriculum at medical schools, among other things, says Dr. Holt-Lunstad.
Such programs transform bureaucrats into care and welfare providers whose services we’re not permitted to decline. We absolutely have an individual personal responsibility to comfort each other and to foster communities that alleviate loneliness, but government should stay out of it.
If we believe increased loneliness is a problem, we should look for the causes, not attempt to invite the government beast into our lives to treat the symptoms. Consider:
Psychologists say an increase in single-person households, higher divorce rates and too much focus on social media over in-person communication may be contributing to that increase, although social media also can help fight loneliness when used in certain ways.
Loneliness is highest in people age 80 and older, according to a 2016 study by Maike Luhmann, a professor at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, and Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago. Hearing loss, the deaths of spouses and friends, and immobility are among the issues that contribute to social isolation in the elderly.
In part through government action, our society “destigmatized” divorce, created economic conditions that make single-income families more difficult to maintain, provided a vast welfare apparatus that reduces incentive to pair up, and legalized the killing of unborn children for just about any reason. At the same time, the nanny state has “educated” and “destigmatized” us generally away from activities that once created a social atmosphere — from children wandering neighborhoods and having to come up with their own entertainment to bars and social gatherings.
This overall social change has had the predictable effects of reducing the number of couples who stay together until old age as well as the sizes of their families and the sense that it is the responsibility of families, not the government, to ensure that we’re all cared for throughout our lives.
We don’t need more government programs. We need government to back away from its meddling so that human nature and its incentives can work again.