Andrew Sabl on Michael Moore’s “Sicko”

A must-see, Andy reports, and he really means “must.”

My colleague Andy Sabl is a student of ethical theory, and someone not given to issuing decrees about what other people should and shouldn’t do. So when he tells me I have to see Michael Moore’s Sicko, I take that advice seriously.

My wife and I recently watched Sicko on DVD. I hereby break my usual rule against being so arrogant as to recommend books or movies to others: you, casual blog reader, have to watch it. And you have to tell everyone you know, especially those who have good health insurance for themselves, to watch it. I’m begging you, and you should beg them. This is my professional opinion as an ethicist. Have a good belly laugh at the expense of my presumption if you want. I don’t care, provided that after you’re done laughing you watch Sicko.

This is one of the most important pieces of political and social communication I’ve ever experienced. If you want to know why universal health coverage is the crucial moral and social issue of the age, this will tell you. Forget about whether lack of insurance causes much death (though it does). The point is that it eviscerates lives. Lack of health insurance renders the pursuit of happiness a cruel joke–and a joke that makes Americans the unluckiest people in the wealthy world. This film will make you ashamed and angry. If everyone saw it before November, McCain would get 20 percent of the vote.

By the way, for what it’s worth: I dislike Moore’s shtick in general, and concede that the film is marred by Moore’s usual theatrics and a couple of loose policy arguments. (It is not, as it turned out, marred by love of Cuba: that’s a small part of the movie and a relatively responsible one. The Right unfortunately duped the mainstream media into stressing the Cubans and obscuring the real and damning story about very sick Americans—and Moore, unfortunately, gave them the opening.) But this isn’t about Moore, and it’s a totally different enterprise from a disgrace like Fahrenheit 9/11. This is real, and it matters more than just about anything.

You can spare the 120 minutes it will take to see this film. Do it. Please.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: