This year students will be encouraged to read — and over 40 classes will teach — “In Defense of Food,” in which author Michael Pollan enlightens the reader with the following conclusion: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What could be more relevant to our lives? Well…

How about the political and moral philosophy shaping our society and our world? Or how about the basis of freedom, why it is a value and why we are losing it?

To understand such topics students would do better to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” or George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Not only are these novels captivating works of fiction, we can see their predictions at work in the current health care debate.

As if torn from the pages of Orwell, and in the name of placing more power in the hands of the state, proponents of socialized medicine do not seek clarity or impassioned argument but spend their time obfuscating their views by inverting the meaning of concepts.

When government takes control over the products and prices of insurance companies and extracts funds from its customers by force it’s called a public-private “partnership” designed to increase “competition.”

Vilifying insurance companies for making a profit and demanding they provide the services government wants is called “keeping them honest.”

The bureaucrat in charge of exacting “insurance” money from citizens and dictating the types of coverage that will be available — thereby destroying their ability to choose — is called a “health choices commissioner.”

A new tax on employers is called a “contribution,” and forcing everyone to pay for health care through payroll taxes is called a “public option.” But if individuals cannot keep their wages to purchase their own insurance, the public “option” is mandatory. (This is particularly perverse given that tax penalties and wage controls are already responsible for tying insurance to one’s employer and destroying the individual insurance market.)

This Orwellian doublespeak is ubiquitous in the current health care debate.

We hear constant calls for insurance reform but forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions means turning them into de facto welfare programs, thus outlawing actual insurance. (It’s like getting insurance after you crash your car.)

Moreover, with 50 percent of health care dollars being spent by government and every aspect of the industry being heavily regulated, proposals to increase government intervention amount to advancing the status quo, not reform.

Most importantly, the idea that health care is a right perverts the very concept of “right.” How can something be a right if it requires violating the rights of others? If you have a right to a heart transplant, what happens to the rights of those who are forced to provide it?

Yet when citizens challenge these views and demand clarity they are smeared as an angry mob, racists or a manufactured rebellion. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, quips that the opposition is “bought and paid for by industry.” Obama dismisses the opposition as a group of political hacks trying to exploit differences and defeat what they know to be the best solution. In other words, they use intimidation rather than arguments.

But the opposition does have poignant questions and reasoned arguments. And their anger and intransigence is not simply a result of differing views on the economy or health care, but of a fundamental divide between those who want substantive debate and those who view disagreement as a tactical game.

The ‘tea party’ movement, online blogs, news outlets such as Pajamas TV and town hall meetings filled with angry citizenry represent not only a distrust of government and mainstream media but also a desire for genuine debate and exchange of ideas.

Unfortunately, in response to citizens protesting they shouldn’t be forced to pay for other people’s health care and they value the choices inherent in a free market, proponents simply try to frame the debate differently without addressing the substance of the arguments.

It’s all about choice and public-private partnerships, they assure us. That 1,000-page list of regulations is so innocuous, claims Baldwin, that “60 percent of everyone in America won’t be affected at all.” People will be able to “keep their plans if they like them.” Never mind that employers are being given incentives to drop your coverage and any new policies determined by the so-called insurance exchange commission.

As we enter another semester devoted to learning and debating ideas, let’s keep in mind just how important these activities are. Ideas such as “health care is a right” are not just political slogans to be thrown around at rallies. These ideas have real-world consequences and thus understanding and articulating their actual meaning is crucial.

Jim Allard ([email protected]) is a graduate student in biological science.