Jerry, though America spends a lot on welfare, healthcare and education, it is not spent efficiently. This is IMHO basically ripping off tax payers. Your point about the government being in bed with Big Pharma is a case and point.
Nick, I agree that only individuals can 'fix' a lot of the problems in most societies, but those individuals need to recognise that, for instance with children, it takes a village to raise a child. So individual responsibility is not always enough. As for the war on drugs and you not understanding peoples desire to alter their mind, I understand this fully. In every animal model of human addiction that I study as part of my job, we find that animals will, given the free choice, choose mind-altering drugs every time. It is not just the human condition, it spans all of the higher animal kingdom. Creating criminals of victimless crimes just doesn't seem productive. I agree it is better for parents, and 'villages' to educate and steer youth away from these drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), but to make prisoners out of people for doing what really comes naturally for many just tears apart families and communities, and creates a large population of 'criminals'. It also creates the culture in which their is a lot of profit for gangs and other thugs to wreak social havoc. Obviously I am not a fan of the war on drugs. I see drug use as just part of a person's individual freedom to screw up their own life, just like obesity and many other poor choices made by adults. However, children are so vulnerable to the choices made by their parents that I DO see a need for some kind of educational intervention, whether it be at community level, school district level, state level, or failing all that, even federal level. Although it is easy to see it as an individual's failing, when you live in a country that has universal healthcare, it also becomes a tax-payer's business. I guess this is one argument against universal healthcare, but really any society, no matter what healthcare system they use, can't afford the majority of their people to be unhealthy.