What can be given can be taken away. Are you eating right? Exercising? You’re not still drinking, are you? Authorities merely nag us now. When we owe them our health care, they can start demanding.

Do not imagine they will hesitate to use this power. The House puts the Internal Revenue Service and all its compassionate flexibility in charge of enforcing the insurance mandate. If you don’t buy, there will be penalties. Those penalties can include the slammer, Congress itself points out.

They’ll go further. At 1,990 pages, the bill has room for dreams of utopia, and so health care reform demands affirmative action in nursing schools (page 1379), calorie lists on menus (page 1510) and inspections (voluntary, for now) of expectant parents (page 1176). These are not, even now, the restrained ambitions of a modest government.

They are signals of a new relationship. When we all are on the take, voluntarily or not, we are no longer exactly free citizens. We are, in part, dependents. And as dependents are customarily told by Dad, “If you live in my house, you live by my rules.”