When someone calls and leaves voice mail at work, the message is sent to us in email rather than appearing on the phone. The message is attached to the email as a sound file so we may listen to it, and somewhere along the way, the voice mail is processed and added to the email as text so the message may also be read. It has worked well each time I’ve gotten voice mails in the past.

But then my niece left me a message. It was perfectly clear when I listened to it, but her message brought the machine to its knees as it completely failed to accurately convert her message into text:

Ring if you please bring me see you on a minute. Anyway — coming and going into now that they cast — and not not — not preferring to spell it anyway we’re going to there’s going to be going there we were gonna go shopping — there — entered into doing some stuff there anyway so while we’re there we were in my there they were in today is there any way anyway so will be there for a while and — fiasco probably be home late always get bigger from day and then if you’ll offline that I don’t think your offline maybe homemade is that it’s best — that I don’t know. About that bye.

Cutting-edge technology taken down by a 13-year-old girl. Tragic.

I work in the software industry. It is an industry standard for software to go through different versions over time. The idea is to improve the program with each release, but that isn’t always the case. Just look at the bad press that Windows Vista has received since it was released.

Likewise, our nation has undergone several versions. It began with a beta release on July 4th, 1776 and progressed to version 1.0 on March 1st, 1781, when the Articles of Confederation were ratified. As is common with initial releases, what looked good on paper didn’t work very well in real life. The thirteen states were sovereign, with a small, toothless federal government. Eventually the flaws led to a convening of the Second Continental Congress and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.

When the ninth state ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, America 2.0 was released. This version proved to be much more robust than version 1.0, and it continued, with small patches, for almost 100 years until the crisis of the Civil War. Version 2.0 was coded with strong states and a stronger, but still limited, federal government. Many southern states split from the mother country over the issue of slavery, arguing they had the right to do so under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, and it took years of bloody fighting and two more amendments to bring the nation together again.

President Lincoln’s efforts brought about America, Version 3.0. With the advent of this release, people stopped referring to the United States as separate sovereign states, and began referring to them as a single unified nation. A strengthened federal government took charge of America 3.0, leading the way for the next decades; Americans began to become familiar, if not comfortable, with the federal government dictating what individual states could and could not do.

America 4.0 appeared as part of President Roosevelt’s efforts to ameliorate the Great Depression. This version created a major societal shift, as American citizens went from being largely self-reliant to being largely dependent upon the government for job creation, policies that affected everyday life, and relief from every woe. President Johnson further altered social paradigms with the release of Version 4.5, an expansion of the welfare state with an associated reduction in individual self-reliance.

And now that the House has passed the Senate’s Health Care Reform Act, America 5.0 is almost here. It will begin when President Obama signs the bill into law, effectively taking over one-sixth of the nation’s economy and shouldering the responsibility of providing health care for every individual within its borders. If you are ignorant of American history and America’s founding principles, you might be looking forward to this new version. But I believe America 5.0 will create ever more monolithic government control over state and individual freedoms, as begun in version 3.0. Socialized health care will create fewer services at a higher cost, as every such program has produced in every nation where it has been tried; the only beneficiary will be government officials and bureaucrats, who will now have more control than ever over how Americans–who were meant to be sovereign citizens–may choose to live their daily lives.

Nationalizing health care is a dramatic code rewrite of the ideas put forth in the U.S. Constitution of America 2.0 about individual freedoms and responsibilities, but with the passing of the health care bill, Version 5.0 will be the law of the land. The question remains whether this will be a good change or a bad one. Looking at the way other nations have changed with the adoption of socialized medicine, I believe this change will be far worse than those which came before. If you think Windows Vista got nasty reviews, wait until you discover the “undocumented features” of America 5.0.

As much as certain people try to claim that Microsoft has a monopoly on operating systems, there are alternatives available to those who want them. The computer software market allows you to go with the competition if you dislike the current market leader. But when government controls your health care, who can you turn to when a bureaucrat decides your health, or even your life, is expendable? As messy and crazy as a free-market health care system can be, it allows for individual choice. But when the government is the only choice, you get one-size-fits-all care or nothing at all. That doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade.