Monday, November 10, 2014

The conundrum of the nanny state

As kids our parents made decisions for us for our own good, and we do the same for our kids.  It's a good thing too, because, lacking good parental support, kids are known to do some stupid things, like playing with matches in a closet. Yet there are some people who think they are so good at playing the role of parent that they should decide what is best for everyone.  They are called progressives.  

Usually these are people who live pretty comfortable lives with little to no stress.  Since they've managed to make it through life without unhealthy food, alcohol and cigarettes, they think we should live just like they do, and so they push lawmakers to pass laws that discourage their use, such as excise taxes or sin taxes or bans.  

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg successfully championed for laws banning smoking in commercial establishments like bars and restaurants, smoking in public places, sales of flavored tobacco products, smoking e-cigarettes in public, regulating sodium levels in processed food, trans fats in restaurants, loud headphones, sodas larger than 16 ounces, commercial music over 45 decibels, chain restaurant menus without calorie counts, and cell phones in schools.  

Now, I understand why all these things that he regulated might be bad for us,and why such laws might be good, although each one of them takes a way a personal liberty.  Taking that a step further, each of these laws assumes that most people are too stupid to decide for themselves what is healthy or not healthy, so these progressives have to decide for us.  They have to play the role of parent, thus turning our nation into what many refer to as a nanny state.  

The most recent such effort comes from Westminster, Massachusetts, a town of 7,700 residents, where the board of health is trying to ban the sale of any tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.  If successful, Westminster would become the first town to make illegal the sale of tobacco products.  

The Associated Press explains the objective of such a ban. 
Town health agent Elizabeth Swedberg said a ban seemed like a sensible solution to a vexing problem.
"The tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people," she said, pointing to 69-cent bubblegum-flavored cigars, electronic cigarettes and a new form of dissolvable smokeless tobacco that resembles Tic Tac candies. "The board was getting frustrated trying to keep up with this."
Citing a report from the U.S. surgeon general, Swedberg said that if tobacco use continues unabated, 5.6 million American children who are younger than 18 today will die prematurely because of smoking. Change, she said, "has to start somewhere."
Certainly we can understand this concern, but such a ban would take away this option for adults who choose to sell and purchase such products. One store owner said that tobacco products make up five percent of his sales.  Rational adults choose to purchase such products for their own consumption.

So whether it's banning the sale of tobacco products, or limiting the size of pop you can buy, or forcing you to read the calorie counts of the foods you intend on eating at a restaurant, it's always for our own good.  These progressives think they know what's best for us.

Surely as parents we try to encourage our children to make wise choices, and while they are young enough and impressionable enough we might force limit, or eliminate altogether, unhealthy options. The problem, though, is that most Americans are not children.  Most Americans are hard working people who have to deal with stress, and stress is deserving of something that might take away that stress, such as alcohol, high calorie foods, tobacco products, and looking at fun foods without being forced to read the calories.

Back in the 1980s Nancy Reagan put together a very successful campaign to get kids to say no to drugs. That's the kind of thing our leaders should do rather than making decisions "for our own good" that force us to do things their way.  

They say they are doing it for our own good, but do you want to know the real reason progressives are forcing us to live healthier?  It's because their ultimate goal is to have a universal healthcare system, and if you are unhealthy you will cost too much.  So the ultimate goal is to limit the cost of your health.

They started out big by passing prohibition back in 1919, but it resulted in a public outcry and prohibition was repealed in 1933, with the war giving progressives an easy out.  It failed because most people reject their agenda.

So they learned they couldn't get everything they wanted in one swell step, and so they have been taking baby steps ever since, and they have been gradually succeeded, where they have managed to obtain majorities, to push for their agenda one law at a time.

Such progressives who are leading this charge must live very stress free lives, which might explain why they have so much time on their hands.  The rest of us are having to work for a living and have to deal with stress every day of our lives.  We are the ones who need some of these unhealthy choices to take the edge off life once in a while.  Sure some of us over do it, but that's our choice; that's our liberty.

And, of course, the reason they are succeeding at gradually pushing forth their agenda is that the rest of us are too busy working to make any effort to stop them.  Pretty soon our nation is going to be at a state where police officers are pointing guns at adults who purchase simple, harmless, things such as a six ounce soda pop.

Progressives are correct in that there are very unhealthy habits of Americans.  They are right that we should do what is in our power to educate people how to live a healthy lifestyle.  Yet the effort should not involve laws that take away individual liberties.