Under the liberal mindset there is this concept of the State having to protect people from themselves. Let me explain what I mean. Our government rightly protects its citizen from others. It prevents, for example, people from driving while intoxicated because in doing, so they could harm another citizen. If my behavior harms another person then I should be prevented from doing it. The problem is when State, in an effort to further control our lives, goes beyond its powers and tries to protect people from themselves. A clear example is the state imposing that we wear a seatbelt. I wear a seatbelt, and I think it is wise to take the extra ten seconds when I get in the car to get buckled up. But I don’t need anyone, the government included, forcing me to take safety precautions when driving. The same goes for helmets. I don’t own a motorcycle, but if I did, I would wear a helmet even if the government didn’t make me wear one. If I do something stupid (like riding a motorcycle at 70 miles per hour without a helmet) and get hurt, then it is my fault and I should pay the consequences for my actions. I could also argue that it goes beyond that, it is my right to determine what is safe and what is not. The problem is that not everyone thinks this way. There is a segment of society that feels compelled to step in and save people from themselves out of a misguided sense of compassion fueled by a deep sense of self-righteousness. In their minds, they know what’s better for us than ourselves and they are going to do whatever they can to inform us of this fact. These are the busy bodies that will tell you “you know, you should really do this because it is better”. What they really mean is, “I know more than you and you should listen to me”. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg suffers from this disease. He thinks the State knows what’s best for its citizens than the citizens do themselves. Not only he has banned trans fats and smoking in parks (which he later said he would not enforce, which makes me ask myself, why bother to go through the process of passing a law you then don’t intent to enforce? But I digress…), but now wants to ban sugary sodas larger than 16 ounces. In his words “We’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another…”. Bill Clinton also suffers from this disease, said that “these are very serious problems” and also added “a lot of things in our diet that not only make us too heavy, but put too much sugar in our body, which has an enormous amount of people with diabetes… it’s shortening life and undermining the quality of your life and exploding our health care system…”. Their sense of self-righteousness is so strong that they fail to see that the majority of people disagree with their point of view. Something that stuck with me about the statement Clinton made was his comment about the health care system. He says that health issues caused by these type of foods are “…shortening life and undermining the quality of your life and exploding our health care system”. Clinton just gave up the whole reason for trying to control what people eat under the pretext of educating people to eat healthier. First of all, don’t think for a moment that sugary drinks are the last food to be banned. They will use the rising health care prices as the reason for imposing their “healthy choices” on us. In an open market, the health insurance company has the right to decide how to handle the bad choices people make that lead to poor health conditions. If you smoke, or have other bad habits that affect your health, your premium is probably going to be higher because you are a higher risk to the insurance company. In a healthcare system like Obama’s, where we all pay for each other’s insurance (the government calls “government sponsored”, but it is actually paid by us, the suckers that have a job and pay taxes) the government comes to the rescue and provides healthcare for all, because after all, healthcare companies are just evil corporations that have no heart, and are only looking at the bottom line. So the ever-so-benevolent government steps in, provides healthcare for everyone at no cost (again, at no cost to the growing percentage of people who don’t pay taxes, and at a high cost to those of us that do) but with one caveat: The government then has an excuse to step in and control what you eat, how much of it, if you exercise, where you smoke, and how much. They can tax certain items more under the pretext of trying to deter people from buying them, when in actuality it is to get more money to fund the programs they offer to those who don’t pay a dime into the system but keep re-electing them (that’ would be you, Sheila Jackson Lee and your constituency, among many others). So you see, this has nothing to do with keeping people healthy, but rather with controlling how people behave so that eventually the State will be the one controlling our day-to-day lives (as if they didn’t control enough already). The problem is that this indignation is only temporary. We eventually are going to either get distracted by a celebrity dancing moves or a nobody’s ability to sing, while our government slowly encroaches more and more into our daily lives. In just a handful of years Bloomberg handpicked the New York City board of health, which is the body that has to approve his city ordinance, and has passed all these laws that aim at controlling people’s behavior. Despite the outrage at every law passed, people eventually took it and went on with their daily lives. I don’t smoke, nor drink sugary sodas and rarely eat at fast food restaurants so I could watch from the sidelines while the consumers of those products are affected, complain about it and eventually go on with their lives. We cannot idly stand by because as Martin Niemöller so eloquently pointed out, at some point they will come for me.
On a sidenote, and another interesting fact, New York City’s Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, known for being a longtime advocate of using government to promote healthier behavior, replaced in 2009 the more controversial Thomas Frieden, who went to work for none other than President Obama as the CDC director. Frieden was responsible to banning trans-fats, and smoking in bars. The result of his work was a promotion to the federal government by none other than the person that embodies an over-reaching government like no other: Barak Obama.