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In Loco Parentis; Emphasis on Loco

Legal or illegal; it depends on where you buy it.

Seriously, New York? What, sodas sold at sports events are somehow more fattening than sodas sold at a grocery store? What's next? Limiting the chili cheese nachos to four chips?

In New York City, speakeasies will again flourish as the people turn criminal in order to slake their thirst as they see fit, only this time, it won’t be illegal booze the under cover joints serve; it will be a 32 oz soda. The hard stuff, the real deal. No Splenda or Nutrasweet to be found; only good old high-fructose corn syrup, combined with carbonated water and a little syrup, served in quantities that frighten little old ladies and NYC mayors.

But I repeat myself.

You may have guessed that I do not support Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to save us from ourselves by making it illegal to serve soft drinks in sizes larger than 16oz. This isn’t about whether or not the rule will succeed at reducing obesity in NYC. Instead, it’s about whether government, at the local, state, or federal level has the authority to pass legislation to protect us from ourselves. It’s about whether we are servants of the state, or its masters.

It’s about being citizens or subjects.

A New York Times poll showed that about 60% of New Yorkers opposed the new regulations. That is a healthy majority, yet Bloomberg and his health board went ahead with putting the new rules into place. In effect, regardless of what the people he supposedly serves want, he is going to use the power of government to force them to make choices he approves of.

Does this sound in any way like a representative form of government?

You may agree with the idea of forcing people to limit their consumption of soda as a healthy thing to do, but do you also agree with the idea that your government should have the authority to overrule your decisions if it believes it is acting in your best interests? And if you do, can you still consider yourself an autonomous adult?

Let’s come back to that in a minute.

Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts would not be alarming if this were an isolated case, but well intentioned authoritarians in all levels of government are actively working to save you from yourself, and worse, save your children from you!

A Chicago school forces students to eat cafeteria food and will not allow parents to send food from home without a doctor’s note.

Los Angeles banned any new fast food franchises from South L.A.

San Fransisco banned free toys in kid’s meals.

Massachusetts tried to ban school bake sales.

We have schools, cities, and states actively working to limit your personal choices, and dictating what choices you can make about your children and what they eat. And now, with the Affordable Care Act, federal agencies will get into the act as well. One of the excuses the government uses to limit our autonomy is to state that it has a compelling interest in doing so, and that interest is almost always financial.  This is the argument the federal government uses to limit the types of purchases WIC and food stamp recipients can make. When the government is paying for a substantial portion of national healthcare costs, as it will under the ACA, it will be relatively easy for it to establish that compelling interest for all of us, whether we have insurance through work, or one of the state exchanges.

So let’s consider the following hypothetical scenario. The ACA has survived all legal and political challenges and is the law of the land. Costs are significantly higher than projected, (not much of a stretch there; anticipated costs have already been revised upwards repeatedly) and the government announces an initiate to bring down costs by improving nutrition. The FDA, incorporating information from the Department of Agriculture as well as nutritional ranking systems developed by both government and private groups, sets nutritional guidelines for all consumers. Food purchases will be tracked against those guidelines, and purchase of foods deemed unhealthy will be automatically limited. Total calories, as well as proportion from fat, carbs, and protein, will be limited through regulations promulgated by the FDA.

The government will answer charges that this is an unconstitutional intrusion into personal choice with the same arguments it used to pass the ACA. You still have all the choices you had before; there are just limits on the commerce you can engage in. And in the end, lives will be saved. Society will benefit. But more importantly, we have a major health crisis that is threatening the viability of the health care system and that system must be preserved.

If you don’t think this is possible, re-read some of the articles linked. Notice the common theme that runs through them. “We can no longer trust the consumer to make the best choices for themselves. We must help them make better choices.”

Some of you reading this may have no problem with it. You believe you already make good choices, so a new program like this one would not affect you. Or, you believe that the role of the government is to protect us from ourselves, that the government has not only the authority, but the responsibility to make sure that each of us does what it thinks is best. As Denton Walthall, AKA ‘Ponytail Guy,’ who, during the 2nd debate between Clinton, Bush, and Perot, asked ” … how can we as symbolically the children of the future President, expect the two of you, the three of you, to meet our needs: the needs in housing and, and, and in crime and, you name it … ”

And there’s the problem.

If we believe that the government has the responsibility to ensure that our needs are met, then we are taking on a role that is subservient to the government.

As parents, we are all familiar with this power dynamic. Our children are dependent on us, so we must make the best decisions for them.  We overrule their wants in order to make sure that their needs are met. If we have teenagers, we state this dynamic quite often, usually followed closely by the sound of a slamming door: “As long as you live in my house, you’ll follow my rules!”

Oddly enough, most times, the door that is slammed is not the front door, signalling a desire for independence, but the bedroom door, signalling an empty wallet and a full laundry basket.

Are we as adults willing to accept a relationship with our government where it acts in a parental fashion towards us? Are we willing to accept that such a relationship places us in a position where we are inferior to our government, rather than superior? Are we willing to be treated as children in order to be sure that our needs will be met?

If we are, then we are no longer citizens of our government, but subjects.

I refuse to be a subject.

UPDATED: I included links to back up a couple of statements I made about projected costs and coverage of the ACA.

Read more of Rich Hailey’s writing about everything at Shotsacrossthebow.com

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