Proposed Ban Deficient in "Vitamin F"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In an ARI press release, Alex Epstein notes that the government's filthy hand, after lifting our wallets, is trying to pry itself into our very mouths!

Congressmen are haggling over which flavors of cigarette to ban. Nearly all agree that chocolate, strawberry, almost any other conceivable flavor be banned, but there is a furious debate as to whether clove-flavored cigarettes should be a permitted exception.

"The very existence of such a debate," said Alex Epstein, junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, "the fact that the government is dictating anything related to what flavor cigarettes may or may not be produced and consumed is an ominous indicator of the state of liberty in America.

...

"There is no realm that is off-limits to such a government. Once we accept the government's right to ban flavorful cigarettes, by what principle will we resist when anti-obesity activists try to ban our favorite, tasty, high-calorie foods? Or when 'investor advocates' ban us from making government-designated 'risky' investments? Americans should assert their rights, take responsibility for their own lives, and demand an end to the paternalistic state." [bold added]
Needless to say, many of those who favor such meddling probably are guilty of a form of context-dropping I think of as the "dictator fantasy", in which they imagine that the government will intervene only in those areas they want it to -- and to force people to act only in the ways they want.

In this case, supporters will imagine that the government will act only to promote good (physical) health, while not, say, banning something else (such as a type of music) they love. I would suggest that such people consider the possibility that some busybody somewhere is working overtime to find an excuse palatable enough to "sell" such an intervention to the general public.

In other words, I would advise such people to do the following: Consider the idea that whatever you like will be deemed, correctly or not, "harmful" by the state, which will then try to ban it. Consider further, the likelihood that the government will wrongly label something as harmful or wrongly make it illegal. No matter which side of the abortion debate you land on, for example, the government has, at one time or another, enforced a law you strongly disagree with.

The state is clearly not infallible, but it alone of all social institutions can tell people what to do. This is the virtue -- which our public seems to be forgetting very quickly -- of government limited to the protection of individual rights. This protection is what each of us needs so we can use our own rational judgement freely to live our lives as fully as possible.

And this fact points to the final irony in this trivial-sounding squabbling over flavors, which is identical to that I observed when other politicians were reported to be debating whether to ban trans fats:
Not in any way to condone what ... [the] fitness fascists [are doing, but they] have a point. Lots of people do make stupid choices. But the government telling them what to do is a violation of individual rights, and would-be dictators like Rivera are destroying one necessity of life, freedom, in the name of promoting another, good health. We need both to survive....
Would you "trade" the ability to breathe air for the ability to drink water? I didn't think so.

But the "trade" of freedom for health is exactly the same kind of fool's bargain. Too bad the government forces food manufacturers to label for nutritional content while neglecting to provide similar warnings with proposed legislation. If it did, the flavor police would have to admit that their idea would cause a potentially lethal deficiency of "Vitamin F". That is, it deprives man of an essential condition for his survival: Freedom.

-- CAV

4 comments:

Joseph Kellard said...

Gus writes:

"But the 'trade' of freedom for health is exactly the same kind of fool's bargain. Too bad the government forces food manufacturers to label for nutritional content while neglecting to provide similar warnings with proposed legislation. If it did, the flavor police would have to admit that their idea would cause a potentially lethal deficiency of 'Vitamin F'. That is, it deprives man of an essential condition for his survival: Freedom."

Thank you for this insightful comment. I will keep it in mind the next time someone argues with me when I tell them that the alphabet agencies are unnecessary --and actually destructive to our freedom and, thus, our very lives.

For reasons I don't have the time to explain now, since, in part, I haven't fully thought them through, Gus's idea here recalls a great article Ayn Rand wrote, "Who Will Protect Us from Our Protectors," in May 1962 in The Objectivist Newsletter. I'll have to reread that article when I have the time ... I smell a potentially good integration here.

Gus Van Horn said...

The suspense is killing me, Joe! Stop by again when you hunt that connection down!

Jim May said...

This is *the* main argument against everything the Left does -- no matter what the problem or whether it's real or not, their solution is always the same thing -- more government power.

Often I hear people argue that since we don't know for certain what the consequences of global warming might be, should we take the risk of doing nothing?

I point out that even if global warming and its potential negative consequences were a significant risk, the expansion of government power at the expense of liberty is a known historical certainty, logging over 200 million deaths in the last century alone.

And that's just the direct body count.

Gus Van Horn said...

Your point is more important, but this kind of "argument" for global warming also looks a lot to me like a recycled version of Pascal's Wager!