His Own Counterexample

Thursday, September 29, 2011

According to the New York's paternalistic mayor, Michael Bloomberg, "mak[ing] healthy solutions the default social option [such as by forcing people to adhere to some official's notion of a healthy diet --ed] ... is ultimately government’s highest duty."

Government, as Ayn Rand once explained in, "The Nature of Government," "is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." Bloomberg plainly understands this much, since he sees it as the best "solution" to the consequences he finds troublesome of the choices other people make.

What Bloomberg fails to grasp or evades is the nature of the rules that government is meant to enforce. Rand addressed that issue, too, elsewhere, in a novel made popular by the current administration, which shares Bloomberg's view of paternalistic government:

The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man's self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law. But a government that initiates the employment of force against men who had forced no one, the employment of armed compulsion against disarmed victims, is a nightmare infernal machine designed to annihilate morality: such a government reverses its only moral purpose and switches from the role of protector to the role of man's deadliest enemy, from the role of policeman to the role of a criminal vested with the right to the wielding of violence against victims deprived of the right of self-defense. Such a government substitutes for morality the following rule of social conduct: you may do whatever you please to your neighbor, provided your gang is bigger than his. [minor format edits, links and bold added]
Rand's view of morality (linked above) as rational self-interest is crucial to understanding a why government is so destructive when it dictates the choices we make -- no matter how minor -- when said choices do not pick the pockets or break the legs of others (except, as in the case of health expenses, when the government forces Peter to pay Paul's medical bills): We have the government, instead of making it possible for us to freely make and act on our own judgements, making it difficult or impossible for us to do so.

This is a big problem when the government is wrong about some guideline, but the precedent for that to happen is set even if some rule, like wearing seatbelts in cars, is actually a good, life-promoting idea. With that in mind, it is interesting that Bloomberg brags about leading, "a national salt reduction initiative and engag[ing] 28 food manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurant chains to voluntarily commit to reducing excessive amounts of sodium in their products." (With the threat of regulations hanging over their heads, their "voluntarism" is much like that you and I show on Tax Day.)

Too bad it seems that it's "time to end the war on salt."
[A] meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine -- an excellent measure of prior consumption -- the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous. [format edits, bold added]
Nutrition is a young science, and it is far from rare for yesterday's wisdom to become today's folly. The best way for the government to help me ensure my own well-being would be for it to get out of the business of making me pay for everyone else's bad choices (and them, any of mine), and to get out of the business of forcing me to take questionable or bad advice, whether I agree with it or not.

The best I can say for Michael Bloomberg regarding my health is this: With friends like him, who needs enemies?

-- CAV

No comments: