Government Control of Your Life

Government Control of Your Life

I wrote something about the food police a few months ago and wasn't going to address the issue again. That wasn't an absolute "no", but a general, "we've mentioned this before" kind of thought. Then last week New York Mayor, Richard Bloomberg, talked about banning large size (16 oz.) drinks, particularly soft drinks, in the Big Apple.

  His reasoning is that all the fat people in New York (which, incidentally, is supposed to be one of the skinniest of cities) cost taxpayers a lot. He's talking about those on Medicaid, the poorer people, specifically, but he's talking about everybody. Supposedly, billions of dollars are spent unnecessarily because people are fat. I've never seen the data to support this, but since everyone says it is so, it must be. O.K. a lot of real smart people, including most doctors, see fatness as a problem. I'll concede the point.

  However, I'll make this point: the government's ability to control your personal life and habits is directly proportional to  its investment in you. Put another way: if the government pays to take care of you, they have a right to dictate what you do and how you do it. The more they (the taxpayers) pay for you - housing, food, transportation, healthcare, for instance - the more say so they'll have in your life. As government moves to control, or pay for, directly or indirectly, your health care, the more they can dictate what you should eat or can eat and do to stay healthy.

  If Mayor Bloomberg is going to control the size of soft drinks, he should be able to control the size of alcoholic drinks (England, by the way, is moving away from the pint). Why shouldn't there be a restriction on portion sizes at restaurants? No more than a 4 oz. steak, for instance. Or a half a potato. Or a spoon full of pasta. Or a one inch pie slice. It's a little more difficult to control proportion size in grocery stores, because families differ in size, and shopping usually isn't a day by day activity.

  There was a story the other day that 51 per cent of the people of the U.S. receive some government aid. I question the figures because they include Social Security and Medicare which aren't welfare programs, but forced citizen investment programs however badly the investments turned out. However,  I do know that half of the home mortgages in this country are guaranteed through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac although that wasn't the initial intent. Guarantees guarantee control. If you sign a note for someone and they don't pay, you pay, and I'll guarantee you will feel you have some say-so over how that person conducts his financial life.

  If the government is going to subsidize and guarantee your health care, if they're going to pay for your education to whatever level you aspire, if they're going to pay for your sex life or the consequences of it, if they're going to subsidize or guarantee your housing and your transportation, and guarantee your food supply, and maybe dictate your vacation time, then they are going to be able to control aspects and facets of all of those.

  That won't happen, you contend? It probably won't be a big deal until these subsidies and guarantees begin to cost more than government is willing to tax or is able to tax. That's the big deal now on Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security. The programs aren't sustainable without big changes. People don't like changes so the natural government move is to force changes in behavior that will reduce the above costs. Of course, it's going to be tough to convince people to die sooner to save costs. But government can set up a system of incentives and punishments (taxes and fines) and controls to coerce people to act in certain ways. As an aside, some smokers who protest the smoking bans and control, contend that since they die at an earlier age they save taxpayers money. Smoking is still frowned upon.

  I'll make my point in another way: the more control of your life you concede to government, the less control you have of your life. It's a trade-off many are willing to make. The problem is you can't reverse the trade.