Monday, December 11, 2006

The Nanny State In New York City

From Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe, an essay lamenting the steady encrochment of the Nanny State.
Big Brother has been busy.

New York City’s board of health voted last week to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants, a step that will force many of the Big Apple’s 26,000 eating establishments to radically alter the way they prepare food. The prohibition is being called a model for other cities, such as Chicago, where similar bans have been proposed.

Is it a good idea to avoid food made with trans fats? That depends on what you consider good. Trans fats are said to raise the risk of heart disease by increasing levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. They also contribute to the appealing taste of many baked and fried foods, and provide an economical alternative to saturated fats. As with most things in life, trans fats carry both risks and benefits. Do the possible long-term health concerns outweigh the short-term pleasures? That’s a question of values — one that scientists and regulators aren’t competent to answer.

Different people have different priorities. They make different choices about the fats in their diet, just as they make different choices about whether to drive a Toyota, drink their coffee black, or get a tattoo. In a free society, men and women decide such things for themselves. In New York, men and women are now a little less free. And since a loss of liberty anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere, the rest of us are now a little less free as well.

But the slow erosion of freedom doesn’t trouble the lifestyle bullies. They are quite sure that they have the right to dictate people’s eating (and other) habits. “It’s basically a slow form of poison,” sniffs David Katz of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “I applaud New York City, and frankly, I think there should be a nationwide ban.”

Yes, why go through the trouble of making your own decision about trans fats or anything else when officious bureaucrats are willing to make it for you? It’s so much easier to prohibit something — smoking in bars, say, or cycling without a helmet, or using marijuana, or gambling, or working a job for less than some “minimum” wage — than to allow adults the freedom to choose.
Interestingly, the liberal nannies, who want to regulate whether people can smoke in bars, eat trans fats or buy a car without an air bag would not think of interfering with risky sexual behavior.

They fully believe in individual freedom where that’s concerned.

And the nannies can’t really be sure of the science they claim they are using to “protect” the public. For years, margarine was supposedly more healthy than butter (which was claimed to be full of cholesterol). Now, the tables are turned.

The real purpose isn’t keeping the public safe. It’s to redistribute power into the hands of the nannies.

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