Mine did this week — again — when I read an odd news story out of New York City.
For years, I tended to use a particular type of argument against examples of government overstepping its bounds. “Reductio ad absurdum” is a kind of argument that shows the absurd long-term results of a short-sighted policy.
I particularly used it when writing about the government stepping in to take care of us poor, dumb citizens. Whether it was a proposed new gun control law, or additional restrictions on alcohol or tobacco use, I tried to show that when the same principles were applied to other areas, government involvement was just plain silly.
“What’s next?” I asked. “We know that heart attacks and high blood pressure cause far more deaths that gunfire. Will they ban our Big Macs?”
Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed something very close.
Bloomberg falls into the “someone’s got to do something” trap, which usually means more government rules and less freedom.
“Everybody is wringing their hands saying we’ve got to do something,” he said in an interview. “Well, here is a concrete thing. You can still buy large bottles in stores. But in a restaurant, 16 ounces is the maximum that they would be able to serve in one cup. If you want to order two cups of the same time, that’s fine. It’s your choice. We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things. We’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.”
That’s ridiculous; of course he’s trying to take away choices and freedoms and rights — but saying consumers can just buy two drinks instead of one just adds a measure of public shame to the governmental coercion arsenal.
And we can expect much, much more of this, particularly if the Affordable Care Act (what even the White House now calls Obamacare) is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Obesity is a ticking time bomb for any health care system; we’re getting older, we’re getting fatter, and we’re developing more and more expensive, long-term health problems.
These are facts — and excellent reasons for us all to watch our diets.
But these aren’t reasons for the government to watch our diets for us.
No one is in favor of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. I’ve been thinking about my weight lately (that’s all, mostly thinking). And bacon cheeseburgers are now just a fond memory.
But is this where we want the government stepping in — making my menu choices for me?
I didn’t think so, and I often used it as an example of government goofiness gone wild. But then it happened.