Who's Your Nanny?

John Quayle blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Sun Mar 4 18:14:57 MST 2007

Who's Your Nanny?

As meddling scolds, Democrats and Republicans are equal offenders.

<http://www.reason.com/news/printer//staff/show/128.html>Jacob Sullum | 
February 28, 2007

Several California newspapers recently carried a 
<http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/16675577.htm>story about 
"nanny government" measures in the state legislature that "irk 
Republicans," including bills that would forbid smoking on state beaches, 
ban trans fats in restaurant food, and require calorie counts on menu 
boards. "If somebody wants to go ahead and choose to do something that may 
not always be in their best interest," said one of those irked Republicans, 
state Sen. George Runner, "hey, this is America, you get to choose those 

As long as those things do not involve, say, smoking pot. Runner, despite 
his defense of the right to do risky things, is a gung-ho drug warrior. Two 
years ago the Drug Policy Alliance 
<http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/CAHeroesZeroes1105.pdf>picked him as 
one of seven "Drug Policy Reform Zeroes" in the California legislature.

Although Democrats frequently are portrayed as meddling do-gooders eager to 
save you from yourself, they are no worse in this respect than Republicans. 
The targets may differ, but the basic impulse is the same.

The paternalistic policies that have received the most attention lately 
have been associated mainly with Democrats. But it's worth remembering that 
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who brags about 
<http://www.reason.com/news/printer//news/show/33752.html>pushing smokers 
to quit by imposing onerous cigarette taxes and banning smoking in bars and 
restaurants, is officially a Republican. New York Health Commissioner 
Thomas Friedan, who led the effort to 
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16051436/>ban trans fats from the city's 
restaurants by bureaucratic fiat, is a Democrat, though a Bloomberg appointee.

On February 8, the Philadelphia City Council, which consists of 14 
Democrats and three Republicans, 
<http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/16653942.htm>voted unanimously to impose 
a similar ban. The legislators pushing trans fat bans in Chicago, 
California, and New Hamphire are all Democrats, displaying their party's 
indomitable faith in the efficacy of social engineering.

"We talk about obesity as a national epidemic leading to diabetes and all 
the other health care costs," state Rep. Paul McEachern, co-sponsor of the 
New Hampshire trans fat bill, recently 
The Boston Globe. "This is something that will have a measurable effect, 
and it doesn't cost any money."

Well, it doesn't cost any money if you don't count the costs imposed on 
restaurateurs forced to find new fats for frying and baking. And since the 
new fats will have just as many calories as the old fats, it's hard to see 
how the switch will have "a measurable impact" on obesity. But McEachern 
means well, and that's what matters.

Even if his bill doesn't pass, said McEachern, "with the publicity 
surrounding this, people will realize that 'maybe we are better off going 
to a restaurant that doesn't use trans fats.'" Exactly what is stopping 
them from doing that now isn't clear.

Likewise, the New York City Board of Health defends its 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/26/nyregion/26food.html>new rule requiring 
calorie counts on menu boards as a way of giving consumers useful 
information. But since the rule applies only to restaurants that already 
provide nutritional information online, in brochures, and on posters, it's 
really a way of nagging people who would rather not be reminded how many 
calories are in that cheeseburger or frozen coffee drink.

Before we get carried away scolding Democrats for all their scolding, let's 
recall that Republicans are leading the 
<http://www.reason.com/news/printer//news/show/38400.html>crusade to stop 
you from using the Internet to play poker or bet on football games. It's a 
Republican administration that has 
<http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_5306384>revived the effort to prevent adults 
from looking at dirty pictures in the privacy of their homes. And while the 
war on drugs is a bipartisan project, Republicans are noticeably more 
enthusiastic about imposing draconian prison sentences on drug offenders.

Broadly speaking, Democrats want to protect you from the physical threats 
posed by habits such as smoking, overeating, and 
<http://www.wnbc.com/news/10948106/detail.html>crossing the street while 
listening to an iPod. Republicans are more interested in protecting you 
from the moral threats posed by temptations such as drugs, gambling, and 
pornography. Between them, they've got you covered, body and soul.

© Copyright 2007 by Creators Syndicate Inc. 
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