Let’s Err on the Side of Liberty

by Burt on April 20, 2011

Many people like one part of the new health care law: Restaurants are asked to list the calorie content of the food they serve on their menus. In fact, New York City has been on board with this program even before the 2010 health care law was passed. Fine. What has been the result in New York City?

According to Jonah Lehrer at the Wall Street Journal, “Initial analyses by researchers at New York University and Yale have found that, since the law was enacted, the average restaurant-goer has actually been purchasing slightly more calories.”

What should we do about this outcome? Nothing. In a free society, citizens must be allowed to make poor choices, even when it shortens their lives. People need to be allowed to eat what they want, and they are then obliged to pay for their own health care. That is part of life in a free society. If we assume, however, that health care is the government’s responsibility, then central planners have the right to regulate what you eat because they have the duty to care for you if you get sick. Allowing government control in one area leads to more controls in other areas.

What happens when government regulators direct your behavior? Much that is bad–and unintended. For example, many schools have abolished chocolate milk because of its high sugar content. What is the result? According to the Washington Post, children drink 37% less milk at school because flavored milk is no longer available. Thus, nutritional eating at these milk-regulated schools may actually be declining.

In many parts of our lives, as we have yielded liberty, regulators have controlled not just our food, but the size of our showerheads, the water content of our toilets, the light bulbs we are allowed to use, and the car alarms we must cope with, even if they go off incessantly when we look at them cross-eyed.

Chocolate milk, showerheads, and car alarms seem like minor parts of life, but they are parts of the larger battle to limit government if we are to continue living in a free society. Let’s make our own choices in what we eat and take personal responsibility for the results.

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