“You can’t make anything idiot proof because idiots are so ingenious” – Ron Burns
Oh boy, the internet is abuzz with the latest violation of freedom and encroachment of “big brother” into our lives. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is pushing for a law banning the sale of large sugary beverages.
The arguments on both sides are simple. Pro: “obesity affects us all, it is a public health concern, and we have to control this problem because the bill is coming do for all of us.” Con: “quit telling me what to do with my body – it’s my life, not yours.”
They’re both right, and therein lies the rub. They shouldn’t both be right, so we have to make a choice about which one we want and go with it.
Authority and Responsibility …
Authority implies responsibility, and responsibility implies authority. The implication is bi-directional. If someone has authority then they also bear responsibility. If they have responsibility then they also hold authority. If they do not hold authority then they have no responsibility. And if they have not been given responsibility then they cannot have authority. You can’t get get around it or away from it. This is the way of things.
All or Nothing …
The authority/responsibility trade is all or nothing – as is the freedom trade.
Let’s not belabor it then since the point is so simple. If I have a responsibility to pay for your healthcare (that is, I have a responsibility to get up in the morning and produce goods and services that can be bartered on the open market, which can then be confiscated from me to barter with doctors and pharmaceutical companies who will provide your healthcare) then I must have authority over issues of your health. That’s it.
If I have to pay your doctor bills, even just a small percentage, then I can tell you not to drink sugary beverages. I can tell you not to smoke crack, or marijuana, or cigarettes. I can tell you not to have pre-marital or extra-marital sex because it entails health risks. (For that matter, I can tell you not to have anal sex because I don’t want to get stuck with the bill for your eventual rectal incontinence.) In fact (and I’m speaking to the guys now) I don’t want you to even look at a pretty girl, because you might follow that lustful thought to its logical conclusion and get a sexually transmitted disease from that little whore [bear with me ladies, I’m just speaking superfluously to make a point], and I’d have to pay for your treatment.
What? You don’t want me to use the power of government to control every aspect of your life? Then you had dang well better lobby congress (federal and state) and remove from me the burden of paying for your decisions. Do you want to be free to make your own decisions? Then you had better be willing to pay for your own consequences. If you want me to bear the consequences, then I get to make the decisions. It’s only fair.
Now, I may well choose to help you out even if I’m not under legal compulsion to do so – but it should be my free choice.
Freedom is an all or nothing proposition. Too often in our society it’s “freedom for me but not for thee.” “I get to be free to eat poorly and smoke cigarettes, but you are not free – you must pay for my medical bills.”
In the end, I think the continued slide into big brother land is a good thing. It is finally starting to open people’s eyes just a bit. When the “rollback” comes we won’t just pitch soda-bans overboard, we’ll actually start to return freedom to the people and let each man live his life rightly within the authority/responsibility spectrum.