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Freedom's Ring Hard to Hear in Nanny State America

“Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have. … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

If some of the greats from American history, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln, were to magically appear before us today, I think they would be shocked at how the country they fought to shape and mold as a beacon of freedom and hope has turned out.

These men, along with their contemporaries, believed in a country where you had the freedom to use the abilities you were born with, bestowed upon you by a higher being, to choose your own destiny — be it where you live, how you earn your keep, and whom you associate with. They believed in a country where citizens are free of interference from government, except in cases where said government protects its citizens from foreign invasion, provides basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and deals with those who break laws intended to protect the basic rights of all citizens (e.g., punishing burglars, murderers, etc.).

For example, the very idea that government bureaucrats would dare to suggest that they be in charge of one of life’s most basic functions, eating, in order to “save” you from your own penchant for eating too much — causing you to become overweight and suffer from the health problems stemming from that physical state — would be absolutely foreign to our ancestors.

Yet such a case is unfolding in Mississippi, where legislation has been introduced which, if it were to become law, would forbid obese people from eating at restaurants. Of course, the man who introduced the law says his reasoning was not to actually pass such a law, but “to get people’s attention to study the proper motive of obesity which is a concern to all of us.”

The proper motive of obesity? It sounds like he’s been watching a little too much Dr. Phil.

Of course obesity should be of concern, but is it really the government’s business to tell you how and what to eat? Supposing the legislation goes through, will there be a bureaucrat assigned to all Mississippi eateries, ready to measure and/or weigh patrons and give them the heave ho if they don’t meet the approved standard? And who will set the standard? Moreover, who will pay for the new government employees needed to play Waffle House Gestapo?

If you are really struggling with obesity, it behooves you to do something about it yourself and not wait around for legislators to tell you that you can or cannot eat at your favorite restaurant. Because if you wait for them to do that, then you might as well wait for them to pass a law about what you can or cannot buy at the grocery store, and begin mandating how much exercise you should get each day.

Don’t believe me? New York City has already banned restaurants in that city from using trans-fats in their cooking, taking citizens completely out of the loop as far as what they can or cannot put in their mouths. What’s next? Banning certain restaurants altogether that don’t sport Mayor Mike “Nanny” Bloomberg’s seal of approval? No more pizzerias? No more Dunkin’ Donuts? No more (gasp) street corner hot dog and pretzel carts?

(This is different from the Department of Health closing down a restaurant that violates such health regulations as unclean kitchen conditions. It’s one thing to offer fattening foods with minimal health benefits; it’s clearly another to offer food that’s either spoiled or prepared in a kitchen overrun with rats and other vermin.)

Personal responsibility used to be this nation’s calling card. Now it’s become one of those quaint memories we talk about — like silent movies, ice boxes, and the Charleston.

Mississippi isn’t the only recent example of government gone haywire. Hillary Clinton, who wants to be president of the United States, has a mandatory health care plan in the works that would command you to purchase health care coverage whether you want to or not. According to one of Clinton’s senior advisors, Kiki McLean, there are consequences — er, outcomes — for those who fail to play the game as commanded:

CARLSON: [Clinton’s] soft-selling the stick. She’s selling the carrot; she’s not talking about the stick, the punishment for not going along with her vision of the Brave New World.

MCLEAN: The reality is, that we’re going to have to bring everybody into the plan, and there’s going to have to be —

CARLSON: Punishment.

MCLEAN: Outcomes. There’s going to have to be an outcome for people who don’t participate because it all affects us. Remember, we are a community that lives here.

“Outcomes” here is Newspeak for consequences and/or punishment. Here, the consequence is if you don’t put your money into the common kitty, then that’s less money under government control. Therefore you must be punished for not paying “your share.” Isn’t that what it’s really all about?

We can see how well such a large amount of government control over health care is working out over in Britain, where there has been talk not only of denying certain health services to taxpayers who are old, overweight, smoke, or are otherwise unhealthy, but of forcing citizens to purchase a license to indulge in their private bad habits. Never mind that all Brits are forced to pay into the National Health System and that British smokers already pay a hefty tax for their ciggies. This is brought to you courtesy of the country that had the brilliant idea to charge a “license fee” for simply owning a television, whether you watch one hour a week or 20.

Let’s face it: government employ is the perfect haven for liberal know-it-all busybodies who believe that they know better than you do how you should live your life. This is how we end up with legislators who think they can tell fat people where and when they can eat. Our founders realized that humanity is not a “one size fits all” condition. Everyone has different needs, experiences, resources, and talents — and so cannot be categorized as neatly as the bean counters would like.

How is it that we’ve gotten so far away from our roots? Can you imagine the pioneers who crossed this nation in their covered wagons putting up with having to buy a license or an insurance policy before they set out on the Oregon Trail? Would it have occurred to the ill-fated Donner party to sue someone — anyone — for the fact that they decided to take an unproven shortcut and ended up stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during one of the worst winters on record, ending in the deaths of nearly half of the entire group? Of course not. Back then, people accepted that they would have to take responsibility for their stupid or ill-informed decisions. Today, we have those who believe that we should allow government to make our stupid decisions for us, meaning no one is accountable — after all, how often does government own up to its mistakes?

Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, explains the difference between the modern conservative mindset and the modern liberal mindset:

“A social scientist who understands human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation, and moral integrity — as liberals do,” he says. “A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal, and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population — as liberals do. And a legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which over-regulates and over-taxes the nation’s citizens, corrupts their character, and reduces them to wards of the state — as liberals do.”

Bottom line: faced with the choice of possibly making a bad decision or letting the nanny staters do my thinking for me, I’ll go with the chance of screwing up on my own — because at least then I’ll have a chance to learn from my mistakes and do things right the next time. But once a bad government policy takes root, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of.

Pam Meister is the editor of FamilySecurityMatters.org (the opinions she expresses here are her own), and her work has also been featured on American Thinker.