Paternalism at Home and Abroad

August 17, 2010

Two recent news items point out that government paternalism knows no geographical boundaries. The first is from China, the other from here at home.

In China:

… the city of Beijing has resumed mandatory daily workplace calisthenics, after a three-year break. Radio broadcast exercise regimens first began in 1951, but were suspended in 2007 ….

And in our country’s version of Beijing, California:

In San Francisco, newly proposed legislation would ban toys from most kids meals sold at McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains unless the meals meet more stringent calorie and sodium limits. The legislation also would require fruit or veggies in each meal.

Leave it to government, both here and across the ocean, to limit individual choice and freedom via mandates or prohibitions that do not act in any legitimate way to protect individual rights (the core purpose of government). Instead, they are too busy making sure we are healthy.

Drinking Down Paternalism

March 10, 2010

Government paternalism seemingly never goes out of fashion. One recent example comes in the form of a beverage tax proposed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

The tax has been dubbed as both a way to increase revenue to the city and nudge individuals into healthier beverage choices and potentially better health. Leave it to government to profit off of telling people what to drink.

The proposed tax would apply to “sugar-sweetened beverage(s),” which are defined as “any non-alcoholic beverage with added sugar, including: soda, non100%-fruit drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink sweetened tea and coffee.” This would exempt diet drinks without sugar added. The tax would amount to 2 cents per ounce. Quick math: That’s 64 cents added to the price of a medium drink (typically 32 ounces).

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=soda+tax&iid=1612348″ src=”7/a/d/9/Doctors_To_Call_f5e6.jpg?adImageId=11143933&imageId=1612348″ width=”195″ height=”260″ /]Anyone for bottled water or diet? Philadelphians may not prefer those drinks, but thanks to the ever-increasing nanny state, it may become the wiser financial decision. It may also become the wiser decision for many others, given that similar taxes have been proposed elsewhere in the nation and President Obama has in the past voiced support for such measures. It is likely that the federal government’s “reform” efforts to control health-care costs will only serve as another excuse for government to regulate the drinking and eating habits of individuals.

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Babysitting Paternalism

October 1, 2009

Paternalism is nothing new in Europe. Take for example this story of two mothers who were told they were breaking the law by babysitting each other’s children. To sum it up, the report noted the following:

… the arrangement contravened the Childcare Act because it lasted for longer than two hours a day, and constituted receiving “a reward”.

But to think this is just a European problem would be an error. 

One example of why is this report of a Michigan woman who watches her neighbors’ children, without pay, while they wait for their school bus. In that state, the following is the legal dilemma:

The Department of Human Services, acting on a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home, demanded she either get a license, stop watching the kids or face the consequences ….

Paternalism is nothing unique to any particular country’s government. It exists in all countries, but in some areas of the world it is more prevalent. Governments everywhere seem to always find a way to treat adults voluntarily helping each other out like children incapable of doing so without government regulation. The phrase “nanny state” takes on new meaning in light of these two stories.

A Half Century Without the Fairness Doctrine

August 4, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order effectively repealing the infamous broadcast “Fairness Doctrine.” The Doctrine required that broadcast licensees had to present reasonable opportunity for the airing of contesting points of view when covering issues of public importance to their community. For nearly 40 years, it was upheld in the name of protecting the ‘public interest.’

Lost in this more positive-right view of freedom of speech often espoused by proponents of the Doctrine was the harm it had on the more negative-right view of freedom of speech. But over time the negative-right view won out. It became viewed as a restriction on free speech, creating a “chilling effect” which led broadcasters to avoid covering any controversial public issues due to the requirement to ensure all sides of the issue were covered.

To commemorate the repeal, has posted the following interview with Thomas Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, discussing the history and various issues with the Doctrine:

In addition, I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the subject, relating it to the two conceptions of liberty: positive and negative, as postulated by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to the “chilling effect” argument, I also argued in the thesis that the positive-right conception exemplified in the Doctrine lends itself to an uncomfortable level of paternalism on the part of government regulators and a constitutional abridgement of negative-right speech. For those with probably too much time on their hands, all 184 pages can be read here.

Top Posts from 2010

December 30, 2010

In celebration of the New Year, here are the top 10 posts from this blog for 2010:

  1. Another TARP Spending Idea and Keynesian Economics (2/19)
  2. Census Fine (3/19)
  3. French Equality Veils Liberty (4/30)
  4. Virginia Nullifies Individual Mandate (3/6)
  5. GM Back in Business … the Campaign Funding Business (9/30)
  6. Liberal/Progressive Ignorance of Economics (6/12)
  7. Sinkholes and Optimism (1/16)
  8. Paying for Spending Now Insignificant? (2/28)
  9. Supreme Court Justice: Right to Burn Koran Not Settled (9/19)
  10. Drinking Down Paternalism (3/10)

Have a Happy New Year!

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid … of Hot Dogs?

May 18, 2010

An interesting February report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that certain foods, like the typical hot dog, pose a choking hazard to children. The key to this report was that it called for increased government regulation and the following:

Food manufacturers should design new foods and redesign existing foods to avoid shapes, sizes, textures, and other characteristics that increase choking risk to children, to the extent possible.

Hot-dog makers voiced their opposition to this. The American Meat Institute’s president stated the following:

In terms of a call for a redesign of hot dogs, these are an iconic food known for their distinctive shape.  However, I can say that as a mother, I redesign many foods – from hot dogs to grapes to carrot sticks – in my own kitchen when I serve them to toddlers. I simply use a knife and cut them into small, bite-sized pieces.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=hot+dogs&iid=767062″ src=”3/1/0/a/Congress_Digs_In_9720.jpg?adImageId=12903529&imageId=767062″ width=”285″ height=”198″ /]A parent taking a simple step to make food more digestible for their child — what a novel concept. Parents around the country know that certain foods are not safe for young children to eat without supervision or assistance. It’s what used to be called common sense — something our increasingly paternalistic government tends to think we lack.

The necessity of spending taxpayer money on safeguards against lack of adherence to common sense is dubious at best. Do we really need the federal government involved here?

Regulate Internships, Get Fewer of Them

April 6, 2010

As if finding the right internship wasn’t hard enough, college students may soon find another obstacle to getting their foot in the door in their prospective occupations: government regulators. A recent report in The New York Times notes the frustration which some regulators are having with companies they believe are using unpaid internships to save money.

The article notes the following:

Convinced that many unpaid internships violate minimum wage laws, officials in Oregon, California and other states have begun investigations and fined employers. Last year, M. Patricia Smith, then New York’s labor commissioner, ordered investigations into several firms’ internships. Now, as the federal Labor Department’s top law enforcement official, she and the wage and hour division are stepping up enforcement nationwide.

Regulators argue that they are only protecting the interns from unfair exploitation (read: expanding the nanny state), claiming that some companies use the title “internship” as an excuse to not pay employees. But wouldn’t these misled “interns” and sponsoring schools soon catch on to such a ploy from companies and reject further dealings with those deceptive firms? Or, do the regulators, as is often the case, view these students and schools as incapable of making these types of judgements on their own without the guiding hand of government (read: paternalism)?

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Obamacare: Bring on the Lawyers!

March 23, 2010
* The following was originally posted on the Young Americans for Liberty blog:

The newly passed health-care “reform” bill and the amendments to be made to it through the reconciliation process should be great fodder for lawyers around the country. ProPublica has posted a side-by-side comparison of the passed Senate bill and the proposed changes.

The most important form of litigation, of course, should be challenging the constitutionality of the bill. Besides its uncomfortable level of paternalism, “Obamacare” is in truth unconstitutional in several aspects — particularly the individual mandate.

Proponents will no doubt try to justify the bill using the two clauses in the Constitution often used by those seeking dubious justification for their expansions of government power: the commerce and general welfare clauses (both found in Art. 1, Sec. 8). Expansive interpretations of those two pieces of the document have been used countless times in the past to bolster the scope of the federal government’s authority to regulate and tax.

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Health-Care ‘Reform’ Facts

March 20, 2010

PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times political fact-checking site, just recently posted what they view to be the top facts to know about the proposed health-care reform. They are posted below with further elaboration from me:

  1. The plan is not a government takeover of health care like in Canada or Britain.” This is true in the sense that it will not involve the government employing all health-care workers and providing all health-care services. However, it is a giant leap into a more heavily regulated health-care system. Some have viewed it as trojan horse to bring about a “single-payer” (government pays for it) health-care system.
  2. Insurance companies will be regulated more heavily.” I have no argument with this one. This further regulation will no doubt lead to rising premiums to cover the costs of the new government impositions. The cost to provide insurance will go up. Remember, if you want less of something, regulate or tax it.
  3. Everyone will have to have health insurance or pay a fine, a requirement known as the individual mandate.” This is also true. Leaving the paternalism in such a mandate aside, there is also a strong argument that it is unconstitutional. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=health+care&iid=8281761″ src=”a/8/6/e/Speaker_Pelosi_And_4d9c.jpg?adImageId=11461241&imageId=8281761″ width=”234″ height=”155″ /]
  4. Employers will not be required to buy insurance for their employees, but large employers may be subject to fines if they don’t provide insurance.” For “large” employers (more than 50 employees), this would mean added costs to employ individuals. That would potentially mean less employment — something highly undesirable at any time, let alone a time when the jobless rate is still near 10 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Subsidizing Fat

March 11, 2010

Those promoting efforts to boost health eating among the nation’s poor should take heed to this chart which originally appeared in 2007 on the Web site for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM):


Often, proponents of healthier eating lobby government to nudge individuals into consuming healthier foods and beverages by taxing unhealthy products. These same people decry the fact that, in general, less healthy foods like burgers are often cheaper than healthier choices like salads and fruit.

The chart seems to show part of the reason: government subsidies of meat and dairy. As the PCRM site notes:

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