06 December 2006

This just takes the cake

This ban just takes the cake -- the cake containing trans fats that is. I know New York City had been thinking about this, but I really didn't think people in their right mind would actually let it pass. Does anyone realize that once the private sphere gives ground to the public sphere, it's extremely difficult to regain it back? Seriously, people.

When NYC banned smoking indoors, I was able to live with that. After all, it was arguably regulating the negative externalities of secondhand smoke, not the actual act of smoking itself. I agree with parts of what the city is trying to do with this new law -- restaurants ought to provide nutritional information on their menus. People do need to be more aware of what they eat and how that affects their health. The spirit of this new law is in the right place: to protect the people.

However, it's overstepped its bounds. If this is appropriate legislation, what's next? What if the city makes a determination that listening to music with headphones is bad for hearing? That only certain religions are safe for public consumption? That minorities pose a public danger since they don't fit in? That childbirth is dangerous to women? There are plenty of other things that are dangerous (and illegal) for people living in this city -- guns, vandalism, aggressive taxi drivers to name a few -- that can be changed. So, why this?

One of the things that makes this country so great is that there's always choice. A lot of choice. Choice fosters competition. It encourages creativity and innovation. Without it, we'd just be a second-rate Singapore with slightly less educated and less technologically advanced citizens. (You know Singapore" The city-state that bans chewing gum because it causes people to litter, bans the press for being critical of the prime minister, and bans podcasting during elections. A place where the people have a voice only when it's "good" for them.) I ought to be able to choose what I eat, not the government. After all, who determines what's "good" for me? If it makes me happy to eat food that contains trans fat, and I place a higher premium on my happiness than my health, I should be allowed to eat as much food containing trans fat as I want.

The way our representatives today seem to be able to justify giving up our privacy and freedoms for "our good" is very scary and not good for me at all. Once again, the long invasive arm of the law overreaches.

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