Will Clower argues in this Post-Gazette op-ed
that Pittsburgh should join New York City and Chicago in banning trans fats. He argues that the costs incurred as a result of diseases associated with trans fats trumps any libertarian concerns:The problem in ridding foods of heart-damaging oils is not the price, or the flavor or the bother of changing to healthier ingredients. The real problem is more fundamental. It comes from that kernel, lodged deep within each of our foot-stomping, you're-not-the-boss-of-me Libertarian hearts, that screams that no one can tell us what to do. The same impulse made people rebel against the mandatory seat-belt law that has saved tens of thousands of lives, the motorcycle helmet law (since repealed in Pennsylvania) and the institution of smoke-free zones.
I'm all for cutting the cost of health care. I've had several vigorous debates at this site over how to do so. (Here
is one example.) But the problem with prohibiting an individual from engaging in an activity or consuming a substance based on the social costs is that there really is no end to what government can decide should be proscribed. Burger King, for example, might boast flame-broiled burgers, but if you order one with bacon and cheese on it, you're not doing your heart any favors. So why should we allow bacon cheeseburgers?
Yes, slippery slope arguments have their limits. It's a ludicrious and, I'll admit, a cliched example. But I never thought I'd see the day when the government decided that because some Americans are unable to make healthy choices (and I'm devoured my share of trans fats myself, no doubt) that restaurants would be told what kind of cooking oils they can and cannot use.
I'll admit to being ambivalent about the smoking ban. Other people are affected by one person's decision to light up in public. But I'm hurting no one but myself if I decide to order a bucket of extra crispy and wash it down with some buttermilk biscuits. (Oh, wait. KFC has voluntarily stopped using trans fats. Maybe we don't need that ban after all.)
And yes, I happen to think people should be able to ride motorcycles without helmets, so long as they are adults, and I do believe people should be able to drive their cars without seat belts, even though I won't put my car into gear without strapping myself in. (Again, that's a choice I should be able to make for myself, not, for example, for my 15-month-old daughter, who does indeed deserve the protection of the state were my parental concern insufficient.)
In short, the government has no obligation, nor should it have any power, to protect me from myself.
Labels: libertarian, trans fats