Where There is a Will, There’s a Way

In this morning’s Washington Post columnist George Will lashes out at the expansion of government-and how the stimulus is being used (possibly illegally) to promote a Big Mother health agenda:

“Because the possibility of effectively supervising government varies inversely with government’s size, so does government’s lawfulness. This iron law of Leviathan is illustrated by a dispiriting story that begins with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a.k.a. the stimulus — that supposedly temporary response to an economic emergency.

Because nothing is as immortal as a temporary government program, Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), a creature of the stimulus, was folded into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), working through the CPPW, disbursed money to 25 states to fight, among other things, the scourge of soda pop.”

The Washington Post

The more you allow the government to expand the greater will be the reach of its tentacles-and in the case of the stimulus the reach is right into the space where your freedom of choice resides:

“In Cook County, Ill., according to an official report, recipients using some of a $16 million CDC grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.” According to a Philadelphia city Web site, a $15 million CDC grant funded efforts to “campaign” for a “two-cent per ounce excise tax” on SSBs. In California, an official report says that a $2.2 million CDC grant for obesity prevention funded “training for grantees on media advocacy” against SSBs. A New York report says that a $3 million grant was used to “educate leaders and decision-makers about, and promote the effective implementation of . . . a tax to substantially increase the price of beverages containing caloric sweetener.”

Notice how quickly education gives way to taxation-and that gets us to the question of the illegal use of federal funds. As Will points out: “Clearly some of the $230 million in CDC/CPPW anti-obesity grants was spent in violation of the law, which prohibits the use of federal funds “to influence in any manner. . . an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation.”

Will goes on to question whether this kind of nutritional activism is even effective-something that, as we have pointed out, rarely concerned the Nannies:

“Research indicates that overweight individuals have “reasonably close” to accurate estimates of the increased health risks and decreased life expectancy associated with obesity. Hence the weakness of mandated information as a modifier of behavior. A study conducted after New York City mandated posting calorie counts in restaurant chains concluded that, while 28 percent of patrons said the information influenced their choices, researchers could not detect a change in calories purchased after the law.”

But the NYC DOH didn’t even bother to test the hypothesis-science-based policy making is not their forte. The intrusive ones don’t really care because their goal is to gain more and more control so they can dictate to industry and the entrepreneurs that build their businesses around food. It is the beginning of the kind of soft despotism that will eventually erode the natural instinct toward liberty and freedom of choice-replaced by self styled experts who will help us all make the right choices.

The softer intrusion-educating the folks-soon gives way to the more heavy handed efforts once the other approach inevitably fails: “Paternalists wield two weapons: mandating the provision of more information (e.g., calorie counts for restaurant menu items); and increasing the cost of bad decisions, meaning those of which the paternalists disapprove.”

Will’s conclusion is a cautionary tale we should all heed:

” Paternalists wield two weapons: mandating the provision of more information (e.g., calorie counts for restaurant menu items); and increasing the cost of bad decisions, meaning those of which the paternalists disapprove.”



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