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Journal of No. 118

June 6th, 2012

Where is the line between nanny-state and non-nanny-state? @ 07:36 am

Mayor Bloomberg's move to criminalize the Big Gulp is just D-U-M dumb. Not only would it be ineffective, but it falls afoul of the Edgar Friendly Theory of Freedom:
"I'm into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I'm the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, "Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?" I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal?"
[Spoiler (click to open)]

It's sad that the government standard on nutrition are observed even less religiously than freeway speed limits, but I really don't see using the power of law to (allegedly) prevent people from making poor decisions.

[Of course, the flip-side of nannyism is, 'to what extent are we the people responsible for treating or insuring the diabetics and lung cancer patients, who are choosing themselves to an early grave?']

The challenger in this corner is the state of Louisiana, which has moved forward to privatize education with a voucher system. Now many of the public schools in Louisiana suck, but I'm not too confident about the quality of the private schools that have been approved for the vouchers:
The school willing to accept the most voucher students -- 314 -- is New Living Word in Ruston, which has a top-ranked basketball team but no library. Students spend most of the day watching TVs in bare-bones classrooms. Each lesson consists of an instructional DVD that intersperses Biblical verses with subjects such chemistry or composition.
At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains "what God made" on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

"We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children," Carrier said.

Now I'm not so much a nanny-statist that I want to prevent parents from sending their kids to private religious schools on their own dime, but I think the low bar for accreditation in the great state of Louisiana may need some beefing up. Our children are supposed to be introduced to knowledge, not protected from it. And I do get itchy when the government proposes to use tax moneys to support these institutions. The state has a legitimate interest in having an educated electorate, not an electorate that has been protected from 'confusion'. Here's an authentic example of confusion:

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Date:June 6th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)

the line


The state also has an interest in not allowing you to "choose" poison, right? Even if that's what I want to sell you, and I've cleverly marketed it so that you will think it isn't poison. But the fine print, protecting me, says that of course it's poison.

Alcohol: allowed.
Marijuana: Nope.
pharmaceuticals: Some.
Smoking: mostly.
Hi-Fat, low-nutrition foods: Allowed.

As a society, we experiment with what to allow, how much of it at a time, to whom, etc. I think it's fine - good, even - to experiment with this and see if it makes New York any healthier.

If it does, what does that say about us, though?

[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 6th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)

Re: the line

...huh? What kind of poison? Strychnine? I can buy it at Home Depot. Belladona? I can get it at the gardening store (...I think, I'm not a gardener, but I believe I've seen it grown). How about mistletoe? the red berries are toxic, yet always to be found in December.

Poison is a descriptor not a label. Alcohol is poisonous. It's effects are pretty mild compared to the above I just mentioned, but it'll make you a bit loose and loopy and at concentrated and large enough doses it can kill you.

The difference isn't when the law allows you a certain poison, but how much you know about it. If you know how to use it and are wise enough to use it without causing lasting or tragic damage.

so why are there laws to keep us from deciding for ourselves? It's getting harder and harder not to agree with libertarians on at least this point - It's because the government doesn't trust you.

Who do we know who doesn't have wisdom? A child. I'm fine with age laws on use of recreational toxins. I'm fine with medicines known to have toxic effects to be regulated by doctors. As for recreational substances or even foods that can add up to more detriment for the body than nutrient - that's for the owner of the body to decide.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)

Re: the line

Er...plenty of those "recreational substances" are also "medicines known to have toxic effects". So how do you draw the line between the one ("for the owner of the body to decide") and the other ("to be regulated by doctors")?

[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)

Re: the line

I don't. I look at it this way: I wouldn't know when or how to take prednisone, even though (now) I know I need it when I get an attack of uvitis. I need to go to an opthalmologist to be informed of the right dosage and get my hands on the right mix or I will fuck up my eye just as thoroughly as the uvitis.

People also use steroids semi recreationally, just meaning they choose to have its effects whether a doctor will tell them the proper way to take it to achieve those effects or not. It's dangerous and stupid and all in all I wish there were more legitimate avenues to the intelligent ways to use steroids to bulk up than just trusting the guy at the gym.

My opthalmologist only recommends pred to me. I could say no. It's hard to not let the patient have her way when it comes to drugs the doctor recommends; conversely it's hard for the patient to get useful and thorough information on drugs the doctor dislikes.

(it's 430am, an unwise time to try to lay this out so I don't know if it makes sense. But I swear my point is in there somewhere.)
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 7th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
maybe we should be split into two species... homo sapiens and homo idiota
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 8th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
Dare I inquire, what is more "free" about the status quo, wherein people are unconsciously goaded into drinking more nutritionally valueless beverages? This is very well-supported by research: Plug the phrase "mindless eating" into your AltaVista search box and read about how people given large cups, large serving utensils, or large portions of food will drink and eat more than they want or intend to. I'd posit that serving smaller portions gives the consumer more control over the amount consumed, not less -- it results in a more conscious and informed choice, and that's all to the good.
[User Picture Icon]
Date:June 8th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)

It comes in pints?

what is more "free" about the status quo

well... 'laissez-faire' if you prefer.

people given large cups

As far as I know, the status quo does not involve mandatory Big Gulps. They are just one of the sizes on the menu for people to select.

Journal of No. 118