Battle of the bans

Derek Hunter Contributor
Font Size:

To say that liberals love big government is an understatement — but it’s also not quite true. When liberals have the reins of government, it grows, but it grows in a million tiny directions. It’s a giant micro-government that infects every cell of American life. It’s the sum total we see in Washington and on TV, but it’s these tiny little pieces that impact our lives on a daily basis in ways most people are not aware of.

Trans fats were probably something you’d never heard of before 2006, and you wouldn’t be alone. In 2003, a website called BanTransFats.org was launched by trial lawyer Stephen Joseph to sue McDonald’s and Nabisco and to pressure governments to ban something most people had never heard of. The group, along with other “consumer interest” groups, has been wildly successful in inserting itself and governments into your daily eating habits.

San Francisco has banned the Happy Meal and any other meal that includes a toy, on the basis that people are unable to raise their own children in the manner in which they were raised — according to their parent’s wishes.

The FDA and EPA are now considering banning anti-bacterial hand soap. Representative Louise Slaughter, of “Republicans were elected to kill women” fame, is encouraging this move. It’s safe to say the Founding Fathers could have never envisioned the need for a website like FightGermsNow.com, but that’s where we find ourselves now.

A lot of people don’t like smoking (including many smokers), but it’s legal (and growing tobacco is subsidized by the government). The FDA has banned “sweet flavored” and clove cigarettes under the guise that they attract teens to smoking, yet they didn’t ban menthol cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes are very popular; therefore they bring in a lot of tax revenue, which may have been a factor in why they were spared the axe.

And what the federal government couldn’t ban, local governments have. In some places, smoking has been banned in privately owned establishments, bars and restaurants, usurping private property rights with nary an outcry from anyone.

Federal, state and local governments inserting themselves into all aspects of our lives has become so commonplace that most of these, and the many other intrusions on our liberties, have gone unnoticed. And while banning and curtailing things like smoking rarely elicits public sympathy, to think these “easy targets” are anything but a starting point is nothing short of folly.

Government doesn’t recede on its own; it must be beaten back. And even then it’s a fight. Just look at the measly cuts Republicans were able to muster. Elected on the promise of cutting $100 billion from this year’s budget, “pro-rated” down to $60 billion, negotiated to $38 billion with Democrats and the White House, it turned out to be an insignificant $352 million when the dust settled.

Yet leaders from both parties “spiked the football” and did an endzone dance as though they’d really made a “gutsy call.”

This is how government works, or doesn’t. The people speak at the ballot box and those elected set about playing a game of three-card monte to distract the people from what’s happening.

Who would have thought the “Cash for Clunkers” program would cause a spike in the price of used cars? Well, anyone familiar with how the market works. Cars turned in under that program were mandated to be destroyed, not resold. That decreased the supply of used cars, driving up the price.

What’s happened to used cars, Happy Meals and hand soap offers a glimpse at the dangers of government intervention. Soap and Happy Meal prices won’t soar because of government interference, but they are examples of the polluted thinking prevalent in all levels of government. Will infections increase if anti-bacterial soap is eliminated? Malaria deaths worldwide did once DDT was banned, costing upwards of a billion lives in the name of dubious science. Will childhood obesity be eliminated if children no longer get a toy with their burger? Absolutely not. But logic has no place in an agenda that’s about control.

You may not care about trans fats or smoking, but sooner or later one level of the government monster will come after something you do care about. In the meantime we, as a society, must grapple with some of the unintended negative consequences of actions taken “for our own good.” This could all be avoided by simply electing representatives who respect individual liberty and adhere to the limits placed on government by the Constitution. While some of those representatives exist, they’re as rare as the Coelacanth. The key will be to elect more of them before they go the way of the Dodo bird.

Derek Hunter is a Washington-based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter