"There ought to be a law..."

TRACKSIDE © by John DíAloia Jr.

January 25, 2005

"There ought to be a law." How often have you heard some one say this? How often have you said it yourself? Be careful what you wish for. What you are wishing for is an ability to impose your view of how the public square should operate on others. What you are wishing for is growth in the size and power of government. TRACKSIDE has talked about mission creep in government schools. It happens in any government bureaucracy. The Clerks, to ensure paychecks forever, will cast about looking for ways to grow the responsibilities assigned to them to protect us from ourselves. (What you are also wishing for is the growth in the number of lawyers and the ability of them to meddle in all aspects of society.)

A recent letter to the editor in a Kansas newspaper illustrates where "There ought to be a law." can take you. The writer bemoaned how fast food restaurants were contributing to the obesity of the American people and asked for a tax on unhealthy food and drinks, with the revenue earmarked for health and public education. The writer stated that "huge corporations are making huge profits while contributing to the unhealthy lives of people."

The writer wants to impose his "big-business-is-evil" belief on everyone - and use the coercive power of government to do it. We are still a free people, are we not? No one is forcing us to step to the counter to order a calorie-loaded hamburger, with fries, make it a supersize. Do not people still have some responsibility for their own health, or have we come to the point that we can indulge knowing that Big Brother will force other people to pay for our health care? If the stuff is so unhealthy, why do not people recognize it? Somewhere in the fast food restaurants I infrequently frequent you can find posted the "label" information for everything served. Could it be that people are incapable of reading and understanding the charts? Could be given the literature that bemoans the failure of public schools to teach kids to read.

Another illustration of mission creep comes out of Texas. A Texas state senator wants every Texas school include on each report card a report of the childís body mass index. The title of Michael Longís column discussing the proposal nails the proposal authorís entire idea: "Busybody." What business is it of the government school system to report on a kidís weight. Do they think that parents are oblivious to it? Do they think parents are too dumb to fulfill their child-rearing responsibility, that government has to lead them by the hand? They really donít care what parents want for their children. If the educrats get the mandate to report the body mass index, they get another tool to bypass parents entirely in their goal of molding future socialists. What the schools are given if they are told to report body mass index is another rationale upon which to demand more funding to implement the mission creep directive. Where does it stop? Schools being told to demand information on all aspects of a studentís home life? Teachers being given the authority to enter homes and inspect what is in the Ďfrig? Not too far-fetched given that the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has recommended that the federal government adopt a mandatory system of mental-health screening for children, without parental consent.

And who, pray tell, is going to decide what foods and drinks are "unhealthy" so that they can be taxed? A food unhealthy for you may not be for me. I can eat peanuts - for some people peanuts are a killer. Just what we need, another set of Clerks establishing an empire deciding whether this or that tidbit is unhealthy and should be taxed. I would hate to be the legislator trying to craft such a law, for he would be working against a powerful phenomenon, the Law of Unintended Consequences. There is one certitude that can be forecast should such a law be thrown into the hopper. It will immediately create a lobbyist feeding frenzy and provide the environment for a tsunami of political contributions. Every special interest in the food industry and the entire phalanx of health police will congregate under the dome with their political war chests open. Both sides would have a great incentive. Whatever sector of the food industry that escapes the tax would have a great competitive edge. For the health police, the broader the taxís coverage, the more control they achieve over society.

Make that to go.

See you Trackside.



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