Tyranny of the do-gooders

In response to Three Cheers for the Nanny State!:

Apologies if you thought this was too “old hat” to be worth quoting, Lisa, but I’m reminded of the timeless quotes from Lewis and Chesterton that usually pop up when Nanny State tyranny is discussed.

C.S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.  The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”

G.K. Chesterton: “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling.  If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”

It sounds as if Lewis could have used Sarah Conly in a further edition of the “Screwtape Letters,” as the contrary example that proves his point.  She is essentially validating the “slippery slope” argument that nanny-staters usually try to sneer away.  You’ll find Conly’s slope plenty slippery, and she’s not shy about dumping more grease onto it, whenever some new ruling-class “consensus” about what’s good for us emerges.  There isn’t even the merest pretense of seeking a popular consensus any more.  It’s not as if any great body of people are clamoring for these Nanny State regulations; indeed, Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban was almost universally loathed by his subjects, many of whom suffered significant financial injury before the court slapped Bloomberg down.

And Conly’s premise is further punctured by the foolish, arbitrary nature of the Big Gulp ban, which did not ban soda entirely, or even universally ban large servings of sugary beverages.  It was a whim of raw government power designed to inconvenience people, in line with Chesterton’s prescription for treating people like dogs.  

I’ve been convinced since the very hour of the Supreme Court decision upholding ObamaCare that some form of mandatory, or heavily incentivized, diet and exercise program is on the way.  The government doesn’t just prohibit things now; it can force you to buy them, if the ruling class finds such compulsory purchase to be in the public interest.  Your health is State property now, which means your freedom will be doled out according to cost/benefit analysis, not respect for absolute liberties.

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