We Could Save A Lot Of Lives If The Government Made All Our Choices For Us

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The Fargo Forum has an editorial today responding to my interview with North Dakota Hospitality Association director Rudie Martinson from earlier this week. As is the norm with Forum editorials it’s intemperate and not very thoughtful, relying on invective over insight to make childish points on this always-controversial topic. According to the Forum, we needn’t worry that this law approved by voters allows for government officials to remove business and other occupational licenses on the flimsiest of grounds because the emphasis will be on “education not enforcement.”

If that were true, one wonders why the anti-smoking gestapo needed such draconian new powers.

But setting that aside, this paragraph in the editorial caught my eye:

As the “no smoking” signs go up in new places all over the state, it’s worth remembering that more than 800 adults die from smoking every year in North Dakota. Smoking is the state’s top cause of preventable death. In the two years since South Dakota passed a statewide smoking ban, the number of hospitalizations for heart attacks decreased 6 percent, partly due to the smoking ban. That meant 98 fewer heart attacks, and a savings of $4.2 million in health-care costs, according to a study by the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. North Dakota’s new ban, as unpopular as it is for a vocal minority, will save money – and lives.

Setting aside the questions about these numbers (the anti-smoking activists are notorious for using junk science and phony statistics), and whether or not the state’s new smoking ban is really going to reduce smoking among citizens (doubtful), this is an alarming premise.

If we can justify intrusive policies such as smoking bans through calculations of lives and dollars saved, which of our freedoms are safe?

For instance, some 150 people have died in traffic accidents on North Dakota roads in 2012. Quite a few more have been injured. The impact in terms of health care costs are significant. So, if we can ban smoking to save a few hundred lives, why can’t we ban driving?

If that seems absurd, let’s talk about something that’s less absurd. What about cheeseburgers? Fast food, and sugary beverages, contribute to diabetes and other health problems. No doubt we could save hundreds of lives, and countless millions in health care costs, if the government mandated healthier diets and exercise regimes.

Of course, that would trample individual choice when it comes to diet and health care, but we’ve proven with the smoking bans that we care little for choice when stacked up against the needs of public health.

And look no further than places like New York and Los Angeles where bands on sodas, salt and fast food restaurants are the leading edge in this latest attempt to remove our personal liberties in the name of public health.

We are setting dangerous precedents in this war on tobacco that pose serious risks for our liberties going forward.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • Davo

    If you really believe the government should not do anything to prevent you from eating a tasty hamburger because “freedom!”, you’d support banning the Food Safety Inspection Service.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      It’s one thing to make sure a hamburger isn’t made of rotten meat.

      It’s another to say you can’t eat a hamburger at all.

      • Davo

        Do you really trust Joe Sixpack to know whether a hamburger will make him sixk? Or do you think the government should step in and make that decision for him?

        • tony_o2

          You are confusing food safety with healthy choices. It’s one thing to say that you cannot sell someone food that will give them food poisoning. It’s another to tell someone they can’t eat something that’s going to make them obese or raise their cholesterol.

          • Davo

            You keep asserting that, but in both cases the government is not allowing a private business to sell products that its customers want to purchase.

          • Onslaught1066

            About how many times a week on average are you severely disappointed to go into a butcher shop only to be greeted by a chorus of “Yes, we have no E coli, we have no E coli today.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Nobody wants a hamburger made from rotten meat.

            The difference is unwittingly buying bad meat, or choosing to buy food that is fatty or sugary or whatever.

          • tony_o2

            If someone wants to eat rotten meat, they can buy safe meat and leave it out. There is no law that says someone can’t willingly eat a rotten hamburger. The food safety laws are in place to regulate businesses that may sell (knowingly or unknowingly) tainted food to unknowing customers.

            In cases where the customer knows they are buying food that has a greater chance of containing foodborne pathogens (undercooked meats, non-pasteurized milk, sushi, etc.) then they should still be allowed to, at their own peril.

            And as Rob already said, nobody wants a hamburger made from rotten meat. Can you honestly tell me that someone actually does want to buy (as opposed to digging it out of the trash) a rotten hamburger for their own consumption?

            As for unhealthy foods, there is no guarantee that you will need medical attention for eating them. You can eat and drink sweets all your life and not get diabetes. You can eat bacon cheeseburgers and not die of a heart attack. You can smoke a cigarette and not die of lung and heart disease. You can drink a beer and not die of liver cancer. Your chances grow much higher with consistent consumption, but there is no absolute.

            There are many things we do that are potentially harmful for us. Unless it is something that will cause harm to an unwilling participant, there should not be a law to protect us from our own freedom. Which addresses your anti-rape comment. Rape is defined as an unwilling person being forced to have sexual contact.

            Let’s replace the topic of food with sex. We probably agree that a person should not be allowed to knowingly transmit HIV to someone that is unaware of it. But does that mean that we should also outlaw homosexuality (marriage is a separate topic) because it has been shown to create a higher chance to contract HIV. And keep in mind that HIV is a rather large medical cost.

            And if you don’t think homosexuality should be outlawed, does that mean that rape should be legal. After all, they both have the categorical similarity of being about sex. Kinda like you think that poisonous food and unhealthy food should be treated the same because they’re both about food.

  • Harold

    Obama pretty much is making all our choices for us now, so thats ground thats already been covered.

  • kevindf

    If people live longer, that will be bad for Social Security and Medicare.

  • Lynn Bergman

    Please watch this movie to see what’s in store for us unless we stop the “rotting from within” that has us dangerously close to the time when communism replaces socialism.
    http://agendadocumentary.com/

  • Flyby_Knight

    Let’s add cheeseburgers, driving, and chairs to the list of things that are too dangerous to be allowed.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      And sex. It can be dangerous. Diseases and what not. Think of all the expense we could save if people were only allowed to copulate under government supervision?

      • RCND

        Shhhh. Don’t give them ideas. Sandra Fluke will need a job now that her 15 minutes are up. She is already well underway towards ensuring her recreational drug habit is covered, and now she could snag a cabinet appointment should your idea be turned into a new agency

      • Davo

        The government already *does* tell us who we can and can’t have sex with, via anti-rape and anti-bestiality laws. Are you opposed to them, too?

        • RCND

          Rape is not sex. It is violence

  • fredlave

    If our legislators really want to accomplish something for the public good, lock up people on their second DUI for a year or more. That should give drunks time to thoroughly dry out.

  • JW-USA

    There was a news story on the 9:00 news regarding insects and how Americans should embrace eating bugs as they are a great source of protein and other good for you stuff.

    If they can press grasshoppers into wafers and distribute them at the soon to be set up Federal food distribution centers, and market them as “Solylent Green 2012″, we might all live a year or 2 longer.

    I can see our president eating cheeseburgers while the masses eat what they are told, dammit!

    “let them eat cake”

  • http://familyrights.us/ LeonardH

    The govt kidnaps your kids and holds them hostage. Using the administrative courts, lying and malfeasant CPS agents falsely accuse parents of doing old fashioned spanking or whatever allegation floats. Meanwhile, the kids are “diagnosed” and put on psych meds and doped out of their heads until they age out of “care” to be dumped on the street with NO education, NO life skills and utterly dependent on the govt.

    All done under the banner of “safety” and “Best Interest of the Child”.

    Leonard Henderson, co-founder
    American Family Rights
    http://familyrights.us
    “Until Every Child Comes Home”©
    “The Voice of America’s Families”©

  • broadway Joe

    Rob
    I am a simple man so I cant figure this one out. Almost all states have now implemented a smoking ban and high taxes on tabacco but as I read the headlines today more and more states legalize marijuana….confusing!!!

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