Don't trust your own judgment? Take I-95 north till you reach the 70-mile Nanny Corridor between New Jersey and New York City.
They've got some dandy new all-for-your-own-good rules in that neck of the woods. And it isn't just New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg invoked his size-matters soda ban to keep us fit and trim.
Consider the town of Fort Lee, N.J., where in March, police began writing $85 tickets for texting while walking. With a straight face, city fathers said, "People have been walking straight off a curb." So far, more than 117 people have been caught text-handed.
Not to be outdone, New Jersey passed a state seatbelt law -- for pets. And it's a stiffee. Garden State police can stop a vehicle with an improperly restrained pet, issue a ticket ranging from $250-$1,000, and subject the driver to a disorderly conduct offense under animal-cruelty laws. Incidentally, the fine for humans not properly restrained in New Jersey is $46.
Along the Nanny Corridor there's no end of rules in place to save you from yourself. Government deciding what's best for you -- or using it as an excuse to add a revenue stream -- is an increasing trend. It's hot in corridors of power to trust you less for your own good.
What I fear is, somewhere in the list of candidates who will win election to the Florida Legislature in the fall, there lurks a Michael Bloomberg copycat. A nanny wannabe. Somebody's got an irresistible -- to my mind, hideously intrusive -- personal-health or safety bill on the drawing board.
Whoever you are, don't do it. Delete it. Wad it up and throw it in the trash. Don't file it.
In virtually every session there is a bill or bills introduced that limit our choice in the interest of somehow improving us as human beings. In the 2012 session it was HB 1401 and SB 1658 -- a pair of bills that would have prohibited food stamp recipients from buying all kinds of products with salt and sugar -- from pretzels and cupcakes to ice cream and soda. Sorry kids, no birthday cake for you.
The bills didn't pass. But they'll be back, just watch.
While it's tempting to use public assistance programs to attack childhood obesity, this is the Florida Legislature that back in the 1990s eliminated physical education in public schools, and the one in 1998 that voted to let moms and dads decide whether to put their children in a charter school or in a local public school. Does it make sense that we can't trust the same parents to walk down a supermarket aisle and make the right choices to feed their families?
Then, again, hypocrisy almost always is attached to a Big Brother/Nanny bill. Take Mayor Bloomberg's soda ban in The Big Apple. "It's all a matter of moderation," Hizzhonor said during an appearance last week on NBC’s “Today” show, explaining how it was National Doughnut Day, which got the city of New York’s stamp of approval, but 32-ounce sodas were marked for an outright ban. "Childhood obesity is a terrible problem, and New York is showing an example to young people," the mayor said.
Yet, how does that explain why he was promoting like a schoolgirl cheerleader the not-so-moderate, 96-year tradition known as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney this Fourth of July? With literally thousands of children watching, last year's winner crammed down 68 hot dogs in minutes. Heck of an example for youngsters there.
There is a sinister natural extension in all this, an extension of the increased role of government in funding health insurance and health care.
In a free society, individuals are able to take risks and make decisions detrimental to their own well-being, because they'll bear the ultimate costs of their decisions. But then along comes government assuming a greater role in the health care system, and all of a sudden we're presented with a societal cost to individual risks.
The worry I have is that this provides an opening for the folks who believe in a paternalistic role for government -- and a time when regulations for our personal behavior seem not only natural, but necessary. That's a genuine danger in this democratic republic of ours.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.