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THE NANNY WARS REVISITED

So the Nanny Mayor is still at it in the war against sugar, aided now by a collection of health officials who wish to expand the proposed ban on super-sized Slurpees to include milk based drinks and movie theater popcorn — all under the guise that it is “Government’s duty to protect the health of the citizenry.” Putting aside for a moment whether the State’s exercise of its “Police Power” (the power to regulate behavior and enforce order within their territory for the betterment of the general welfare, morals, health, and safety of their inhabitants) extends to control over how large a drink or container of popcorn you can order at one time, I discern a more fundamental flaw in all of this “Nanny State” rationale — over-indulgence in healthiness is bad for the general welfare. I can see you have doubt. Follow me.

The human propensities to become ill or injured, require treatment, convalesce or die affects virtually every aspect of our economy; and, by extension, the very quality of our lives. If you doubt that, suppose, for a moment, an enterprising scientist, searching for a cure for the common cold, accidentally dropped some plant fertilizer for the African Violets on his desk, into a vat of chemicals intended to cure colds — and found the resultant compound not only cured colds, but everything else, and extended human life expectancy a hundredfold. The world as we know it would be ruined if the discovery got out. Here’s why.

We’ll start here at home, with the 2010 Census, which reports we are a country of roughly 310 million denizens, of which roughly 16.3%, or 50 million or so of same have no health insurance. That means 260 million of us do have some coverage, some of us having double coverage, making it impossible to give precise numbers on who is covered privately and who is covered through governmentally provided coverage, but let’s not quibble. Who provides it? Employers provide insurance for roughly 55% of the citizenry, another roughly 10% is privately funded and both are provided through Insurance Companies.

The Insurance Companies employ actuaries to calculate the mathematical odds of risk, based on the pool to be insured; investigators to gather the data; agents to peddle their policies; clerks to process premium payments; more clerks to harass health care providers and the purportedly insured; lawyers to defend non-coverage claims; accountants to keep their books; financial analysts to invest their reserves; clerks to order supplies of computers, calculators, pads, pens, desks, telephones — you name it. They buy buildings to house their staff (creating employment for real estate agents and brokers, maintenance people and building security types, as well as paying real estate taxes to their host cities.) They rent office space and do likewise, adding landlords and their employees as beneficiaries of the expenditures. They deposit money in banks and brokerage firms and help fund employment there as well. If no one got sick, who needs them? Nobody, that’s who. I’m not done yet. In fact, I’ve just begun.

Who delivers health care? Doctors, Dentists, Nurses, Physical Therapists, Hospitals, Clinics,…get the picture? They hire staffs, they buy equipment and supplies, buy and rent offices and pay taxes too. Still not done.

How do they deliver health care? They send you (or your blood, tissue, etc.) out to Test Labs, MRI facilities, and rehab facilities — more staffing, equipment, supplies, offices and taxes. Then they prescribe drugs — more staffing, equipment, supplies, offices and taxes. Still not done.

What about all the companies that design, manufacture, sell and distribute all that exquisitely expensive medical equipment; manufacture the white coats and hospital gowns; or, the scrip pads, medical charts, pens and reading materials in your doctor’s office? Still not done.

What about all the colleges and universities that train all of these people? Still not done.

What about all the federal, state and local bureaucrats who regulate and supervise all of the above? Still not done. There’s the funeral, casket, crematory and cemetery industries to consider; and, nursing homes and florists. Still not done. Transportation to and from all of the above; fuel for the transporting devices; electrical power to all facilities involved, everywhere; mining of metals and other ingredients of all the products; manufacture, distribution and sale of clothing and shoes for all the employed; and, restaurants and fast-food outlets that feed the employed while at work. Still not done, but presently exhausted. Perhaps you get my drift, though. The business of “health” extends to virtually every nook and cranny of our economy and were it to be rendered obsolete, overnight, because we stopped getting sick, it would be a big problem. You could extend the notion in all compass directions and the effects would be largely the same.

One last Darwinian thought. If we over-night extended life expectancy by a hundredfold, who’s going to pay for all of the social security benefits? I’d add, “Where are we going to put everybody?”

In brief, as it turns out, it’s really good for the economy that we get sick or injured and die. It thus far appears to be the natural order of things.

I am fairly certain his Nanniness doesn’t envision his gesture towards better health as involving the catastrophic scenario I just described, but it is a matter of degree. Why focus on tobacco, trans-fats and sugar, when “stress” is a bigger killer than all three put together. Shall we regulate inter-personal relations and the work-place (arguably the two greatest sources of stress, although you might add in governmental intrusion too) and mandate limits on how much either or both can impose in a week? How will we measure it and what will be the penalties for over-indulgence if we could? Where in either the Declaration or Constitution is it mandated or even suggested that our government, federal, state or local, should micro-manage how we live our lives? It doesn’t. In fact, if you read the premises in the Declaration closely, it suggests quite the opposite.

The point of our rebellion was the attempted exercise of tyrannical control by government over unalienable liberties vested in the governed by their Creator. Unalienable means they can’t be taken away by governmental or judicial fiat, or bartered away by the ignorant owners of same. The liberties iterated were Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Life in that context implies to me something greater than mere existence. Liberty implies freedom — of movement, choice, thought, speech and action; and, each and every law, regulation and other exercise of governmental control is an impingement on your Liberty, no matter how well intentioned. That is precisely why the Constitution specifically iterated and limited the powers given to the federal government and was amended, in the Bill of Rights, to delineate some, but not all, of the rights that could not be denied the citizenry. The Supreme Court has construed “the Pursuit of Happiness” to include, minimally, the right to pursue employment in a calling of your own choosing. I suspect the Framers had a somewhat larger notion in mind when the words were chosen.

To me, one of the wonders of the Universe is its elegant simplicity. We have determined through a procession of successively better experiments, at the core of it, everything is made up of very basic stuff, which comply consistently with very basic rules of mating and formation of higher degrees of stuff, which in turn follow very simple rules of behavior in each other’s company. Nature, as it displays itself here on Earth, seems to be equally simple, elegant and capable of slow evolution as well as quicker adaptation, depending on circumstance, but, thus far, never mercurial or arbitrary in how it works. Juxtapose that to what we have produced, governmentally, in the roughly 236 years since we declared our liberty from England.

We have a body of federal law that encompasses 51 separate and distinct “Titles” each of which has a number of “Sub-Titles,” which in turn have “Chapters,” which have “Sub-Chapters” and then “Sections;” each of which “Section” is a separate and distinct statute or law. These laws are passed by our federal legislature, signed into law by our president and interpreted by a three-tiered federal judiciary that provides a body of case-law that now covers millions of pages of reported decisions. More often than not, the “Sections,” require regulations to be promulgated by non-elected bureaucrats, and run to millions more pages of text than does the statutes. They too are construed by the federal judiciary in pages and pages of reported decisions. Not to pick on it, but merely to observe how bad things have gotten, you might recall that before “Obama Care” (a federal statute) was enacted, the Bill introducing it was over 2,400 pages long, and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, suggested it was so important to adopt, those entrusted by us to vote on it, were advised to pass it to be able figure out what’s init. I personally view a vote cast for it in that manner, regardless of its ultimate Constitutionality, a breach of the legislator’s oath of office. More to my point, this is not what I would call elegant simplicity.

Add to this morass of legislation, regulation and judicial interpretation, that there are 50 separate and distinct States, each with its own body of laws, regulations and judicial decisions, and you can perhaps form the opinion we have run amok. Not to punish you, but to merely finish the notion, within each State are cities and other municipalities that have their own body of laws, regulations and judicial decisions. If it happened in a foreign country, it might be funny, but this is here. When the governed cannot possibly know what their government says they can and cannot do, or how, the Universal rule of elegant simplicity has been violated and there is too much government. I am a lawyer by avocation and have made a good living from being such, but really, we have so many laws, rules, regulations and other governmental promulgations that we could give every lawyer in America 100 of their own personal set of same to be responsible for, and have left-overs that would paper Texas.

Those presently in control at all levels of government, with few, but notable exceptions, now posit the solution to our problems as a nation lies in more, not less, government. If this strikes you as utterly absurd, good, we are in accord, and my point has been made.

The Mayan’s have a calendar that ends on December 21, 2012. It has been posited as a prediction of the end of the world — a notion I have cited to annoy and confound my family, friends and mere acquaintances for the last year or two. But I look at what is happening in the mid-east, China, Europe, Africa, North Korea and here, and wonder, “maybe they’re right, even if for the wrong reason.”

In my perhaps overly simplistic mind, the key unalienable right sought to be protected in the Declaration was the right to be left alone and live one’s life as one chooses to, so long as it is in a manner that doesn’t trample on another’s right to do likewise. One must wonder whether the light bulb or the assembly line could have been invented in today’s regulatory environment. I personally doubt it. If that notion is troubling to you, feel not alone, I share the concern. Despite all the rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum, when is the last time you saw any government, federal, state or local, give up regulatory control of anything? You haven’t! If so, you do not have to be an alarmist to conclude that if there is only a finite number of things that can possibly be regulated, and the government’s share of what actually is regulated only grows, at some point it will regulate everything. Today, it’s a 16 ounce cup of soda. What will it be tomorrow?

1. I can’t help but chuckle at the fact that soon after waging war on sugar, his Nanniness nevertheless proclaimed it a good idea to decriminalize possession of certain amounts of marijuana, even if not medically motivated. I’m not so much interested in the pot vs. alcohol issue as I am the notion that pot contains almost twice the carcinogens that tobacco has. If so, why is an administration so sworn to protect our health so willing to indulge this, without even taxing it to death?

2.  The web-sites devoted to the ill effects of stress are too numerous to iterate. I suggest you type in “Is stress the biggest killer?”, and see what you get.

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