“If we are allowed to deal with our eternity and all that we believe in spiritually, and if we’re allowed to read any book that we want under freedom of speech, why is it we can’t put into our body whatever we want?”
Rep. Ron Paul asked that question on a campaign stop in Seattle yesterday and it has come under a lot of attack. The context of the quote was Paul’s criticism of the War on Drugs, something he has a particular disdain for.
Forget marijuana, heroin, meth, and other drugs for a moment and consider what he is saying and how our society really reacts to it. Why should Americans not have the right to put any substance they want into their own bodies?
In 2006 NewYork City banned transfats from being used in public restaurants. British Columbia and Massachusetts have both banned sugary drinks in schools (and, like most bans of its kind, does not deter consumption but just drives it underground). The federal government has cracked down on selling raw milk across state lines.
Last week a pre-schooler’s homemade lunch, composed of a turkey and cheese sandwich, was confiscated at a North Carolina school because it was not healthy enough. For her own good of course.
The point is this: Paul’s statement is not just about drugs. The government’s actions are not just about drugs. When the government is put in charge of determining whether a citizen should be allowed to consume something, inevitably rights are lost and stupid rules about personal conduct are decided. Like Congress declaring tomato sauce on pizza an acceptable vegetable for school children. That was done in response to even more intrusive proposals coming from the Obama administration.
Fast food bacon-cheeseburgers might seem like they should be categorized differently than cocaine and marijuana, but they all have massive negative side effects on individuals and society. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart related diseases. Diabetes is 7th. Last I checked, gluttony is as much a sin as drunkenness, and fast food is as addictive to a society as drugs can be.
The most deadly drug on the market, alcohol, was banned for 13 years in the early 20th century and led to massive increase in organized crime. While the views are mixed on the impact of drug legalization would have on organized crime, the point stands. Limit people’s liberties at the cost of unintended and horrible consequences.
And that is really what Paul is saying. Government exists to protect liberty for its citizens, not to make good choices for them. People can make horrible, horrible decisions that ruin their lives and cause their families untold grief now. And that is a tragedy when it happens. But it is not the role of government to be the good choice nanny of its people.
When government gets in the business of dictating to individuals what they can and cannot consume, our liberty is lost. It may start off in an inconsequential way, like a horrible drug such as cocaine getting banned, but it will end with the government selecting our meals for us. That is not a slippery slope; it is what is happening now.