The New Puritans

Tim Lee has a great post about the new puritanism of “public health” advocates.

Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s the problem: Some of us like triple fudge ice cream, cigarettes, and watching TV. Some of us like to play sports that pose risks of serious injury. A few of us even like to have sex despite the very real risks of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. I don’t know a single person whose sole goal in life is to maximize his life expectancy. This is social science run amok.

Read the whole thing.

Dead Bodies

I don’t have anything profound to say about this, but all of this talk about exactly where President Reagan’s corpse will be and how many people are going to visit and pay their respects to him has begun to strike me as somewhat primitive, and downright creepy.

It’s a dead body! It’s not him!

I realize that mourning the dead can be difficult, and rituals can help ease the trauma, and most people see this as important symbolism, but…

It’s a dead body! It’s not him!

Thank you very much.

Blind Person Driving

On my drive home from work today I noticed a message printed on the back of the vehicle that was stopped in front of me at a red light which read:

Blind Person Driving

I had a good “What the hell?” moment before I realized that other printing on the vehicle was advertising the sale and installation of window blinds.

Heh.

Ronald Reagan, RIP

Wow!

I just got an MSN pop-up saying that Ronald Reagan has died.

I’m quite confident that Reagan was the best president during my lifetime. He wasn’t as libertarian as I am, but he had a genuine commitment to individual and economic liberty and an opposition to big-government collectivism. I think that it’s fair to say that his resolve against the Soviet Union hastened its downfall.

He also had an optimistic outlook and a great sense of humor which, for some reason, means a lot to me.

UPDATE: Read David Boaz’s fine tribute to Reagan at Cato.

Also read this article by Natan Sharansky, whose judgment on this matter I value more than that of Christopher Hitchens any day.

Obesity and Liberty

Lots of people are talking about obesity these days. Time Magazine’s current issue is all about it. Out of an entire issue, Radley Balko was given 350 words to support the individual responsibility side of the argument. Please read it, along with the response, and be very afraid (well, concerned, at least).

As some of you know, I’ve recently been losing weight. I made a personal decision that the health risks associated with carrying too much weight exceeded the benefits of convenience and some epicurean pleasures.

As many of you also know, I have many opinions about what choices others would be well-advised to make.

But, I am strongly committed to the idea that an important aspect of morality consists of generally* refraining from coercing other people into behaving the way we would prefer them to (whether we think it would be for our good, or for their own).

It wasn’t long ago when the suggestion that governmental regulation of smoking might lead to further regulation of unhealthy activities like eating fatty foods would be guaranteed to elicit laughter and ridicule. Now, such regulation is being seriously suggested everywhere and taken seriously by most people.

Collectivism is the enemy of liberty. To call obesity a public health issue, rather than an issue of individual responsibility and of liberty, is to deny individual liberty entirely. Liberty is not just about having the right to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’s about being free* to live one’s life as he chooses; what to think, what to eat, what to say, what to read, what to watch, what to do.

Of course, people will make bad choices. But that doesn’t mean that we’d be better off with experts making (what should be) personal decisions for us. The growth of knowledge requires errors to be made and corrected. We have to be free to make most choices for ourselves in order to enjoy the benefits of being human. We need to be responsible for ourselves.

As Radley says:

If you aren’t responsible for what you put into your mouth, chew and swallow, what’s left that you are you responsible for?

*I say generally, because there are certainly exceptions in cases of self-defense, or the prevention of force or fraud. But, regulating someone’s diet certainly falls outside of these exceptions.