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Trans fats, cold medicines, and real freedom

December 23, 2006

Tags Big GovernmentInterventionism

Jeff Tucker's cold medicine post got me thinking. As the government's creeping power to regulate all sorts of things continues to expand, for each new regulation you always hear the same argument: "But it's really not a big deal!" There are always people ready to argue that it is not really a big inconvenience or a great restriction on your freedom for the government to restrict the amount of cold medicine you can buy, prevent a restaurant from serving you trans fats, require you to wear a seatbelt, etc. These things are simple. You hardly miss them. Why do they matter at all? Don't you have bigger problems?

And, of course, this is always followed by the observation that getting pissed off about these "little" restrictions is just more proof that libertarians are all nutjobs. But the people who defend this chipping away at their freedom miss the larger, vital point. When you say "it's not a big deal", you're saying that giving someone else control over what you can and cannot do with your own body is something so small it's not worth bothering with. Essentially, you are giving away the most fundamental freedom of all as though it is meaningless. I hope that the individuals in the it's-not-a-big-deal-quit-your-whining crowd never come to the point where they realize exactly why it matters so much.

If you've ever watched seriously ill people pack a hotel ballroom to beg the government for a drug that can help them, and watched government appointed "experts" deliberate over whether these people, whom they don't know at all, deserve access to a drug they are completely willing to take, you realize just how unjust the system is and how much people are suffering because of it. I've seen it myself. But that system exists and is given legitimacy because we've already conceded the fundamental principle— that the government, not you, is entitled to decide what you can and cannot put in your own body.

Maybe you think it's just about cold medicine or trans fats, but someday it could be about your life. Because when it comes to the right to control your own body, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

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