Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Have No Fear, Nanny State is here!

Nanny State is here to save the day! (Actually, that scares me even more!)

Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed Universal Health Care. Assemblymember Sally Lieber has proposed an anti-spanking bill. No fewer than five California legislators are attempting to ban trans fats.

Republicans, as usual, are crying foul and claiming that Big Brother is going to mess things up. As a general rule, I agree with the idea that the Government should allow the private sector to fix problems and allow maximum personal liberty. In my mind, the government is only responsible to protect the rights and property of the people and entities it serves.

But I disagree with the mainstream Republican line on these issues. I have recently posted on Healthcare, so I will focus primarily on transfats and spanking today.


Following the lead of New York City and the advice of nutritionists everywhere, California may decide to ban or limit the use of trans fat in prepared foods in the near future. Despite the tasty goodness that trans fats can lend to many delicious fried foods, I couldn't be happier!

Imagine a world without trans fats. Despite exaggerated claims from some industry folks, your favorite foods and restaurants will continue to exist with nearly identical tastes at similar prices. The biggest difference will be that your cholesterol level will be lower and all Americans will have a greater chance of being a little healthier.

It was only a few short decades ago that trans fats became an important part of the American diet. We were all informed that trans fats are significantly better than the dreaded saturated fat and might actually be good for us like polyunsaturated fats. Quickly, our society adapted recipes and our way of life to promote this new miracle substance only to learn that transfats are FAR worse for our cholesterol levels than evil saturated fats could be in their wildest dreams.

Fortunately, members of the public (like Oprah and that guy from Supersize Me) have started to realize the danger of eating poisons like partially hydrogenated corn oil and have called for it to be removed from our diets. Even more fortunately, the private sector has responded! After NYC started talking about banning the substance, many corporate foodservice providers like Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken started removing trans fat from their recipes without any noticeable change in the taste of their products. In fact, if these corporations hadn't been on a massive advertising blitz to tell you that their food is healthier now, there wouldn't have been any noticeable change at all!

Yet many still complain that the government shouldn't require the private sector to remove partially hydrogenated oils from their foods. I would be inclined to agree if the average person out understood how human nutrition works, that trans fats are essentially a poison, and that most of us are eating toxic levels of it regularly. As such, we should limit the use of trans fats in foods just as we limit the use of arsenic, lead, and other dangerous substances in our foods.


A friend of mine recently argued with me that Americans have a right to raise children in the way that we want. I asked him to show me where that right is listed in the Constitution.

The truth is that the right to privacy that the Supreme Court has read into the Bill of Rights does not grant us the right to cause harm to others. If it did, all laws preventing people from causing harm to others would be unconstitutional!

The spanking bill that Lieber unveiled would prevent adults from spanking children under the age of three. While I would suggest that the age limit might be more fitting at two years of age, it is important to note that children do not ever have the mental capacity to comprehend the reason they are being physically punished at extremely young ages.

While Republicans argue that the Nanny State government is over-reaching its boundaries in telling parents how they can and can't raise their children, it is a fact that any time an adult strikes an infant with the intent to cause pain it should be considered child abuse. Likewise, children too young to understand the reason they are being physically punished should be struck by an adult as punishment. Those who oppose the ban on spanking are focusing on the privileges of parents but are neglecting the rights children.

Certainly, I agree that responsible adults should be able to parent in whatever way they see fit, however they should be prevented from causing harm to their children. The government has the indisputed authority to punish parents that attempt to kill, poison, or otherwise abuse their children. However, social customs have allowed parents to strike their children even though psychologists have proven that the extremely young are only harmed by the practice.


As a general rule, I think that the Nanny State still sucks and Big Brother watches us too closely. Still, I think it is worse that Americans are abusing their children and poisoning themselves because almost worth eating contains trans fats. Sure, spanking isn't as bad as locking a child into a cage nor are trans fats quite as deadly as cyanide. Still, both should be legislated against as soon as possible. Most of us won't even know the difference!

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