The “Nanny Staters” have been busy recently. Two weeks ago, the San Francisco city council vote to ban the sale of McDonald’s Happy Meals; then last week we had the FDA present the new graphic warning labels for tobacco packaging that are aimed to help educate the public about the dangers of smoking (since no one knows them already?); and now it is expected that the FDA will ban the sale of caffeinated alcohol beverages, such as Four Loko.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was the first politician to comment on the FDA’s upcoming decision that it is unsafe for caffeine to be added into alcoholic beverages by stating that, “Parents should be able to rest a little easier knowing that soon their children won’t have access to this deadly brew.”
Well if by children he means high school age (18) or younger then by law they don’t have the legal right to drink as it is. Now I’m not naïve to think that underage kids don’t find illegal ways of getting their hands on alcoholic beverages, but if they can’t get Four Loko, they will just get a different alcoholic beverage or possibly a more dangerous substance.
In typical of government fashion, the upcoming ban on Four Loko and similar products is yet another case of government feeling the need to “do something” in order to counteract a few individuals who made bad decisions. This is the usual knee jerk reaction when headlines are made from citizens who are experiencing the consequences of their own actions. These tragedies are quite unfortunate, but it is hard to say that they wouldn’t have occurred even with the ban in place.
All too often libertarians are discounted for arguing that bans by government are creating a slippery slope that will inevitably reach a point of utter ridiculousness. Well I think it’s safe to say that government intervention has reached, or is nearing, that point. These bans rarely have any effect on public safety and are usually a case of an overzealous government reacting to a highly publicized, yet small in scope, problem.
There are a wide array of legal products and services that can be harmful if used in excess, but that doesn’t mean heavy-handed government intervention is good policy. These bans never really accomplish the significant health or societal benefits that they claim to be fixing, but they do successfully transfer more control over individuals’ decisions to government. Who knows how many small businesses or entrepreneurs like Chris Hunter, Jeff Wright, and Jaisen Freeman (the creators of Four Loko) will be harmed or have to shut their doors due to heavy-handed government intervention like this.
Ultimately, these bans are yet another attempt by nanny state advocates to limit freedom of speech and obstruct personal choice at the expense of logic. Until citizens and politicians start standing up for liberty, one by one we will see our own favorite products or lifestyle choices banned.
Today it’s banning Four Lokos and Happy Meals; tomorrow, its Rum and Cokes and Snickers bars.
Here’s a look at other things that are banned by governments in America:
Plastic Bags – Numerous States and Localities
DDT – Federal
Happy Meals – San Francisco
Smoking on Private Property – Numerous Stats and Localities
Texting while driving – Numerous States and Localities
Sunday Alcohol Sales – Numerous States and localities
Single Cigar Sales – Prince George’s County, MD
Sale of soda
Incandescent Light Bulbs – Federal
Trans Fats – New York City
Drinking Games in Bars
Private Rate Setting for Taxis – Chicago
Food Carts – Chicago