C . A . G . E .
Citizens Against Government Encroachment -- Citoyens Anti Gouvernement Envahissant
 

 

 

 

STATE INTERVENTION: LIMITS AND JUSTIFICATIONS

When the founders of our various Western political systems designed our constitutions and democratic frameworks, they incorporated various checks and balances to prevent authoritarianism or the consolidation of too much power in the government. Things such as an independent judiciary, institutionalized roles for opposition parties, a free media, and various forms of oversight on government activities protect the system from abuse. In the American case, the explicit logic of these checks and balances was to keep the system democratic, even if the government were run "by devils."

But no founder of any democratic system ever foresaw, or even dreamed of, a well-intentioned state that increasingly intervenes in the lifestyle choices of its population in order to maximize public health. There exist very few institutional constraints on government health offices using all kinds of legal regulatory mechanisms to ban or endlessly harass people who do anything from smoke to drink to overeat to pursue "dangerous" sports to not raise their children in the approved manner ("approved manners" continually shift, of course, meaning that today many jurisdictions make spanking misbehaving children a crime). Public health professionals receive no education in political ethics or theories of liberty, and view their task of promoting health above all others, to the point that they see health and happiness as synonymous. The notion of a healthy slave never seems to even occur to them.

Because each state intervention is justified in terms of the public good, and backed up with reams of manipulated statistics (you have heard the expression: "lies, damn lies, and statistics"), average people generally fail to mobilize against such increasing interventionism. The "health nannies" also utilize the media to convince people that the government needs to make choices on people’s behalf, for the public good. The strategy of the health nannies provides them with more power than some of the most authoritarian governments of our time – just mentioning the need to protect children makes people accept state encroachments that the Nazis would have only dreamed of. The state’s flock of sheep must be kept healthy and working hard at all costs…

Only in some cases where powerful business interests are threatened, or vocal but well organized citizen opposition arises, have some state interventions been slowed down or prevented. For instance, helmets are still not required at ski centers, although they often are on bicycles, and some groups in the United States mobilized to repeal motorcycle helmet laws (the wisdom of not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle is a completely different matter from the right to not do so….). In general, however, the "mission creep" and growing invasiveness of state health departments continues to steam roll its way across the industrialized world, distracting the public and state finances from more serious problems such as poverty, industrial pollution, over-reliance on automobiles, and urban sprawl.

Only if people become aware of and convinced of the higher principals at stake will they mobilize to constrain the encroachments of public health militants into their lives. This will mean, of necessity, defending the right to choose unhealthy lifestyles without suffering harassment from the state, just as the right to free speech entails defending someone else’s right to say something objectionable. In time, a mobilized and vocal movement within the population may succeed in putting in place constitutional guarantees permitting individuals to choose their own lifestyle in peace. Just as the civil liberties gained in the 1960s required sustained and principled efforts, this struggle must wrest victory from a paternalistic state – people’s right to live as they choose, like other rights, will not be simply given to them in today’s world.

Dr. Dave Romano, PhD Political Science


 

2005-6-15, Sustainable Government, www.quebecoislibre.org • No 155 : This piece does a neat adaptation of environmentalist philosophy to politics, and was published by the Québecois Libre, a bilingual, Montreal based internet magazine that promotes libertarian values and philosophies. The opinions and the economic articles in the QL are so thought-provoking that there are over 100,000 downloads per month from their site. Not all of the writers are card-carrying libertarians, but all value strongly the importance of individual freedom and responsibility in the face of the ever-expanding juggernaut of modern government.

The writer of this opinion piece, Bradley Doucet is a writer living in Montreal. He has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. Although the piece is written tongue in cheek, he does make a very important point that we should all think about.

 


While the government wastes its time and our money tackling our own personal lifestyle choices and trying to tell us how to live – the real problems, not controllable by us, are killing us slowly. Environmental protection is one of the few reasons we need a government. In most countries aside from New Zealand, Israel, and few others, governments are failing miserably in this most important and urgent obligation.

How smoggy? 11,000 particles per cubic centimetre

By Eric McGuinness

The Hamilton Spectator BURLINGTON (Jun 1, 2006)

The air at nose level along busy Plains Road held almost 11,000 ultrafine pollution particles per cubic centimetre yesterday afternoon -- 11,000 in a space the size of a sugar cube—as all of southern Ontario was blanketed by smog.

But the count quickly soared as a heavy, diesel-powered delivery truck crawled past the Fortinos-IKEA plaza, hitting 46,000 as the truck pulled away.

Ultrafine particles are the tiniest of the particles of soot, unburned fuel and other contaminants small enough to find their way deep into our lungs.

The Ontario Medical Association says ultrafine and fine airborne particles are the culprits in many smog-related illnesses, resulting in thousands of emergency room visits and millions of dollars in health-care costs every year.

Burlington Councillor Joan Lougheed watched with amazement and worry as University of Toronto student Amy Peers used a hand-held monitor to show just how much local sources contribute to air pollution and how bad it can be right where drivers, pedestrians and cyclists breathe it in.

"It speaks to the importance of the city’s anti-idling campaign," Lougheed said. "We can all take part in an everyday way by turning off our engines when we pull over and stop."

She said there’s also a need to increase use of public transit and to create more bus and carpool lanes like those on Highway 403 in Oakville.

Kelly Sabaliauskas, a second U of T student working with the Toronto-based Clean Air Partnership, used a different hand-held monitor to measure the micrograms per cubic metre of both ultrafine and slightly larger dust particles, a count less affected by transient sources.

At the bus stop on Plains at Francis Road, the digital readout showed 81-83 micrograms, almost double the 45-micrograms that would trigger an air quality advisory and a warning to avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.

The count a block south in the Bolus Park playground was 76, evidence of some benefit of being away from heavy traffic, but both readings reflected the fact that overall air quality was especially bad in Halton, Hamilton and Brantford yesterday.

Ontario’s Air Quality Index (which uses a completely different scale) stood at 61 in Burlington at 9 a.m., highest in the province and 11 points into the poor range. But Gabriella Kalapos of the Clean Air Partnership said there are harmful health effects even at much lower levels.

By 2 p.m., the AQI in Burlington had dropped to 50 -- the cutoff between moderate and poor—but Oakville had hit 57, tied with Port Stanley and Sarnia as the worst places to inhale in Ontario.

Yesterday’s demonstration was part of the run-up to a two day Toronto Smog Summit, which begins on June 7, Clean Air Day in Canada.

In another effort to raise awareness of air pollution, Hamilton will try to coax drivers out of their cars next week when it competes with similar-sized cities such at Waterloo and Winnipeg in the cross-Canada Commuter Challenge. Details are to be announced at a breakfast meeting at the Chamber of Commerce this morning.

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=hamilton/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1149112211934&call_pageid=1020420665036&col=1014656511815