For the Elections, January 23, 2006: Please find herein a letter sent by C.A.G.E. to all of the party leaders.
For the addresses of the party leaders and a sample letter written by a C.A.G.E. member, please vist our "Events" page.
Dear Party Leaders,
C.A.G.E. (Citizens Against Government Encroachment -- Citoyens Anti Gouvernement Envahissant) has 120 active members and many thousands who have expressed agreement to our principals and mission statements as they appear in our website www.C.A.G.E.canada.ca . Through our own mailing list and those of our affiliate organizations, we reach 150,000 concerned readers on a weekly basis. While not anti-government in any way, our organization’s mission is to fight for limits to government encroachment into people’s private lives and lifestyle choices. In this sense, we argue for a return to legitimate governing priorities and a reduction of government forays into "social engineering." We are including a 2-page position statement on state intervention and health care at the end of this letter, and we also invite you to visit our Web site if you would like to know more about C.A.G.E..
For the coming election, our members would like to know your party’s position on issues of importance to us, in order that they may vote accordingly. "Because these issues have not come up for debate in the campaign or the media, we hope you could answer some questions for us, which we will immediately pass on to all those who have asked us".
- An increasing amount of public funds is being dedicated to the promotion of "healthy living." Unfortunately, many of the government agencies and publicly-funded non-government organizations involved in this issue have begun advocating an increasingly diverse array of coercive approaches to health promotion – from increased ‘sin taxes’ to bans on everything from smoking (even in private clubs), free drink promotions in bars, mandatory helmet laws for cyclists, and even a new tax on ‘junk food.’ Do you believe that government’s role should be to promote informed choices of its citizens, or to protect them from themselves by coercive means?
- Would you be willing to eliminate funding of the branches of government agencies and non-governmental organizations that advocate coercive approaches to health promotion (rather than yesterday’s ‘carrot’ of information and exhortation)?
- As part of a "de-normalization of smoking" campaign, Health Canada asserts that "Ventilation systems, air purifiers and designated smoking areas are not enough to provide protection from second-hand smoke" (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/second/do-faire/ribbon-ruban/threat-menace_e.html). They also have on their Web site subject headings such as "What is second-hand smoke and why is it so dangerous?" Our question is: do you support the use of public funds in "de-normalization" campaigns and the exaggeration of health threats as an acceptable means of health promotion? (The corollary to this question is: "Do you believe that although we can sufficiently ventilate underground mines, parking garages, and factories containing all kinds of pollutants, it is impossible to sufficiently ventilate any indoor place where someone may smoke?").
- Does your party have any concrete plans to reduce, or at least limit the problem of "mission creep" and the ever-expanding role of government in the private lives of our citizens?
- Does your party acknowledge the problems of an overly large government and the resultant loss of efficiency and unfairly large tax burden on our private individuals and businesses, and does your party have any plans to address this problem?
- In enforcing the all important separation of church and state, is your party prepared to take steps to insure that church doctrine does not become "government doctrine," whereby the religious views of one part of our population would be once again unfairly imposed on all parts of our population?
We would greatly appreciate your thoughts on these issues, as well as your responses to our questions. Please feel free to write us in either English or French.
We wish you the best of luck in the coming elections.
Daniel Romano BCL, LLB, MA
David Romano BA, MA, Ph.D
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
The "Economic Cost of Unhealthy Lifestyles" Argument
C.A.G.E. does not have a position regarding the desirability of maintaining Canada’s current welfare state and universal health coverage. Some of our members highly value these things, while others revile them.
C.A.G.E. does have a very strong position regarding certain common arguments used to justify coercive legislation aimed at people’s lifestyle, however. These arguments typically revolve around the following logic: A person who [insert one of the following: "smokes," "does not wear a helmet," "is sedentary," "eats unhealthy food," etc…] imposes a cost on the health system which others must bear. We must therefore look to government to either forbid such behaviour, or make it as difficult as possible to engage in this kind of lifestyle [e.g. harass people].
Since the 1980s this kind of thinking has led to a very worrying new focus on "prevention" and "fostering healthy, correct lifestyles." An army of health policy researchers, bureaucrats, special interest groups and politicians has launched a coordinated assault on personal liberty and choice, with the intent of protecting us from ourselves and forcing us to make the so-called "right choices."
They justify ever-higher budgets for their particular projects and bureaucracies, and increasingly invasive and expensive government interventions, through the production of costly study after study -- studies that show alarming levels of "preventable deaths" and the costs of things like smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption to the health system. The health policy crowd also jets around from glitzy conference to conference, to share and discuss an ever-increasing array of social engineering strategies to make people adopt the approved life-style choices.
No wonder we don’t have enough funds left for treatment, and that many of us must wait more than 1 year for hip replacement or other kinds of surgery. We need to support the good doctors and nurses of this country who actually practice medicine, rather than the health policy nannies who practice harassment.
We should remember two things – the health system is already under heavy financial strain from caring for an aging population that lives longer than any of its predecessors, and ultimately, no death is preventable – that’s just the fact of mortality, or as they say, "death and taxes." Or in this case, "death after a hell of a lot of taxes to support people claiming to be able to save us from death."
Do we really want to continue down a blind alley of petty judgements and endless societal bickering about who costs society more, a rotten path unworthy of our great heritage and society? "Public health" should never mean forcing or harassing people to conform to standards and norms according to the whims of bureaucrats, health professionals, politicians, and crusading lobby groups. Rather, it should mean what it originally meant: standards for clean drinking water, vaccinations, inspecting food for contaminants, pollution controls, and similar issues outside the realm of individual choice.
Every one of us, including the state health clergy, makes daily choices that reduce our health and impose costs on "the system." Driving to work rather than cycling, buying a car that is less fuel efficient, watching television on the couch instead of exercising, taking the escalator, eating badly, engaging in risky sports, smoking, drinking, not stretching before exercising – the list goes on and on. A society that focuses on calculating the cost of each of these behaviours, assigning blame, and imposing coercive legislation, has in fact embarked upon the road to hell – whether they did so with good intentions or not. So far in Canada this road has led us to mandatory cycling helmet laws, forbidding bars from offering free drink specials, smoking bans that even extend into private clubs and Legion Halls, and excessive "sin taxes" on alcohol, tobacco, and in the near future, high calorie foods. What a coercive, patronizing and wasteful distraction from more pressing priorities.
We at C.A.G.E. would rather spend our limited time on this earth happy, making our own choices, and living with a health system that gives us treatment when we need it instead of spending our tax dollars on health nannies lecturing, harassing, and coercing us every day, as if by making the so-called "right" choices we will never get sick. We need to return to a focus on treatment and strictly limit the extent to which we use government to promote healthy lifestyles. Specifically, government may inform and encourage us to lead healthier lives, but should never coerce us with the "stick" of bans, harassment, and mandatory health edicts. We do not wish to become healthy slaves. The more macabre economists amongst us might also point out that someone who lives to the age of 90 ends up costing the system much more than someone who passes on at the current average of 79.7.
We also need to return to yesterday’s culture of tolerance and civility, accepting other people’s choices whether we approve of them or not. Some people’s behaviour will invariably cost the health system more than others’ – and we must either 1) accept this; or 2) dismantle our current health system; or 3) throw out our values regarding individual liberty. C.A.G.E. and its supporters find the third option unacceptable.
Dr. David Romano
Ph.D. University of Toronto (Political Science)