Perhaps you missed Sarah Palin’s latest gig at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Since abandoning any pretense of having something serious and constructive to say on policy*, she came to the podium for two purposes: (1) stand-up sarcasm; and (2) the distribution of “red meat” to the adoring zealots in the audience. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who was John McCain’s campaign manager, likened those attendants to the inhabitants of the bar scene in “Star Wars”. Remember?
At one point during her schtick, St. Sarah of Wasilla extracted a “Big Gulp” from inside the lecture and proceeded to mock NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s now court-overturned ban on jumbo sized sodas. Granted that “His Honor’s” gambit was an over-reach. He none the less was on the right track – obesity and obesity-related diseases (e.g. diabetes) are the single biggest contributor to our rising healthcare costs, closely followed by smoking.
Palin’s assault on the mayor was her opening salvo in what amounted to a Libertarian demand that government get the Hell out of our lives. Why do we need so many federal agencies telling us what’s harmful to our health; what we should or shouldn’t be ingesting? Can’t you just leave us alone to figure this all out for ourselves? Quit messing with our freedom of personal choice.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it is at base, a rejection of the value of science and how government can use science to give us informed choices that, rightly made, improve our chances for healthier lives of better quality. Allowed to govern policy-making, this same Libertarian mindset would do away with or neuter regulatory agencies that protect us from all sorts of hazards; from polluted air/water to drugs that have potentially harmful side-effects. All this would be done in the spirit of expanding personal freedom.
Now I value my personal freedom as do all of us. But I exercise my personal freedom by making informed choices and I place a high value on any credible sources of information that may guide me, including agencies of government. When it comes from the latter, I consider my taxes as the justifiable cost of keeping those agencies in operation and a supplier of useful data.
* Palin’s last lingering claim to fame is that she had an Alaskan race named after her. It’s called “The I-quit-arod”.