There’s nothing quite as irresistible to a Massachusetts lawmaker as a chance to expand the “nanny state” that is Massachusetts. Especially if it doesn’t require any original thought, just stealing someone else’s idea.
Such is the case developing now.
Recently, New York City banned trans fats from restaurants and the like. One Massachusetts legislator, still sore from the beating he got when he tried to ban Fluffernutter sandwiches from schools, saw that idea and figured it might be fun to try it in the Bay State.
It’s an old joke — that, eventually, in a true “nanny state,” everything not forbidden will be mandatory. But Representative Koutoujian seems to be trying to make that joke a reality.
Now, I don’t know anyone who is interested in defending trans fats as particularly healthy or recommended. But there is a principle at stake here: do we, as individuals, have the right to make choices that can be harmful for ourselves? Or does the state have a compelling interest in protecting us from ourselves?
That’s a very dangerous slippery slope. OK, we can’t have trans fats. What will be next? I wouldn’t mind seeing tobacco go away entirely.
But what about alcohol? That stuff is pure poison — it’s only safe in small quantities, and even then its effects can kill you in dozens of indirect ways.
Skydiving? Bunjee jumping? Surfing? Mountain biking? They’ll all kill you a hell of a lot faster than trans fats will.
Hiking? That just killed some people out on Mount Hood.
Hey, here’s a good one. Driving! Who thinks that people ought to be able to climb into a hunk of steel weighing one to three tons and hurtling around at a mile a minute — or faster? Now there’s an activity that needs to be curtailed, and fast.
One of the most fundamental rights, I have always believed, is the right to be wrong. To make mistakes. To be given a chance to choose poorly, and to live with the consequences of that choice.
Because that is one of the best ways we learn. And if we can’t learn what are bad choices, what sorts of things make decisions and options wrong, then we will keep making the same wrong choices over and over and over — and sooner or later, the state won’t be able to protect us from ourselves.
And then, we’ll all be like so many of today’s children who are protected all their lives from failing, from losing, from learning how to deal with defeat when they finally run into something that Mommy and Daddy can’t fix for them.
Keeping the baby in the crib is a wonderful way of keeping them safe. But they must eventually leave it, or they will be smothered.
Representative Koutoujian wants to keep the people of Massachusetts safe in that crib, away from those icky trans fats and fluffer nutters and all sorts of nasty things. Because heaven forfend that they should have the choice about eating healthily, or eating what they want and enjoy — and choose wrongly.
This is a perfect example of why I could never live in Massachusetts. I make my own choices, and I live with them — right or wrong. Because that’s what free, mature, adults do.
Something that Representative Koutoujian — and, by extension, a good chunk of the government of Massachusetts — apparently fears.
Then again, the people of Massachusetts keep re-electing these people, constantly re-empowering Big Nanny, so maybe they’re just getting what they want and what they apparently deserve.