• 34°

Time to protest paternalism

Children learn very early that when a parent says something like, “This is for your own good,” it would be a very good time to run the other way. Being children, though, they don’t have much choice but accept whatever medicine Mom or Dad is handing out.

As time passes, children win the ability to make independent decisions about all those ideas and actions that others think are good for them. Gradually winning that freedom to choose one’s own fate, for good or ill, is a sign of growing up – a sign that most young people are only too eager to see along the path of life.

So it’s a mystery why so many Americans, having struggled through childhood to emerge with the wisdom of adults, are willing to trade in their parents’ ideas of what’s good for them for the government’s.

A case in point is Washington, D.C., the federal district where leaders of the local government are considering a penny-per-ounce tax on the carbonated, non-alcoholic beverages commonly known as soda.

As things to tax go, soda is a great idea. The average American drinks gallons of the stuff every year and aren’t likely to quit because of a slight price increase. It seems like almost a surefire money-maker.

The advocates of the soda tax, however, have another goal in mind. They hope that raising the cost will cause people to drink less and thereby improve their health, because soft drinks have been linked in many studies with obesity. And, for some reason, there is a group of government types who think that forcing people to be healthy is part of their job.

Now, any American who doesn’t know that the empty calories in soft drinks are bad, bad, bad has been hiding under a rock for at least 20 years. Just like those of us who smoke or drink or enjoy an occasional hot dog know that our bodies weren’t really designed to deal with much of this stuff.

But some of us decide to eat or drink what we like because it is, after all, our own decision and, indeed, our right to control our own bodies.

Can you imagine the reactions of our Founding Fathers if someone had suggested to them that it might be the government’s job, some day, to cajole and force Americans into healthy eating habits? Or require them to wear seatbelts? Or enter private homes to check for smoke detectors?

The question isn’t whether all those things are good for us. Of course they are. But almost every living adult, at some point, escaped the tyranny of a parent figure ordering his or her life – but now accepts the same sort of paternal and maternal ordering-about from the government.

The sad thing about the District of Columbia soda tax is that the opposition is coming from soft drink makers . They rightly fear that it might quickly spread outside of the District.

But where are the citizen protesters? Why is there not an uprising among residents who are furious that the government is manipulating them, once again, into some form that seems idea in the minds of elected officials?

All that the soft drink companies have to lose is some money. Everyone else stands to lose another bit of the freedom that is supposed to make or nation special.