As we have seen, the legislator thinks he is the potter and mankind is the clay. Unfortunately, when this idea prevails, everyone wants to be the potter and no one wants to be the clay.
Frederic Bastiat, The Law
With terrorists descending on NY from all over the world, Bloomberg is tirelessly defending us from… cupcakes. Fantastic!
Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave a speech at the U.N. where he made some bizarre comments about the role of government in society. Some of his statements seemed more like a justification for why he is forcing his values on the rest of society rather than a description of a coherent political philosophy.
Let’s take a look at the money quote from Bloomberg’s speech – where he claims that the highest duty of government is to force people to eat healthy food. After that, I’ll follow with two questions he needs to answer before this nonsense can have any kind of logical credibility:
“There are powers only governments can exercise, policies only governments can mandate and enforce and results only governments can achieve. To halt the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases, governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government’s highest duty.”
1. If there are powers only a government can exercise, then where did they get these supernatural powers?
Any just government derives it’s power from the people. So if the people don’t have the power to do something, they obviously can’t grant that authority to the government. Power is just like anything else – you can’t give away something you don’t have.
Look at it this way. If there were five people living in a place where there was no government, what right would four of those people have to get together and force the other person to do something against his will? None – that would violate his right to liberty.
Well what if that same group of four people decided to call themselves a government and “granted” themselves the power to force the other person to do something against his will. Would that make it right? Of course not.
So if the people can’t grant the power to the government, where does it come from? By what authority can Mayor Bloomberg and the group of people who created the government in New York City force you to eat what they tell you to?
2. Why is it appropriate for Bloomberg – or anyone in government – to force his idea of a good life on everyone else?
Michael Bloomberg feels that it’s worth the sacrifice for him to give up certain foods in order to live a long, healthy life. Good for him.
What if it isn’t for me?
What if my idea of a good life is gorging myself on cupcakes every night and dying at 40? Why should Bloomberg be able to deny me my happiness?
What I choose to eat affects no one but me and doesn’t violate the rights of anyone else. So what is the goal of having the government protect me from my own decisions?
Contrary to what Michael Bloomberg might like to believe, the “highest duty” of government isn’t to tell me what to eat. The highest duty of government is to protect our rights. Among those rights is the Right to Liberty – meaning that I can live my life however I choose as long as I don’t violate the rights of anyone else. When the government comes in and tells me that I have to eat healthy food, that is a clear violation of my Right to Liberty.
If Bloomberg wants to tell us about all of the great things the power of a big government can do, he needs to start by explaining exactly where that power comes from.