Always be wary of politicians who want to control individuals’ behavior for the sake of their “well-being.” The prevalence of these paternalistic policies create what we call a “Nanny State.” Any policy created under this rationale must be based on this assumption: politicians know how to live your life better than you do.
Ronald Reagan once said: ‘‘Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.’’
The position of humility is the non-interventionist one: people should decide how they want to live their lives and reap the benefits, or consequences, of those decisions. The idea that the government should become an intermediary between your decisions and the subsequent effects makes null our value in responsibility and accountability.
Among the 2020 Democratic candidates, former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg stands out as one of the biggest proponents of the Nanny State.
In a 2018 interview with Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg contested that taxing the poor helps them live longer and “deal with themselves.”
Bloomberg: “Some people say, well, taxes are regressive… That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves. So, I listen to people saying ‘oh we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do… Taxes or life? Which do you want to do? Take your poison.“
Here are just a few more examples of the paternalistic policies Bloomberg championed as mayor:
1. The Infamous Soda Ban
Michael Bloomberg proposed the sugary drinks portion cap rule, or the “soda ban,” on May 30, 2012. This proposed amendment would have barred restaurants, movie theaters, food carts, and other businesses subject to NYC Board of Health regulation from selling sodas and other sugary beverages larger than 16 ounces. The rule made its way through the courts to eventually be found unconstitutional. The New York Court of Appeals found that the New York City Board of Health exceeded “the scope of its regulatory authority,” in implementing this rule.
2. Obligatory 2-1, Female to Male, Bathroom Ratio for New Public Venues
The New York City Council passed the Women’s Restroom Equity Bill with Mayor Bloomberg’s support. This bill establishes a 2-to-1 ratio for women’s restrooms in new public venues like bars, restaurants, and concert halls.
Yvette D. Clarke, the bill’s chief sponsor, explained that women are conditioned to expect restroom lines; she called this “degrading.”
3. Banning Trans Fats from Restaurants
At the time, “restaurant industry representatives called the ban burdensome and unnecessary.”
4. Mandating Calorie Information on Menus
The Bloomberg administration implemented a measure to force chain restaurants (with 15 or more outlets in New York City or across the country) to display calorie information on their menus or menu boards.
5. A War on Salt
In 2010, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a broad health initiative aimed at pressuring food manufacturers and restaurant chains to diminish the amount of salt in their products.
The administration went so far as to ban food donations to homeless shelters because they couldn’t assess the sodium levels in the donated foods.
6. A Ban on Smoking in Commercial Spaces and Public Spaces—Even With Vapes
Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg’s biggest “accomplishment,” New York City banned smoking in commercial establishments like bars and restaurants in 2003, even if those establishments had allowed it themselves. In 2011, NYC banned smoking in city parks, on beaches, boardwalks, and in pedestrian plazas. Citing the danger of “second-hand smoke” as the reason for these policies, Mayor Bloomberg argued that they were necessary to improve public health.
Ironically, in 2013, Mayor Bloomberg rushed through a law to extend the NYC Smoke-Free Air Act to include e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigs is now forbidden in indoor and outdoor locations wherever smoking is banned. E-cigarettes do not release any second-hand (or first-hand) smoke.
7. A Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products
Mayor Bloomberg signed a city-wide ban on flavored tobacco products into law in 2009. The legislation covers “chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice flavors,” but exempts “tobacco, menthol, mint or wintergreen flavors.”
8. A Ban on Cigarette Displays
In 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for legislation to make New York the first U.S. city to require stores to conceal tobacco products. This legislation would require that tobacco products be kept in cabinets, under the counter, behind a curtain, or somewhere else concealed from consumers’ eyes.
9. War on Loud Sounds
Mayor Bloomberg facilitated a 2013 campaign to encourage teens and young adults to turn down the music on their headphones. This campaign cost the city of New York $250,000.
The Mayor also led the effort to prohibit any commercial music sources from exceeding 45 decibels as measured in a residence.
As the New York Post explains, “The Hearing Loss Prevention Media Campaign will target teens and young adults, conducting focus-group interviews and using social-media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Bloomberg has had a bug about ear-splitting rackets since taking office at City Hall, making noise reduction one of his key quality-of-life initiatives.”
10. A Ban on Cellphones in Schools
In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg implemented a city-wide ban on cellphones in New York City public schools. CBS News reported students dismantling their phones to get past metal detectors at school and hiding their phones in areas where they knew school officials would not pat them down. Overall, parents were infuriated by the ban, “insisting they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.”
In the face of all of this anger, Mayor Bloomberg refused to drop the ban, claiming that cellphones are distractions used to cheat, take inappropriate photos in the bathroom, and organize gang rendezvous.
Despite Bloomberg’s suspicions, students are probably just scrolling through their Instagram feeds. Most schools take an “out-of-sight, out-of-trouble” approach.
Our government exists to ensure each of us lives safely and freely. A small group of politicians in Washington or a city council, for that matter, has no business deciding how life should be lived by the masses.
It is not the government’s job to dictate need, nor mandate our priorities. Bloomberg’s violations of human autonomy were objectionable when done in New York City. If done on the national level, his policies would be devastating.