"Three Lifestyle Control Techniques"

1. Make people legally responsible for something they cannot control--To eliminate an undesirable behavior make those who follow the unpopular course legally responsible for the behavior of others over whom they have little or no control.  Prosecute vigorously.

"A proposed federal statute would make it a federal crime for adults who store firearms to store them in a way that is reasonably [italics added] accessible to children."

Judging how the courts have defined "reasonable" accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, only guns on the moon will be considered "reasonably" inaccessible to children.  Expecting government to be reasonable when passing judgment on an activity unpopular with the ruling elite is like asking a hungry tiger to be nice. With laws like this, gun control advocates do not need to outlaw guns.  By making gun owners responsible for the actions of disobedient teenagers they can make owning guns so risky that many people will disarm.  In effect they will decide that getting mugged by street criminals is less traumatic than being mugged by the government.


2. Avoid debating whether or not a legal activity should be made illegal.   Instead, make it impossible to pursue the activity legally by banning related items--The allow guns but prohibit bullets strategy.  The anti-smoking zealots know that they would lose the debate were they to be honest and call for a ban on tobacco consumption.  Instead they concentrate on making it illegal and unprofitable to use tobacco.  Ban smoking in buildings, homes, cars, restaurants, bars and on sidewalks and city streets.

In California, the state that voted to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, smoking a legal cigarette in the bar could cost the bar owner up to $7,000 in fines.  Since residents are also not allowed to smoke in their own homes if they have live-in help, that leaves their cars.  In Colorado, one legislator wants to limit even that.  That this adamantly negative approach causes positive harm and encourages breaking the law is beside the point.  Some years ago the tobacco companies moved to introduce a safer "cigarette," a system that would deliver nicotine with less smoke and smaller quantities of presumably hazardous byproducts.   They were threatened with FDA regulation on the grounds that anything that would make smoking more acceptable, including making it safer, was unacceptable.  The tobacco companies wanted to make their customers safer.  Government zealots just wanted to make a point.

3.  Blur the line between public health and private health--Willfully ignore the traditional definition of public health and redefine private health matters as private ones.  Deplore the aggregate economic losses caused by the targeted behavior, accuse the businesses that serve people who behave refuse to behave properly of "putting profits before people," and encourage any kind of personal invasion to "save such people from themselves."

Public health has traditionally been concerned with preventing diseases that require coordinated community control to protect unwitting victims.  Efforts have been directed towards sanitation, control of communicable infections, education in personal hygiene, and the organization of medical services for early diagnosis and prevention.

Health problems arising from personal behaviors such as smoking, excess drinking, obesity, skiing, and riding a motorcycle do not fit the traditional definition of public health, as they are the result of personal choice.   The choices might be bad ones, but a society in which people are not longer to do foolish things is no longer free.  People who seek to redefine public health to include all aspects of personal behavior seek to control the tiniest details of how one lives one's life.  The health controllers menace freedom.

In general, people who make "the wrong choice" and decide to follow riskier courses of action seem to know what they are doing.   Although the lifetime risks of getting lung cancer through smoking are roughly 1 in 10, economist W. Kip Viscusi shows, in Smoking:  Making the Risky Decision, that smokers estimate it to be 3.7 in 10.  The actual risk of dying prematurely from smoking appears to be between 19 and 36 percent.  Survey respondents estimated it at 54%. So rather than ignoring health risks of smoking, smokers actually overestimate the risks, and believe that smoking is riskier than it really is.

What do smokers get in return for buying cigarettes?   In the words of Richard Klein, a professor at Cornell University, cigarettes "promote concentration and foster many kinds of intellectual work.  Cigarettes cut appetite...They introduce a kind of Promethean beauty--the allure of fire, smoke and ash--into the lives of smokers on the meanest streets and the plushest benches of the world."

But the new public health crusaders believe, in the words of former surgeon general C. Everett Koop, that "the government has a perfect right to influence personal behavior to the best of its ability if it is for the welfare of the individual and the community as a whole."  Koop's theory turns the animating principle of American government on its head.  As originally constructed, the idea was to establish a form of government that secured individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Instead, the public health police arrogate to themselves the right to determine what kinds of happiness the individual may be allowed--subject, of course, to what the public health puritans determine is best. 

Unsurprisingly, the public health puritan definition of happiness appears to rely heavily on whether a particular behavior is approved by the ruling elite.  This explains why licentious behavior, despite its role in the explosion of the sexually transmitted diseases that have traditionally been staple concerns of public health, receives far less condemnation from the public health officials than smoking.  For whatever reason, those who currently govern the United States hold the people they govern in contempt and seek to remake the people into the image of the New American Man.  Their program was neatly summarized by President Clinton last September.  "This is about changing the behavior of the United States...the behavior of the American people."

To which the normal American response has historically been "What business is it of yours?"

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