Here we go again – more magic legislation.
A California assemblyman recently introduced legislation to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
No kidding. Why didn’t we think of that sooner? No need to persuade, be patient, let people discover the stupidity of the habit by themselves. Nope. Just change the law and force people to obey it.
Of course we must have laws to protect public health and safety, but this is not a law to prevent second-hand smoke or protect children (18 year-olds are already ten years into the age of accountability, can vote, can join the army, and should be able to sort out the dumb from the smart). Such laws are already on the books. No, this is a new type of law that seeks to control personal behaviors that have little if any impact on the health and safety of others – a pile of regulations that force people to do something they’re not willing to do for themselves.
Same thing in New York City where the law prohibits restaurants from selling sugary drinks in sizes greater than 16 ounces. Health commissioner Thomas Farley claims that people who are obese or overweight are “victims of an environment that makes it too easy to consume calories and too hard to prevent it.”
Victims. To put it another way, it’s not your fault you’re fat, you poor sweet baby. It’s the fault of those greedy producers of high-fructose corn syrup who have fostered an environment of indulgence. We will control what they can sell so you don’t have to control what you drink. We’ll get that environment under control and then you’ll be happy.
See the pattern? Obese people are victims and it’s not their fault. One would think that self-control, agency, and personal responsibility just might have a little something to do with the problem. But, nope, it’s that blasted environment.
Whether it’s increasing the legal smoking age or restricting the size of soda cups, look at the damage of such thinking:
People will believe that bad things must be the fault of someone else, never themselves.
More laws and regulations will address problems best left to individuals to ponder and struggle with.
Government will increasingly rescue people from facing the consequences of their behaviors.
People so protected will never discover the joy of choosing right over wrong, of good over bad.
People so protected will never learn the life-changing lessons that can come from suffering the consequences of bad choices.
People will have fewer opportunities to exercise agency, develop self-control, and live a rich life.
People will suffer a stunted period in what should be a journey of eternal progression.
So, phooey on laws that do little to protect public health and safety, but stifle agency and personal responsibility.
Let people do dumb things so they’ll feel the consequences of dumb things and stop doing dumb things.
It’s a smart thing to do.
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Gary Lawrence is a pollster and the author, most recently, of “The War in Heaven Continues; Satan’s Tactics to Destroy You, Christianity, the Family, the Constitution, and America” available at Deseret Book, Ensign Books and Amazon.