December 11 2012

Government Mandating How You Spend Your Private Time

Julie Gunlock

People often roll their eyes when I talk about food regulations and how government intrusion into our food decisions is a violation of our most basic freedoms. I hear, “what can it hurt?” and “obesity is a big problem.”

Yes, it is a problem but government getting involved is the thing that can really hurt, particularly if you value your own private time and what you choose to do with your own time.

To convince these too-cool-to-care types, I often bring up Obamacare and how a federalized medical system will impact people’s private lives. When I explain that the government might start requiring people to “get healthy” (as defined by the government) in order to lower health care costs or perhaps prevent a person from getting certain medical procedures because that person fails to “properly” take care of themselves, they sit up and listen.

And let’s look beyond food.  After all, eating donuts isn’t the only questionable health decision people make, right?  A whole universe of things fit under “bad for you.” For instance, smoking is well known to be bad for you.  And now, thanks to government goons in Fairfax County, Virginia, we have another excellent example of why government involvement in our lives is a bad idea.

The Washington Post reports (emphasis mine):

Fairfax County may legally force employees who smoke to take classes aimed at helping them quit, but it can’t require workers to actually kick the habit, the county’s top attorney has informed the Board of Supervisors.

 

County attorney David Bobzien offered his interpretation of the law in a Dec. 7 memo. Supervisors are expected to discuss the issue in a committee meeting Tuesday.

Bobzien’s advice is in response to an October request for information from Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), who has suggested that the county consider forced cessation classes as a means of saving money on employees’ health care.

In a follow-up request last week, Hyland asked further questions: Can the county consider tobacco use in hiring decisions? Can the county ban tobacco use on all county property, including outdoors? And does the county have any authority to regulate other risky behaviors among employees, such as skiing?

So, for all you young, hip, I-get-my-news-from-Comedy Central types, here’s the really scary part.  Given this precedent, what will stop Fairfax County from making you go to Weight Watchers, join a gym, walk to work, show your grocery store receipts to Human Recourses so that it can be checked for donuts or candy, soda, or fried food? After all, obesity is expensive, right? What will stop your benevolent government employer from requiring you to shed a few pounds?  You know, for the good of the country.

The short answer; nothing.

Let’s just keep it in mind that as of this writing, smoking is still legal…along with eating French fries, pizza and gigantic sodas (except in New York).  If the Fairfax County can require you to attend classes to re-educate you about your own personal (and legal) life decisions, what makes you think they’ll stop with smoking?People often roll their eyes when I talk about food regulations and how government intrusion into our food decisions is a violation of our most basic freedoms. I hear, “what can it hurt?” and “obesity is a big problem.”

 

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